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To some, burnt ends are simply the crown jewel of BBQ. You just can’t beat the explosion of flavor and tenderness that they bring to your plate.
Most times when you hear the term burnt ends, the specific thing that comes to mind is brisket burnt ends.
However, you may not have the time to smoke a full on 15 pound packer brisket every time you crave some of BBQ’s finest delicacies.
The good news is, there’s a pretty tasty alternative that takes only a fraction of the time – known as poor man’s burnt ends. For poor man’s burnt ends, we use chuck roast instead of brisket.
What Are Poor Man’s Burnt Ends?
Essentially, poor man’s burnt ends are little 1 inch cubes of incredibly tasty, melt in your mouth BBQ flavor – barky, beefy, sweet, and smokey.
Poor man’s burnt ends are made with a smoked chuck roast, which is a much smaller cut of beef than brisket. Most chuck roasts only weigh about 3 pounds, which is a perfect size to feed burnt ends to a group of 4-6 or so.
This recipe is cooked low and slow on a smoker, so that the beef absorbs rich smokey flavor as its fat renders and creates incredible flavors. From there, we’re going to add a sweet sauce that caramelizes on the beef to create burnt ends that are loaded with flavor.
Poor Man’s Burnt Ends vs Regular Burnt Ends
The fundamental difference between the “regular” and “poor man’s” style of burnt ends is the type of beef used in the recipe.
Traditional burnt ends come from brisket – specifically a the point end of a whole brisket. The brisket point is known for being the fattier end of a brisket, with amazing marbling that leads to super tender and tasty beef flavor.
For regular burnt ends, the point is separated from the flat (the lean side of a whole brisket), and then the point is sliced into one inch cubes, doused with some sauce, then thrown back on the smoker to caramelize.
Poor man’s burnt ends share some similarities, but the two are not exactly the same.
Most notably, poor man’s burnt ends are made with a chuck roast instead of a brisket. This naturally leads to a couple of differences in the cooking process and end results of your burnt ends.
First, smoking a chuck roast takes about half the time smoking a packer brisket does (because it is so much smaller). That’s not to say chuck roast can be hurried on the smoker, but considering a packer brisket can take upwards of 15 hours to smoke, it’s a big time save.
The muscle fibers in a chuck roast are generally “shreddier”, for lack of a better word, than brisket and also taste slightly different. Personally, I think poor man’s burnt ends taste incredible and rival that of proper burnt ends, but you should try the difference on your own and decide for yourself!
Where Does the Name Come From?
The phrase “poor man’s” is typically used to describe someone or something that is like something else but not as talented, successful, good looking, etc.
So in the case of burnt ends, the implication is that the chuck roast version of burnt ends are like regular brisket burnt ends, just not as good.
While BBQ purists may agree with that assessment, personally I think chuck roast burnt ends more than hold their own in terms of tasty. Plus they’re easier to make than brisket burnt ends!
The name does is not a reflection of the quality or the price of the meat. While it’s true that a whole brisket costs more than a chuck roast, the prices are almost identical on a per pound basis.
Things You’ll Need to Make Poor Man’s Burnt Ends
Poor man’s burnt ends aren’t hard to make at all, but there are a few things you’ll need to have together before you get started:
- Wood for smoking: we like oak for this recipe, but you could easily substitute mesquite, hickory, or a fruitwood. We cook this recipe on a pellet grill which means oak pellets, but you can use chips or chunks depending on the type of smoker you’re working with.
- Probe thermometer: a probe smoker thermometer is an absolute must on the smoker – remember, we cook to temperature, not to time!
- Pink butcher paper: the butcher paper lets your beef develop a succulent bark while also retaining moisture on the smoker. If you don’t have butcher paper, aluminum foil is the next best alternative for wrapping your beef.
- Aluminum foil pan: for one chuck roast, a 9 x 9 or larger pan will do just fine! After the chuck roast is cooked, we’ll take it off the smoker, cube it, and place the cubes into a foil pan to go back on the smoker.
How to Make Poor Man’s Burnt Ends (Step by Step)
The way we make poor man’s burnt ends is quite simple and easy to follow – whether you’re an experienced pit master or just getting started with smokers. All you need for spectacular BBQ bites are the right ingredients and a little bit of time.
1 – Preheat your smoker to 250ºF.
2 – Season your chuck roast. For burnt ends, we use a combination of salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar for our rub. With that being said, you can feel free to substitute your favorite beef rub here!
3 – Roast goes on the smoker. After it’s thoroughly seasoned, the roast is ready to go on the smoker. Place it bare (unwrapped) on the grate and shut the lid.
4 – Wrap after 5-6 hours. About that long into the cook, the internal temperature of your beef will stall out at around 165ºF. That’s when it’s time to wrap your chuck roast with a couple of layers of pink butcher paper.
5 – Wrapped roast goes back on the smoker. We want to cook the roast more until it reaches an internal temperature of 203ºF. This can take anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on your roast size and smoker temperature. Four us it typically takes about an hour and a half.
6 – Remove roast and let it rest. Keep your smoker at 250ºF though, we aren’t done with it! Letting the roast rest for about 15 minutes will allow concentrated moisture to redistribute throughout the beef before slicing.
7 – Cube and douse your beef. Cut the chuck roast into 1 inch cubes and place them in your aluminum foil pan. Douse them with BBQ sauce and a pinch of brown sugar, then toss the cubes until the sauce is evenly coated on all cubes. You can optionally add a little bit of honey here too if you want things to be more sweet.
8 – Place pan of poor man’s burnt ends back on the smoker. We are no longer cooking to internal temperature of the beef because the beef is already done cooking. We are going back to the smoker to add more smoke flavor and let the sauce caramelize. This usually takes about an hour, maybe longer.
9 – Serve and enjoy! After the sauce caramelizes, remove pan from smoker and serve right away.
How to Serve Poor Man’s Burnt Ends
Poor man’s burnt ends can be served on their own, straight on the plate! However, if you want to elevate your presentation you could serve them on skewers. If you wanted to mix things up you could also serve them in a sandwich or in tacos.
Poor Man’s Burnt Ends Recipe
- Aluminum foil pan
- Probe Thermometer
- Pink butcher paper
- 1 chuck roast should be about 3 pounds
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
BBQ Sauce Glaze
- 1 cup bbq sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp honey optional
- Preheat your smoker to 250ºF
- Combine salt, ground pepper, garlic powder, and brown sugar until evenly mixed. Then generously season your chuck roast with the beef rub mixture. It's ok if you have a little bit of rub left over!
- Place seasoned chuck roast on your smoker's grate and close the lid
- Once your chuck roast reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF, remove it from the smoker and wrap it with a double layer of pink butcher paper. The chuck roast should be stalled at 165ºF after about 5-6 hours on the smoker.
- Place wrapped roast back onto the smoker and continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 203ºF. This usually takes an additional 1-2 hours
- Once roast reaches 203ºF, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for about 15 minutes
- While the beef rests, combine your bbq sauce, brown sugar, and optional honey and stir to combine
- Cut the chuck roast into 1 inch cubes and place them in an aluminum foil pan
- Douse the beef cubes with your bbq sauce glaze mixture and toss until each burnt end is thoroughly coated
- Place the aluminum foil pan back on the smoker and cook for about an hour. The goal here is to get the bbq sauce to caramelize on the beef, so as soon as that happens remove your pan
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Don’t let the name fool you, poor man’s burnt ends are loaded with BBQ flavor and are sure to make an impression on your guests. Don’t be afraid to try this one at your next get together!
Did you try out our recipe? How did it go? We’d love to hear your feedback as we are constantly trying to improve our recipes!