Burnt Ends with Bourbon Sauce


The crispy, caramelized "burnt" pieces of a smoked brisket are often the best part because the flavor is concentrated and the texture is pleasingly chewy. This recipe creates an entire baking tray of crispy pieces, so there are plenty to go around. Chef Matt Horn likes to serve these with slices of white bread; he shared his step-by-step process for making Burnt Ends with us, from seasoning the brisket to caramelizing the sauce on the cubed meat. If you spend a lot of time barbecuing, you will try out literally hundreds of rubs, not to mention cooking sauces, table sauces, mops, binders, and pastes. Eventually, you will settle on an all-purpose rub that adds loads of flavor to just about anything you put in the smoker. Horn Rub is chef Matt Horn's go-to rub; he keeps it close at hand at all time, and uses it to generously season these savory burnt ends. Instead of vinegar, Horn's thick, sticky Bourbon Sauce gets its kick from its namesake: bourbon. For a classic sauce with Kentucky roots, use dark molasses in place of the honey. This recipe works well with any type of barbecue, and Horn loves it in baked beans, too.

Burnt Ends
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox & John Somerall / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis
Active Time:
50 mins
Smoke Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
9 hrs
Serves 6 to 8, Yield: about ½ cup Horn Rub, about 2 cups Bourbon Sauce


Horn Rub

  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Bourbon Sauce

  • 2 cups ketchup

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) bourbon

  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke

Burnt Ends

  • 1 (4-pound) beef brisket point, fat cap trimmed to 1/4 inch thick

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ cup Horn Rub

  • 1 ½ cups Bourbon Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons honey

  • White sandwich bread slices (optional)


Make the Horn Rub:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.

Make the Bourbon Sauce:

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and reduces by half, 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside.

Make the Burnt Ends:

  1. Sprinkle brisket evenly with salt. Sprinkle evenly with Horn rub, gently massaging into brisket to adhere. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

  2. Prepare a charcoal fire in smoker according to manufacturer's instructions. Place oak chunks on coals. Maintain internal temperature at 250°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Smoke brisket, covered with smoker lid, until a thermometer inserted in center of brisket registers 150°F, about 4 hours. Remove brisket, and wrap tightly in aluminum foil. Return brisket to smoker, and smoke, covered, until a thermometer inserted in brisket registers 185°F, about 2 hours.

  3. Remove brisket from smoker; unwrap and cut into 3/4-inch cubes, discarding any large seams of fat. Place brisket cubes in a deep 13- x 9-inch aluminum foil baking pan; add bourbon sauce, and stir to coat. Drizzle brisket evenly with honey.

  4. Increase smoker temperature to 275°F, adding more hot coals and wood chunks as needed. Place baking pan with brisket in smoker, and smoke, covered, until liquid has reduced and caramelized, 2 to 3 hours. Remove brisket from smoker, and serve immediately with white bread, if desired, and additional Bourbon Sauce, or cover and keep warm up to 30 minutes.

Make Ahead

Burnt ends may be kept warm up to 30 minutes before serving. Horn Rub can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Bourbon sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Suggested Pairing

Rich, hoppy ale: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

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