Singers have Broadway. Aspiring pitmasters? They come to Kansas City because if you can make a burnt end that makes Kansas Citians sit down and take notice, you can make barbecue anywhere. Our city’s esteem for barbecue — combined with pitmasters’ desire to perfect their craft — means that even our iconic barbecue dish is ripe for innovation. And just like the best debates, often had over a plate of ribs or brisket, you’ll have to decide if you’re a burnt end purist or not. Do burnt ends have to come from the charred end pieces of a brisket, or can burnt ends be made with pork or chicken? It’s up to your mind or stomach to make that call.
In Chapter 5 of Burnt Legend, pitmasters talk of all the ways they have incorporated (and are still hoping to incorporate) burnt ends into new menu items. Burnt ends have long added smoke and body to beans and chili (there’s a particularly solid version at Woodyard Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kansas), but now they’re being found in everything from egg rolls to loaded baked potatoes. In that vein, we visit the kitchen at Q39 where executive chef and owner Rob Magee shows us how they make their Burnt End Brisket Burger. It’s a combination of house ground chuck and brisket meat that’s topped with sliced burnt ends, pickles, and jalapeno slaw. As Magee said, “Oh man, I’m getting hungry.”
Burnt ends have been KC’s unique contribution to the barbecue landscape. Just as pulled pork snuck onto menus in the metro, burnt ends are starting to pop up in other barbecue meccas across the country. The legend of burnt ends is still being written, but the origin is clear. This is Kansas City, the home of Burnt Legend.
— Chapter 1 of Burnt Legend, the digital series, debuted on Monday, September 19. Chapter 2 can be found here, Chapter 3 is here, and Chapter 4 is here. Burnt Legend, a five-part series, runs on consecutive Mondays through October 17. The chapters will be woven together to form one larger story that runs at 7:30 p.m. on October 20 on KCPT.