Magic in Kansas City doesn’t involve cards or top hats. True magic is what happens to brisket when smoke and fire are applied in the correct ratio and for the right amount of time. True magic is burnt ends. In Chapter 4, we dive into how and why we chase and crave that magic in Kansas City and all of the mortal moments that can derail this act of gustatory sorcery.
Pitmasters, and eaters alike, have developed an appreciation for burnt ends because of the challenge they present. Over the course of as much as 20 hours in the smoker, there are a lot of different variables that can change the course of dinner.
Each brisket is different and each pitmaster must wield a steady knife while trimming the fat from the brisket. Everyone has developed a rub — the seasoning on the outside of the meat which helps to develop the crusty bark — that they will tell you is the best in the city.
Then there’s the wood that fuels the smoker. Fruit wood is milder, while hickory and oak are intrinsically tied to Kansas City. And the smoker itself may be a pit built of bricks or a stainless steel cooker capable of holding dozens of briskets. The pitmaster must also keep an eye on temperature and know when the briskets are ready to come off the pit. Even the weather is a factor as humidity can impact the moisture in the meat.
After chopping or cubing the brisket to make the pieces that we call “burnt ends,” pitmasters may either try and hide mistakes with sauce or consider the sauce the cherry on this particular meat sundae. The beauty and mystique of burnt ends is that the six o’clock show and the eight o’clock show are most certainly not the same. So, step right up and be dazzled by Burnt Legend.
— Chapter 1 of Burnt Legend, the digital series, debuted on Monday, September 19. Chapter 2 can be found here and Chapter 3 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.