Burnt Ends-Houston, TX

Ah, Texas. The home of smoked brisket, a beef lovers paradise! We are here in the Houston area for a month or so. A trip to Houston would not be complete without a visit to the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA.

We had a great visit, exploring the space center and all of the rockets, pods, and shuttles. It’s an experience that will please the whole family, young and old! Who knows, you might even get a chance to touch a moon rock!

Obviously we had to smoke some brisket while in Texas! I chose to cook some burnt ends, because they are my favorite part of the brisket. Also, the point end of a brisket fits nicely on a kettle grill. It can be a little challenging, smoking on a kettle, so just smoking the point end turned out to be just the right size to fit.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

I purchased a 3 lbs brisket point end from the local supermarket. Yes, I know I can get better quality meat sourced through a meat market or butcher, but I was at the store and they were on sell right after memorial day, so sue me, ha! The point was already trimmed up, probably a little more than I would’ve like, but again, supermarket. So, I basically applied some rub and took it to the grill. The rub I used was ok, but I think I still prefer the old, salt and pepper, Texas rub.

The snake method

This method of arranging your charcoal around the kettle is a great way to smoke meat. I get a very consistent temp and cook time using this method, everytime. In other words, there are no surprises, which is important when you are smoking meat for hours on end.

You start with two bottom rows of coal, lightly touching each other, about 3/4 of the way around the kettle. Then you add just one layer on top. I light 6-8 coals in my chimney, and place them at the beginning of the snake when they are ready. This should result in a cook time of around 6-8 hours and around 250 degrees. This technique has proven to be very trust-worthy, and allows you to enjoy the day and not worry or work too much on your fire.

Not shown in the picture, but I add at least 3 separate piles of wood chips to my snake. I start at the end of the snake that is lit, and place just a small handful at the end, then about two inches away, another pile, and so on. I’ve learned that after about 3 piles, not passing the half-point of the snake is a pretty good amount of smoke. Anything more, and your’e just wasting wood chips, because the meat will not take in any more smoke by this point.

I place a water tray in the middle of the coals. It catches some of the drippings, allows some moisture during cook, and I think it helps stabilize your temps a little. Now it’s time for the honored guest of the party, the meat!

Take the point end and place it opposite side from the burning coals. When you check on the meat, every hour or so, you will “chase” this position around the kettle, keeping the meat opposite the burning coals. The best way I’ve found to do this, is to put some gloves on and simply pick up the grate and turn it. The picture above is about half-way through the cook. Also, don’t forget to place your lid vents opposite the burning coals too. That way the smoke and heat travels across your meat before exiting the kettle.

I like to put in a thermometer after a couple hours of smoking. I’m looking for an internal temp of 165 degrees. This will take quite a few hours to achieve, so be patient and write a blog or something while the kettle does its magic! After hitting that mark, pull the meat and wrap it in foil or butcher paper. I had foil on hand, so that’s what I used.

Place the thermometer back in the point end, and place opposite the fire once again. Now is a good time to add some more coals to your snake, if needed. I added about 10-12 more coals to the end of the snake to keep it going a little longer. Now, we are waiting to hit the 200-205 degree mark. This may take an hour or so with a 3 lbs point end.

At 200 degrees, or so, pull the meat and unwrap it to slice. I like to cube mine around 1 inches thick. Place into an aluminum pan, liberally toss with your favorite BBQ sauce, and put back on the kettle for an hour or so. Or, until the sauce has had time to “candy” and the burnt ends are tender.

So there’s our burnt ends in Houston, TX! It was a fun cook and I can’t wait to share with you all our next stop and next cook on the Traveling Kettle!