Swap Brisket For Hot Dogs To Make A Budget-Friendly Version Of Burnt Ends

It's hard to imagine, but there was a time when barbecue pit masters discarded the burnt ends on a smoked brisket before serving the dish to customers. Those caramelized pieces of meat candy weren't appreciated, but today, we crave that deep flavor and search for ways to replicate it on other cuts, including budget-friendly hot dogs.

Traditionally, burnt ends are made with beef brisket, which as of May 2024, in the U.S., is $5.07 per pound on average (via the USDA). The thin tail-end, known as the ridge, cooks faster than the flat section, creating crispy, savory, sweet tidbits that are irresistible. The cooking method has evolved to include different proteins, from pork belly to tofu, but hot dogs may be the most economical, especially when feeding a crowd. Nicknamed 'the poor man's burnt ends,' hot dogs are prepared with the same traditional multi-step method that brisket is in a fraction of time.


HOT DOG BURNT ENDS • The best bite of BBQ on a budget, and you don't even need to track the internal temp. Big thanks to @Susie Bulloch for the inspiration on this recipe! 🔥 • Full recipe below ⬇️ • INGREDIENTS: 16ct hot dogs (I used @Ball Park Brand beef) @Kinder's Seasonings and Sauces AP Seasoning + Gold sauce 4T butter 1/4 C dark brown sugar Mustard (to bind seasoning) • INSTRUCTIONS: -Set smoker to 225°F -Score hot dogs to maximize smoke coverage -Slather on mustard and season liberally -Place dogs onto a warming rack and allow to smoke for 1hr -Cut dogs into thirds and place into a cast iron skillet -Throw in butter, brown sugar, and bbq sauce, then back into the smoker for 15-20 mins. -Mix around once and place back onto the smoker for another 30-45 mins, or until you're happy with the tacking (tip: if you want them to tack up quicker, increase the temperature to 300-350°F) -Remove and let sit for about 10 minutes. Enjoy! • Save this recipe for your next cookout! I guarantee you you'll get some compliments on the creativity. • Tools used: @HALO Products Group PRIME550 pellet grill & foil fork 10" cast iron skillet • #bbq #hotdogs #burntends #bbqlovers #foodie #bbqtime #outdoorcooking #delicious bbq #cookingoutside #smokedmeat #smoker

♬ original sound – Tom | The Backyard Palate

The franks are coated in yellow mustard and seasoned before going into a smoker to develop bark, the smoky dark crust that encases the meat. After an hour, the hot dogs are cut into bite-sized pieces and placed in a pan with brown sugar, butter, barbecue sauce, and more spices to finish cooking at a higher temperature. As the butter melts and the sugars caramelize, the hot dog pieces are lacquered in layers of a sticky, thick sauce that tastes like the OG. If you are hosting a barbecue — hot dog burnt ends are a must-try. 

Tips for preparing hot dog burnt ends

Compared to using brisket, preparing the poor man's burnt ends has many advantages. In addition to the cost savings, this recipe takes a fraction of the time to cook. Traditionally, the first stage of smoking brisket takes all day and involves spritzing the meat hourly to prevent it from drying out. During that time, the meat goes through several transformations as it develops a bark, and the protein's connective tissue breaks down until it's fork-tender.

Hot dogs, however, have been cured, so the meat doesn't require hours to cook. The average frankfurter is only an inch thick and six inches long, requiring just an hour in the smoker for the bark to develop. The second stage is even quicker, taking up to 30 minutes for the bite-sized pieces to caramelize. Aficionados may turn their noses up at any recipe not using brisket, but there are certainly plenty of reasons to try this budget-friendly version. 

To make the best-tasting hot dog burnt ends, start with quality beef franks. You can leave them whole during the first stage of grilling or score the outside to create more surface area to absorb the smoke and caramelize. Hickory wood is typically a good choice, as it imparts a smokiness to the meat similar to bacon. If you don't have a smoker, you can still prepare the recipe using your oven to cook them low and slow.

What to serve with burnt ends

Burnt ends are ideal as an appetizer. The one-bite nuggets can be served on a platter if you're setting up a buffet or passed around on a tray, skewered with toothpicks for easy consumption. The flavorful meat is lacquered with a sweet and savory coating, but a bowl of your favorite barbecue sauce would be appreciated by individuals who want it saucy and need to dip.

If you're looking to serve burnt ends as a meal, many recipes complement the dish's rich flavor and crispy texture. Consider a similarly flavored staple like our Bark's baked beans recipe. Dried beans are simmered with ham hock until tender to develop a smoky flavor and then coated in a sweet sauce that adds a contrasting texture to the burnt ends. Similarly, you can't go wrong with mac and cheese. Whether you are keeping it old school with a basic mac and cheese recipe or upgrading it with mimolette and comté macaroni and cheese, the dish is a crowd-pleaser.

Whenever you're hosting, it's a good idea to prep as much as you can in advance, which makes cold salads a great choice. Balance all those hot dishes with the usual suspects, like tangy pickles, potato salad, and cole slaw. Finally, cornbread is a beloved staple side at just about every cookout. Use your favorite recipe or upgrade boxed cornbread mix for a quick and easy dish. Summer's looking pretty tasty!