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Feats of Smoke (10)

Strengthened and Preserved

After 12 hours of absorbing smoke, heat, and seasoning, the last meat to meet the judges is brisket, a notoriously difficult cut of beef to cook but when done correctly is the favorite of many CBJs. In addition to slices, some cooks choose to place burnt ends in their containers.

Cut from the point of the brisket, burnt ends are sort of a happy accident after smoking the meat for half a day. They are slightly barky but still soft and full of fatty deliciousness. Schoeppner particularly enjoys them.

“Burnt ends are tasty,” he confirms. “It is the burnt caramelized ends off the piece of meat, and it kind of has a different flavor compared to the rest of the brisket. It’s kind of like candy.”

Meat candy.

When judging brisket, Henning, too, looks forward to burnt ends. In his opinion, it is the best of the brisket because it contains all the taste and tenderness elements of world-class barbeque and showcases the talent of the cook.

“The outer bark has all the smoke in it, the seasoning, and sauce,” he says. “It’s just a little bit crispy, and you really get the essence of the brisket — and with more flavor than you do with the brisket itself.”

When it’s all over, each CBJ will have faced down somewhere in the neighborhood of seven pounds of meat. Smart, practical judges tote along small coolers that they stash under their chairs.

Uneaten portions — plenty of them because judges learn early to pace themselves — will be bagged up and stashed in the cooler to enjoy later.

After her judging is finished, Jana Klauke, a first-year CBJ from Davenport, says her appetite for barbeque has definitely been sated.

“It’s fun judging,” she says. “But if you take one bite of each of the pieces that you are judging, you will have consumed two pounds of meat. Even though it’s spread out over two hours, the last thing I even want to look at afterwards is barbeque.”

(Read more about Feats of Smoke)

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