Bourbon vanilla burnt ends from pork neck

We accidentally bought a bottle of vanilla extract with bourbon flavour instead of the regular one. We use it when we make pancakes. So now we had this variant in combination with a bacon pancake, and that was delicious. When it was time to make some burnt ends, we decided to make bourbon vanilla burnt ends.

The original burnt ends are made from brisket flat. Fake burnt ends are generally made from pork belly. What these pieces of meat have in common is a good concentration of fat in the meat.

We had a beautiful Livar pork neck in the freezer with an insane amount of intramuscular fat. Those are the thin lines of fat that run through the meat. That fat ensures tender and juicy meat and a lot of flavour. So this pork neck seemed a perfect candidate for burnt ends.

We’ll cut the entire pork neck into three parts. This way, we create more surface that can absorb smoke and flavour from the rub. But first, we provide these cuts with a dry brine consisting of coarse salt and raw cane sugar in equal parts. The salt draws into the meat because salt molecules are the only ones small enough to be absorbed. The sugar sticks to the surface in the moisture that is extracted by the salt.

Burnt ends are prepared in a smoker. Make sure to place a drip tray under the meat. While smoking, grease will drip from the meat and ends up in your barbecue. Besides the fact that your barbecue gets dirty, those drops can also burn and start to smell. By the way, this is an aluminium oven dish from IKEA. Handy for all kinds of barbecue related work.

After about 4 hours of smoking, the pork neck has a beautiful smoke colour and a core temperature of about 80°C (176F). Then you can take them out and let them rest for half an hour. This rest is important because all the moisture in the meat has been forced out during cooking and is now on the outer edges. If you now cut the meat into cubes, the cubes will be drier towards the centre than the outer cubes.

We throw the cubes into the same drip tray without emptying it. Then we sprinkle the dry rub over the cubes. When we mix the cubes with the fat, the meat is perfectly covered with fat and dry rub.

Then we pour the sauce that we made while smoking the pork over the cubes. You could basically eat right now. And we do recommend that you take a few blocks. That’s your right as a pitmaster.

The entire tray goes back into the smoker at 160°C (320F). Not really low and slow anymore, but a perfect temperature to caramelize the rub and the sauce a bit. When this happens, you really can name it burnt ends.

You check that the sauce is not burnt every now and then, and you stir everything a few times. The burnt ends are done when you can no longer hold out to stay away from them.

These are our bourbon vanilla burnt ends from pork neck. If you’re going to make it, let us know in the comments below. Or better! Take a photo and post it on Instagram. Tag @bbq.heroes so we can see what you made.


  • 3 kilos pork neck
  • 6 tbsp raw cane sugar
  • 4 tablespoons coarse sea salt

For the dry rub

  • 6 tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper

For the sauce

  • 150 ml bourbon
  • 1/2 litre ketchup
  • 50 grams of brown sugar
  • 50 g vanilla sugar
  • 2 tsp onion granulate
  • 50 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Make pieces of about 1 kilo from the pork neck. Mix the sugar and the salt and rub the meat with it. Place the meat in a ziplock bag and leave it in the fridge for 1 to 2 days.
  2. Prepare a smoker with a temperature of 140°C (284F). Place a drip tray in the smoker and the meat on the grates above it. Insert a thermometer into the meat and close the lid.
  3. Now you can make the sauce by pouring all the ingredients into a pan. Let the sauce reduce over low heat until the sauce sticks to the back of a spoon.
  4. When the meat has reached a core temperature of 80°C (176F), remove the meat from the smoker and let it rest for half an hour. Leave the collected fat in the drip tray.
  5. Cut the smoked pork neck into bite-sized chunks and throw them into the drip tray. Mix the ingredients for the dry rub and sprinkle this over the cubes.
  6. Stir everything together well, and then pour half of the sauce over the cubes.
  7. Heat the smoker to 160°C (320F) and put the tray with the cubes back in the smoker. Let them sit for about 2 hours, checking and stirring the cubes every now and then.
  8. The burnt ends are ready when the sauce has become sticky, and the meat is tender.

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