4 Barbecue Tips from Pitmaster Aaron Franklin

January 17, 2018 01:30 PM
Texas chef Aaron Franklin, owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, offers four tips to attendees at Camp Brisket at Texas A&M University.

Every year, Camp Brisket brings barbecue entrepreneurs and enthusiasts from across the country to the campus of Texas A&M University for two days of continued learning, networking, and eating good Texas barbecue. Among the program speakers this year was Aaron Franklin, owner and operator of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas.

Over the past nine years of running his restaurant, Franklin has gained national fame, going on to host the PBS series “BBQ with Franklin” and writing his own book on the core elements of successful barbecue. Follow these four tips shared by Franklin at Camp Brisket for a great barbecue experience.

1. Buy the best product you can afford.

“You can make good brisket out of almost anything,” Franklin says, “but if you can help it, don’t skimp on materials.”

When purchasing your cut of meat, compare the individual products in the case. If the brisket flats are thick and floppy, that’s a good start, Franklin says. You can also look through the vacuum packaging to see how much marbling is actually in the meat. More marbling means a higher-quality product.

2. Ditch the charcoal and burn wood instead.

Wood smoke imparts better flavor and provides a more natural method of cooking your meat. As far as what type of wood to use, Franklin says to use any wood you have, so long as it’s a hardwood or a fruit-bearing tree.

“Post oak is definitely my favorite, but I also live in central Texas, so it’s easy to get,” Franklin says. “But if you have an oak tree that fell in your backyard, use that—use whatever you can get!”

3. Turn up the heat.

The exact temperature you use will depend on a variety of factors, including the weather, the airflow in your cooker, the heat source, and the characteristics of the meat itself. While the “low and slow” cooking method generally uses temperatures between 200-250°F, Franklin recommends aiming for 275°F in a standard offset cooker—but use common sense.

“If you can hear it cooking, it’s probably too hot,” he says. “But also cook as hot as you can without burning it up.”

4. Keep seasonings simple.

When it comes to flavoring your brisket, plain old salt and pepper work just fine, Franklin says. In fact, that’s all he uses in his restaurant. Adding extra seasonings can confuse the palate, and half the time you can’t even taste them underneath the smokiness of the meat.

“If you take all the time to use smoke and you spend your hard-earned money on a nice piece of meat, why cover it up with a bunch of weird flavors?” Franklin says.

Want to learn more and improve your barbecue skills? Check out Franklin’s book here, or find more information on Camp Brisket here.

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