Want to barbecue like Aaron Franklin? Now you can. The celebrated pitmaster with the eponymous Austin barbecue joint has just put a collection of instructional videos on YouTube.
It is a remarkable move, given that the barbecue world is so secretive. For some barbecue guys, the difference between a high-level classified document and a spice rub recipe is that the document is shared.
Now here comes Franklin, in his mid-30s and one of the most acclaimed pitmen on the planet, a judge on Destination America’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” a guy whose restaurant Bon Appetit magazine called the best barbecue in America, spilling everything he knows to the masses on YouTube.
As a restaurant operator, doesn’t he have a lot to lose by giving away what he knows?
“Not really,” he told me in an interview. “I don’t think that many people are going to spend 20 hours a day doing what I do.”
“BBQ with Franklin” stems from casual conversations Franklin had with a pal who works at KLRU, the Austin PBS affiliate. Funds were raised online to cover production costs, shooting for $16,000 and ending up with $19,000. Franklin told me the extra money will go toward producing more episodes.
At this writing, there are only five of what Franklin estimates will eventually be eight or nine episodes. Future videos will include two on making ribs, one on cooking a pork butt and one on smoking a turkey that he hopes will run before Thanksgiving. He’s not sure of the number of episodes or when they will air because he isn’t involved in the editing process.
Three of the posted episodes constitute a primer on making brisket. In one episode, he shows viewers how to choose, trim and season a brisket. In another, he demonstrates how to start a fire and what types of wood to use. The third is a lesson on how to season and operate an offset smoker. A fourth will explain how to cook a brisket and the fifth how to slice it.
Although he doesn’t say so in the videos, Franklin told me he uses a Creekstone premium Black Angus hormone-free and antibiotic-free brisket. He said that, while he thinks the quality of meat makes a difference, he used regular supermarket briskets when starting out and says they’ll do just fine: “Use what you can afford.”
In case you are thinking, “But I can’t make a brisket like his because I don’t have the equipment,” you are right and wrong. You probably don’t have as big a wood-only pit as he does. But for years, Franklin was turning out briskets on a cheap smoker just like the one used in the videos.
Franklin told me he went to a nearby sporting goods store called Academy and bought the smoker for $300. It is similar to the types you can buy at chain hardware stores nationwide.
He deliberately chose to cook on an affordable cooker so that backyarders could duplicate what he does.
That democratic spirit is what I love about “BBQ with Franklin.” My personal observation is that, generally, the best barbecuers are the most transparent about what they do. Not only are they unafraid of others knowing how they make their barbecue, they celebrate the sharing of their knowledge. To them, sharing is part of the barbecue ethos.
A year and a half ago, well before Franklin embarked on his YouTube instructionals, Wayne Mueller, owner of James Beard Foundation “America’s Classics” honoree Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Texas, showed the world how to make his equally celebrated brisket on “CBS This Morning” — and used a Weber kettle, an even more common cooker than an offset. Others have shown their methods and recipes online and on TV. But a detailed, “multi-class” tutorial from a barbecue restaurant owner and top pitmaster is something special.
“I look at it as spreading the word of good barbecue,” Franklin said. “If I can help somebody make a good brisket, I think that’s awesome.
“There’s really no secret out there,” he continued. “If you keep it simple, it really isn’t that difficult. You just have to be patient with it. Just cook it till it’s tender.”
Of course, if it were that easy, dear reader, you wouldn’t be rushing off to YouTube after reading this blogpost.
Contact Jim Shahin with tips, opinions, or news at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jimshahin.