Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
I am by no means a book critic. I have only written one book review/summary before. I did one for Daniel Vaughn's The Prophets of Smoked Meat which came out almost two years ago. That book inspired this blog. My BBQ quest/obsession has been fueled by Franklin Barbecue. When that first piece of moist brisket hit my tongue, I knew I wanted more. It has been a struggle ever since. Owner/Pitmaster Aaron Franklin just recently came out with his own book with a little help from Jordan Mackay. If you pack a history guide, a science book, and a cookbook together, you have Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.
Everywhere Aaron Franklin goes, he is recognized. You will see people asking him to take pictures with them. Aaron=Rockstar. The guy has been on TV, in a commercial, and even in a movie so a book seemed like the natural progression. If you ever have been to Franklin Barbecue, you know why he is so popular. His restaurant smokes some of the best BBQ on the planet. People start lining up at the door hours before it even opens. The wait is definitely worth it. Aaron Franklin just won a James Beard Award (an Oscars equivalent in the culinary world). Congrats! He is the first ptimaster to win this award.
The contents of the book are broken into seven chapters so I will just break this post into seven sections:
Beginnings: The first chapter is a short history lesson. Aaron goes over his typical day at the restaurant. It is a busy one you can imagine. His parents ran a BBQ joint when he was growing up which later fueled his passion for barbecue. He and his wife, Stacy, started doing cookouts in their backyard, and it eventually led to the food trailer Franklin Barbecue started out in. I actually stood in line at that trailer. The wait was only 20 minutes back then. After reading this chapter, my respect for Aaron and Stacy grew even more. They struggled to make everything work, but with their effort and dedication, it all paid off. My hats off to them.
The Smoker: This is where the science part starts. Aaron describes the various types of smoker. Franklin Barbecue is currently using five offset smokers and a rotisserie smoker. He even goes into how to build one from scratch. Do not like the one you currently have? He talks about a few modifications that could improve it. After finishing this chapter, I want to take welding classes now and build my own smoker.
Wood: This is a vital step of barbecuing. Without it, there would be no smoke. Franklin uses post oak at the restaurant. It is abundant in Central Texas and burns cleaner. There are different varieties of wood. He stays away from green wood (wood that comes from a recently live tree) because the moisture content is higher which in turn is harder to burn and gives off a heavier and dirtier smoke. You want the wood to be "seasoned" for about a year.
Fire + Smoke: The magic takes place here. It is not as easy as setting a match to a pile of logs. Aaron goes over the elements of the ideal fire and smoke composition. You want the fire to burn efficiently, and it takes a little bit of tender loving care to do so.
Meat: Brisket is king in Texas. This cut comes from the chest region of a steer, and there are two of them. Aaron Franklin uses all natural prime grade briskets. Sure it is more expensive, but the quality and marbling of the meat results in a better product. He explains what he is looking for in the other meats they use like beef ribs, pork ribs, pork butt, sausage, and turkey.
The Cook: This is the cookbook section of the book. If you have ever watched Aaron's YouTube videos, he discusses the same topics. He keeps it simple with most of his rub. Salt and pepper. Trimming the meats also helps get better results. The briskets are wrapped in butcher paper and the ribs and pork butts in foil sometime during the cooking process. You have to be patient with your brisket. The temperature of the brisket will stall at some point, but you just have to have to give it time. Do not crank up the heat. I used to make that mistake. It will eventually climb and eventually be ready to be pulled off when it is around 200 degrees internally.
Serving + Eating: The final chapter talks about the best part. Eating. Knowing how to slice a brisket is vital. Franklin goes over the steps on cutting a brisket. An inexperienced person could screw up a perfectly smoked meat. If barbecue sauce and sides are your thing, Aaron shares the recipes he uses at the restaurant. I like his transparency. He has nothing to hide.
All in all, it was hard for me to put down Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto. I read the majority of the book in one sitting. I was intrigued by it. I am a BBQ nerd, and you can tell Aaron is one too, and I love it. It is not a challenging read, and you can easily pick it back up wherever you left off. The photos from Wyatt McSpadden bring the pages to life. I am always in awe over his pictures. He captures so much detail and color in his work. Jordan Mackay did a great job in putting Aaron's words on to paper. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. You would too. Go buy a copy because there is a lot of details I left out. The book is also very inspirational. With a little bit of money, hard work, time, and commitment, you can turn a hobby into a life's dream.
Until next time, happy smoking...