On the day of his exclusive interview with Austin Food magazine, in the middle of his daily rush hour, Aaron Franklin took time out to sit in the shade of the new deck he had built in the backyard at his restaurant at Franklin Barbecue.
Sans his familiar and trendy bold-framed glasses, Franklin wore a black Woodsman Tavern T-shirt and jeans and appeared relaxed though he had been working since 1:30 a.m.
Sporting a full neck beard, the local celebrated author of Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, and star of his own TV show, BBQ with Franklin, accommodated guests with details and humorous anecdotes regarding his life’s craft and passion.
Meanwhile a few feet away his staff served up to 2300 pounds of cooked meat to Franklin’s fans who had waited in line for hours to sample his daily wares. It is a familiar feat repeated six days a week at the East Austin restaurant from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily.
The Bryan native and his wife, Stacy, and their 20 employees smoke only all natural and prime Angus purchased from 45 Midwest ranches. He won’t ship, doesn’t deliver, and allows only pre-scheduled pickups Tuesday through Sunday.
Since 2011 each of Franklin’s five fire pits have smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey and sausage set at 275 degrees inside a 1000-square foot smokehouse located at 900 E. 11th Street.
AFM: What’s the best wood to use when cooking barbecue?
Franklin: We use post oak here, which is an indigenous white oak here in Central Texas — really specific to Central Texas barbecue. If you look at all the different regions of barbecue over the years most of that stuff – most of those flavors at least – have been determined by the regional wood. You have hickory in one part, you have mesquite in another part of the country. Here we have post oak and that’s kind of the German/Czech style of barbecue, which is what we cook. So, there’s plenty of it. It stacks good. It burns reasonably well, it has a slow heat curve and it tastes good.
AFM: What’s key to picking out the right cut of meat to barbecue?
Franklin: I think it’s key that you buy the best thing that you can afford. You know barbecue traditionally has always been kind of a cheap piece of meat. The really ‘old school’ guys don’t really care if it’s select, or it’s this or that breed, or if it’s got growth hormones, or not — they don’t really care. If it’s cheap, they say ‘I’m gonna cook it.’ That’s good. If that’s what you can afford, then cook that. If you can afford better, then do a little better. Do the best you can.
AFM: What’s the best advice you can give to a do-it-yourself home barbecue chef?
Franklin: Patience. Patience. Patience. It takes such a long time to cook this stuff. You know, I think the thing you need to realize with barbecue is that there’s really no right way to do it and there’s really no wrong way to do it. It’s just kind of your way. Just try new things. Obviously it’s trial and error. You can’t get bummed out if you get a huge piece of meat and it doesn’t really turn out the way you want it to because it’s a lengthy process. I mean we have 44 hours of labor that go into each brisket here. That is a lot of work. If you think about something that takes that long and any little thing that could go wrong, it would be so magnified by the end of the cook. You learn from your mistakes and you just keep going and trying to do the best you can.