Masters of the Pit: Aaron Franklin

September 20, 2011

Aaron Franklin BBQ temperature gauge

Today we feature Aaron Franklin of Austin’s Franklin Barbecue, a rising star among barbecue restaurants and recently featured in Bon Appetit, Texas Monthly, The New York Times and Yahoo’s Shine.

Thanks for taking the time to speak today, Aaron.  I know things have been rather crazy lately so I certainly appreciate it.  First of all, would you mind sharing your earliest barbecue memory?

I guess I really have two sets of memories.  When I was a real little kid, my grandparents would hang out at a BBQ place playing dominoes and they’d give me money for the pool table. I remember spending lots of time there. Later on when I was about 9 or 10 my parents owned a place and I would always hang out there.   For years I thought I knew what good barbecue was but then I realized I didn’t! As I’ve gotten to know food, I see that my palate has changed.
Clearly, barbecue is more than just a way to make a living, it’s a way of life. Why do you think barbecue is so important in this country?

It’s a food that everyone has childhood based nostalgia for and yet it’s different all over the country. It’s a real community food, and I think the fact that it takes longer to make makes it more special. Barbecue is special because it takes more effort than grilling something like hot dogs, and you have all that time hanging around the fire, having some beers. It’s really the ultimate comfort food.
What do you think has been the secret behind Franklin BBQ’s quick rise among Texas’s “Must Do’ BBQ joints?

I don’t know!  Our food is good but there is a lot of good bbq out there. I guess all over the country there’s ok bbq, maybe we stand out. We are friendly, it’s really like having people into our home. This place really evolved from our backyard bbq. We are so passionate it makes a difference. We stick to traditional salt and pepper and we use post oak.  

Speaking of tradition, why’s Texas so well known for its brisket?

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the chunks of meat. 50 years ago, brisket became a more usable meat because of industrialization. The style, which is German/Czechoslovakian, evolved from immigrants to central Texas who held German-style meat markets.
What barbecue do you dream about? What would you like to try to do that you haven’t done?

I don’t dream – too tired at night! I would love to do a whole hog but I never seem to have the time. I did add bigger doors to one of my smokers so I can try it sometime.

How do you think your product would hold up on the competition circuit? Have you ever competed?

I’m too busy to compete regularly, but I have done some KCBS contests. And I did a brisket at the last Royal, but we had run out of pepper so I was really surprised when we came in the top twenty! We cook very differently for competitions than we do for the restaurant.

What do you cook at home?

My wife and I maybe cook at home once or twice a week.  We will grill some steaks, peppers and lots of other vegetables. We also eat a ton of sushi.

What advice do you have for the backyard grillers out there?

Have fun with it and experiment. Keep working at it – that’s how the restaurant came to be, by learning how to do new things. I learned how to weld in order to make the smokers and made the trailer too.

Great stuff!  Thank you again for your time and best of luck as you continue to grow your BBQ empire!

-Clint Cantwell, Guest Editor

(photo credit:  Dylan James Ho Photography)

Related Topics: Aaron Franklin | Austin | Brisket | Franklin Barbecue | Masters Of The Pit | Texas

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