Smoking the perfect brisket takes a little time and involvement but it’s so worth every bit. If you’re thinking about making a backyard brisket from scratch, leverage these great tips from famed Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin, who was just inducted into the 2020 Barbecue Hall of Fame.
With Memorial Day in the rearview, it’s time to get serious about BBQ. Chances are you’ll be hanging around the house (and yard) just a little more than usual this summer, so why not try your hand at a new cooking project. Consider smoking a brisket, for instance. When done properly, a juicy, tender brisket bursting with deep flavor will be a welcomed change from the tired burgers/ dogs/chicken routine. And the leftovers are even better. But don’t just wing it: If you want to make the very best smoked brisket we suggest taking pointers from a pitmaster. We’ve got just the guy.
Aaron Franklin is one such ascended master of BBQ, and he’s generously agreed to share some of his best BBQ tips, tricks, and secrets with the world. Having earned a 2015 James Beard Award and much high praise from critics, Franklin popularized a slow smoking process that has lines forming outside his famous Franklin Barbecue in Austin year-round.
Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQ
Get Aaron Franklin's full 16-part BBQ lesson plus a whole lot more on MasterClass, for $15 a month.
Few are better suited to teach a crash course on BBQ smoked brisket. Luckily for anyone interested in learning the tasty trade themselves, Franklin has teamed up with MasterClass for an exclusive 16-lesson series on Texas Style BBQ. In this BBQ brisket lesson, Franklin shares his secrets for succulent BBQ brisket, pork butt, and ribs. Students of the BBQ MasterClass will learn how to choose and prep the best barbecue meats, nail the optimal cooking times and temps, and handle an offset smoker like a pro.
There’s no substitute for watching someone like Franklin walk and talk you through the steps of an involved recipe, like smoked brisket or pork butt, so definitely head to MasterClass for Franklin’s series. A subscription to MasterClass will get you far more than just brisket know-how too. Iconic chefs like Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and Gabriela Cámara share tricks of the trade in their own culinary MasterClasses.
If you’re short on time and ready to start smoking brisket, the pitmaster himself shared a few exclusive tips and tricks to get us started as we roll hog-head first into BBQ season.
Have a Plan
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but also document your mistakes. You really only learn how to make good barbecue by making bad barbecue every so often.
Fire and Smoke
Building and managing fire is key to barbecue mastery—the goal is to have the best quality smoke you can: not sooty—blue coloring is good.
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, $18.15 on Amazon
Go deeper with Franklin's New York Times best-selling book!
Brisket & Beef Selection
If you can, go to a butcher who will know some lineage on the cow and when possible, it’s always better to go all-natural when choosing beef. You hear a lot about grass-fed vs corn-fed beef: Corn-fed is fine but always cook fresh over frozen, if you can.
Size matters in choosing a brisket: The thicker they are, the better they are and want your brisket a little floppy to start. This means it has a good meat to fat ratio. If you pick up a brisket and it’s hard as a rock with no give, it is likely to feel that way after it’s cooked too.
You get what you pay for but consider practice on cheaper meats for your first couple of tries.
Double R Ranch Co. 10-Pound Brisket, $199.95 at Williams Sonoma
When you're ready for the big league.
Brisket Smoking Tips
Trim the brisket so that there are rounded edges, no pieces sticking out that may dry too quickly. You want the meat to be aerodynamic so that the smoke can flow over it.
Before putting meat in the cooker, let it sit out for 30 to 45 minutes to warm to room temperature. If the meat is ice cold when put on the cooker, the edges will dry out and it will cook unevenly. During this time, the salt (from the rub) will also help pull out some of the moisture.
When placing the brisket into the cooker, face the fatty end toward the fire. This protects the leaner portion of the meat.
Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker, $219.99 on Amazon
First things first, you'll need a quality smoker this Weber upright checks out.
And as if Franklin isn’t busy enough, he recently found time to sit down for with Texas Monthly‘s “National Podcast of Texas” for an interview with host Andy Langer. Franklin discusses his upcoming breakfast taco, the first 10 years of Franklin BBQ, the psychology of expectations, and much more. You can find the episode on Texas Monthly, or on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts.
This post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with new information and links.
Header image by Chowhound.