News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

From A Drum Cage To The BBQ Pit: Aaron Franklin On His Success

PBS/Wyatt McSpadden
Aaron Franklin is the author of "Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoker's Manifesto."

Six years ago, Aaron Franklin was in a rock band in Austin when he cooked his first brisket. Now he runs a restaurant that’s become a Lone Star landmark. And he was named best chef in the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation last month, a first for any barbecue pitmaster.

Franklin is staying busy: he has a new book out, called Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoker's Manifesto and a PBS show called “BBQ with Franklin,” which debuts Saturday on KERA-TV.

Interview Highlights: Aaron Franklin...

…On being the first barbecue guy to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef of the Southwest.   

“That’s by far, pretty much the most amazing thing that’s happened in my little barbecue career.”

…On the biggest mistake people make with brisket:

“Undercooking it is probably the biggest mistake. That’s what I did when I first started. I just thought, ‘hey, it’s done in 10 hours or whatever.’ Turns out it takes maybe a little longer than that.

You know, the first time I cooked a brisket and actually did a good one, I had accidentally, what I thought, overcooked them. I opened them up and was like ‘oh my God, they’re tender!’

…A total light bulb went off and that’s pretty much, I think was the beginning of Franklin BBQ. Just overcook everything.”

…On the secret to a good brisket:

“Eventually, once the internal temperature gets high enough, the collagen breaks down, the meat kind of starts to fall apart because it will kind of tense up, that’s kind of when the stall happens in a brisket. Eventually, everything just kind of relaxes and that’s when it’s tender. That’s normally about 200-ish degrees internal temperature.  

Video: Watch a preview of "BBQ with Franklin."

If you’re doing one [brisket], I would calculate 12 hours, and then rest time. Resting is huge. That’s another mistake people make, [they just] pull it off the smoker, slice right into it…no no no. Let it hang out. Let it be cool for a few minutes. It will kind of reabsorb some juices.

You know when you see a piece of meat that gets cut and its crazy juicy and all this liquid is just gushing out of a piece of meat? It’s probably because it didn’t rest.”

…On his new PBS show, “BBQ with Franklin”:

“We go out to some old school favorites in Central Texas. We hit up Taylor, we go to Lockhart, we go to the old standbys and stuff, talk to some of the older people who have been doing it for a long time. It’s kind of like a barbecue variety show.”

"BBQ with Franklin" airs Saturday, June 20 at 10:30 a.m. on KERA-TV.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.