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Tour Franklin Barbecue In Austin, The Hottest Smoked Meat Joint In Texas

Franklin Barbecue in Austin is the state’s hottest barbecue joint, taking the top spot in Texas Monthly’s poll. And barbecue addicts’ burning desire for their brisket is only matched by the sweltering temperatures around the smokers. 

As KERA's Think broadcasts this week from Austin, producer Stephen Becker visited the smokehouse with one of Franklin’s resident brisket cookers.

A guy named Inkle walks us through the operation. He’s been working at Franklin for about six months.

“It’s over 110 degrees in here right now and I’m going to be in here for 10 to 12 hours today,” he says.

The technique

“Learning how to move around the wood to make the fire hotter or cooler is a big part of it,” Inkle says. “These four 1,000-gallon tanks have briskets on them."

The meat's been cooking for nearly six hours.

“The shorter one over there has pork butts on it," he says. "This big rotisserie is empty right now, but we use that for spillover when there’s way too many briskets and we don’t have room for the butts.

They name their smokers. Muchacho. Shorty. The Iron Lung.

“In the smoker, we’ve got 20 briskets right now,” Inkle says. “Some of the grease is pooling up on them so I’m tipping them over to prevent loss of color.”

A person wearing black gloves uses a knife to cut through barbecue ribs.
Credit Jeff Whittington / KERA News
Mmm. Meat. Franklin Barbecue in Austin is the state's hottest barbecue joint, taking the top spot in Texas Monthly's poll.

How hot is it?

“You’re sweating all day, every day," Inkle says. "I’ll probably drink five gallons of water while I’m here today and it’s only 110 in here. We’ve had days when it was 140 and I don’t even know how much water we drink.”

A great way to lose weight

“I’ve lost 20 pounds since I started working in here,” he says. “I don’t think anybody here actually gains any weight. I don’t think anybody puts on that many pounds.

“It’s a lot of work.”

About Franklin Barbecue

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue talks with KERA's Krys Boyd on Think at 1 p.m. Wednesday on KERA 90.1 FM. Listen to it live.

Videos: Watch segments of BBQ with Franklin

The PBS show features Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue.

Stephen Becker is senior producer of the Think show , which airs on more than 25 stations across Texas and beyond. Prior to joining the Think team in 2013, as part of the Art&Seek team, Stephen produced radio and digital stories and hosted "The Big Screen" — a weekly radio segment about North Texas film — with Chris Vognar. His 2011 story about the history of eight-track tapes was featured nationally on NPR's All Things Considered. His works has been recognized with numerous state and national awards.