Smoking a Brisket - Aaron Franklin Style
Do you love BBQ? Do you watch TV? If you answered 'Yes' to both questions then maybe you've heard of BBQ wizard, Aaron Franklin from Franklin BBQ. Aaron launched his BBQ empire out of a trailer in a parking lot and now owns and runs a wildly popular restaurant in Austin, Texas. His rise to fame is a classic example of the American dream - or is it just my dream? He was a regular guy smoking brisket out of his backyard BBQ smoker until his friends and family convinced him to buy a trailer and sell his brisket out of it. Suddenly that trailer had BBQ lovers lining up hours in advance and his brisket was selling out every weekend, so inevitably a restaurant was the next step. To this day, people line up hours before the doors open to get a tray of Aaron Franklin's famous brisket including the POTUS, Barry F'n Obama. BBQ Legend has it that Obama paid for the meals for everyone in line when he visited in 2014 #thanksobama. In 2015, Aaron Franklin was awarded a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest and is still the only BBQ pitmaster that's received the honor.
So here's the thing about Aaron, he's the man. His personality comes through in every interview and cooking show AND he's completely transparent with his BBQ recipes. So even though his brisket has made him a ton of money, he shares his secrets and recipes because he wants everyone to enjoy delicious Texas brisket (and probably because he knows we can't recreate the entire Franklin BBQ experience) . Which brings me to this post - I'm going to TRY to recreate Franklin BBQ smoked brisket with its salty and peppery bark, affectionately referred by the BBQ crowd as "black gold." Let's get started.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 14-16 hours
Yield: How hungry are you and your guests? Easily feeds 12 hungry people
- 12-14 Pound whole "packer" beef brisket (USDA Choice/Prime or Wagyu, if you can find it)
- 1/2 Cup Kosher salt
- 1/2 Cup Fresh ground black peppercorns
- 3 Cups apple juice or cider
- Smoker - I have a Weber Smokey Mountain
- Probe thermometer - I recommend this: Maverick ET-733
- Squirt bottle (for the apple juice/cider)
- 15 Pounds charcoal (if not using an electric smoker)
- Chimney Starter
- 2 Chunks of Oak wood (Aaron uses Post Oak)
- Large cutting board
- Boning/filet knife (sharpened)
- Latex gloves
1. Unpack the brisket and rinse under cold water. Dry it off and place on your cutting board. You may want to set up your iPad for instructions on trimming, video below.
2. Follow along with Aaron Franklin's video below about how to trim your brisket. In summary, you want to leave about a 1/4" fat cap on the entire brisket.
3. Once your brisket is properly trimmed, start making your 'dalmatian rub', - mix your salt and pepper in a shaking container. Trust me when I say, do NOT use store-bought ground pepper- you won't get the same bark. I recommend grinding your own pepper in a spice grinder.
4. Coat every single square inch of your brisket with the rub. Don't be shy with it, this is a LOT of meat, the seasonings will really enhance the flavor of the beef.
5. It's important that you let the brisket rest for about 15 minutes and really let the salt and pepper rub nestle into the meat. While the brisket is resting, start the fire for your smoker and add the oak wood chunks to the burning charcoal (unfortunately, Aaron's specific recommendation of Post Oak is hard to come by here in Charleston). I have a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) and I use the method described here: Amazingribs.com
6. Once the meat has rested, its time to throw the meat on the smoker, top rack is fine. Make sure to watch your fire and maintain a constant 250 degrees. This is a great time to use a probe thermometer - place the probe in the 'meat' of the brisket, not the fat. The one listed above wirelessly transmits the temperature of the smoker as well as the temperature of the meat. If you have an offset smoker, follow the instructions in Aaron's video below:
Now sit back, relax and grab a cold brew... you're going to be here for a while. Whatever you do, DON'T OPEN THAT LID for at least 6 hours, or you wont get that nice bark.
7. At the 6 hour mark, spritz the entire surface the brisket with apple juice/cider. Repeat every hour.
8. WAKE UP! If you see that your brisket has finally achieved that nice, thick bark and has reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, you've probably noticed that it hasn't moved up in temperature in a while (about 8 hours in my case). This is called 'the stall'. At this point, it's time to take the meat off the smoker and utilize the 'Texas Crutch' method to finish cooking your brisket.
9. Hopefully you clicked the Texas Crutch link above to learn from Meathead Goldwyn, the genius behind Amazingribs.com. Once your brisket is tightly foiled with about 1/2 cup of apple juice, place it back on the 250 degree smoker. At this point, your brisket won't need any additional smoke but will essentially braise in the foil until fully cooked.
9. Keep an eye on your probe thermometer- you'll slowly start to see the temperature rise over the next few hours. Mine took 3 more hours using the Texas Crutch, but every brisket is different.
10. Once the probe thermometer reaches 200-203 degrees, its time to take it off the heat, it should look like this unwrapped:
11. And now for the key step for tender brisket: ready? Let. It. Rest. I know it looks and smells awesome and you've probably already pinched off a little piece to try, haven't you? Stop it! Turn your oven/stove to the 'Warm' setting. On most ovens, the 'Warm' setting is around 170 degrees, which is ideal for letting the brisket rest without it getting too cold or firm. It's also a great way to 'hold' brisket if your party doesn't start for another 4-5 hours. If you're unsure what your oven's 'Warm' setting is, use your trusty Maverick probe thermometer to tell you.
12. You'll want to keep your brisket like this for the next 2 hours or so, to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat fibers. Trust me, it'll be worth it.
13. And that's it! When you're ready to slice, watch the video below for a great how-to from the brisket king himself. Aaron also teaches you how to make your own sauce (not like you'll need it):
So in comparison, here's how my brisket turned out. I have to say, visually, mine got pretty dang close! Flavor-wise, it's probably the best brisket I've ever smoked- beefy, peppery and smokey; the perfect balance for a good slice of brisket.
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