Food & Drink

Austin’s famed Franklin Barbecue shares secrets in cookbook

Franklin Barbecue.
Franklin Barbecue. Ten Speed Press

What do you do when you’re the owner of arguably the top barbecue joint in the United States?

If you’re Aaron Franklin, you give away the trade secrets. Sort of.

Franklin owns Austin’s uber-popular Franklin Barbecue. He has collaborated with food writer Jordan Mackay to produce Franklin Barbecue, from Ten Speed Press ($29.95). The meat-smoking manifesto tells the story of the rise of Franklin Barbecue to its current cultlike status and includes everything about how to barbecue on your own, including recipes the restaurant uses.

Does it tell too much? Franklin doesn’t think so. “I don’t really look at it like they’re secrets,” he says. “It’s not like there’s a for-sure recipe. It’s a combination of so many different things. It’s a lot of labor, losing sleep, experimenting. It’s more like a guide to a craft. All the recipes are in there.”

Franklin, who has been featured in everything from credit card commercials to barbecue cooking shows, says he was approached about the idea of doing a book a few years ago but didn’t feel like messing with it. But one day while he was cooking beef ribs, he changed his mind. He made a couple of calls and then the book, which includes chapters on how to pick out the right wood as well as setting up a good fire, happened.

“It was kind of cool for me going through it,” he says. “We were just hanging out through overnight cooks and I was talking my way through things. We’d sit around in the afternoon and drink beers. It didn’t take long, and Jordan did such an amazing job of putting my words into print. It all fit together really well.”

And of course the book didn’t take away from Franklin’s day and night job, working at the restaurant. People still line up for hours to get the opportunity to eat brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey and sausage. The restaurant has six smokers going every day, with a seventh on the way, and it’s still turning out about 2,000 pounds of meat on a daily basis.

Now people just have an idea of what it would be like to do it by themselves if they tried.

“That was the idea behind the book,” he says. “It’s not about the recipes, … it’s more about trial and error. It was just cool putting it into words.”

Here he shares his recipe for Franklin’s popular beans, which, in typical Franklin style, have a heavy dose of barbecue in the recipe.

Franklin BBQ Beans

Makes about 8 cups; serves 8 to 10

We get a lot of requests for our bean recipe. What makes it so popular? Probably the simple fact that it’s another way of delivering brisket, which is its second-most important ingredient (arguably).

• 1 pound dried pinto beans, picked over

and rinsed

• 1/2 cup diced yellow onion

• 1/2 cup bean seasoning (recipe follows)

• 8 cups water

• 1 cup chopped brisket bark and

shredded meat

1. Combine the beans, onion, bean seasoning and water in a large pot and let soak for 4 to 6 hours, or for up to overnight, which is what we do in the restaurant.

2. Add the brisket bark and meat to the soaked beans and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the beans are tender.

Bean Seasoning

• Makes about 2 cups

• 1 cup chile powder

• 1/2 cup kosher salt

• 1/4 cup coarse black pepper

• 2 tablespoons onion powder

• 2 tablespoons garlic powder

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container.