Smoked Brisket

Aaron Franklin on how to smoke the perfect brisket.
Photograph by Jody Horton

The Dish

Why do we love brisket above all other barbecued meats? Is it because of its resonant beefy flavor, its exterior as shiny as black patent leather, its rivulets of fat moistening every mouthful and staining the eater’s shirt? Yes. The very nature of brisket is to be delicious. Yet there’s more to it than that. We love brisket because cooking it is a spiritual path, a quest that, as a wise man once said, begins with a single log. The steps toward enlightenment are threefold. The seeker of Brisket Truth must first embrace mental discipline, immersing himself in the craft of tending the fire and minding the meat. Second, the seeker must practice physical discipline, to be capable of wielding and slicing a twelve-pound brisket after having consumed a six-pack of Shiner Bock. Finally, the seeker must exhibit spiritual discipline, neither napping beside the smoker, nor wandering inside to catch the game on TV, nor sneaking off to update his Facebook page. The person who does these things is granted true knowledge of the brisket’s essence. He who honors this ritual is prepared for life.

How to Make It

You’ve driven to Lockhart for back-to-back meals at Smitty’s and Kreuz. You’ve talked your co-workers into two-hour meat-only lunches. You’ve written exasperated letters to a certain magazine about its barbecue coverage. It’s time now to put your passion into real practice. And who better to teach you how to smoke a brisket than Aaron Franklin? The 33-year-old Austin pitmaster started learning his chops as a kid—his parents briefly owned a place in Bryan—and later honed his technique by throwing many backyard barbecue parties, working for a year at the highly regarded Austin spot run by John Mueller (eventually buying his pit), and visiting the legendary joints of Central Texas. His sixteen-month-old Franklin Barbecue is the current sensation of the Texas barbecue world, inspiring road trips, feverish blog posts, and a blurb in Food & Wine magazine.

To cook a worthy brisket at home, Franklin says, “You want an offset smoker—that’s the style with a firebox off to one end.” (If you’re buying your first one, Pitts & Spits, Oklahoma Joe’s, and New Braunfels Smokers

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