Aaron Franklin is best known as a master of low-and-slow cooking. His brisket at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue has been praised the world over, but he shifted gears for an upcoming project. His new cookbook, Franklin Steak, will explore the hot-and-fast grilling of his and co-author Jordan Mackay’s favorite cuts of steak. The new book comes out on April 9 of next year (it’s available for pre-order), but we’re getting the first look at the cover as well as Franklin’s overview of what to expect.
In 2015, Franklin and Mackay, a James Beard Award-winning wine, food, and spirits writer, taught pitmasters worldwide how to smoke the perfect brisket with the best-selling book, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto. While writing the first book, the pair spent long days discussing and eating barbecue, and they’d often find themselves back at Franklin’s house grilling steaks for dinner. They joked then about collaborating on a steak book. After the success of the barbecue book, their publisher Ten Speed Press asked them for ideas for a second project. Their answer was obvious and immediate: Steak. “We got a chance to do one for fun,” Franklin joked.
But it’s a serious book with serious goals. The publisher promises that Franklin and Mackay, “go deeper into the art and science of cooking steak than anyone has gone before.” They’ll parse through the differences in beef quality between cattle breeds and beef grades. The process of dry-aging and how it affects the texture and flavor of steak will be covered. Much like the previous book, plans for building your own grill and tips for maintaining a good fire will be included. They even did experiments with different salting techniques on the steaks to determine how to best promote the Maillard reaction to develop an intense, deeply colored crust. And they’d rather you toss the thermometer. As Franklin explains, “The goal of the book is to make people be able to cook more by feel than with temperature gauges.”
Franklin was grateful for how much he learned during the recipe testing for the book. One benefit was his newfound love for filets. “One goal for the book is to get people from being so turned off on filets,” he said. He thinks the filet is an unfairly maligned cut, which is often shunned by steak snobs in favor of the strip or the ribeye. After eating all these cuts side-by-side, Franklin said he “was really surprised that I like a strip a lot better than a ribeye.” He prefers the beefiness and the leaner texture. Franklin also thought he liked everything cooked to one level of doneness but found that wasn’t the case. “I like a solid medium on a ribeye, but rare on a filet.” As for his tips on how best to get a steak to well done, he only offered, “don’t do it.”
Nine cuts of steak will be covered: ribeye, New York strip, porterhouse, tri-tip, skirt, flank, flat iron, filet, and bavette. Only a few non-steak recipes will join them, like the salsa verde featured on the cover—photographed by the great Wyatt McSpadden—with a couple of tomahawk ribeyes. A recipe for a reverse sear version of those tomahawks makes an appearance, but rather than starting in a low oven, the early part of that cook happens in the smoker for some extra flavor. This is an outdoor cooking book, as Franklin explains. “We don’t get into much oven stuff. It’s all over fire.”
The book’s announcement a few months ago prompted some rumors of a Franklin steakhouse in the near future, but Franklin said there’s no plan for one at this point. He’s still focused on the barbecue at both Franklin and Loro. The subject of steak was more of a satisfying outlet for him. Instead of the rigid methods required to put out great barbecue consistently, the variety of techniques used for these different cuts of steak taught him to grill with a little more finesse. He hopes it’ll do the same for you in your own backyard.