Aaron Franklin Barbecue MasterClass Review
In his new 16 part MasterClass, Aaron Franklin promises to teach you exactly how he would train a staff member at FranklinBBQ.
It’s an exciting proposition for any barbecue enthusiasts to learn from the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of FranklinBBQ.
Aaron has shared his barbecue knowledge before in his great web series and best selling book, but never before in this level of detail.
In this review we’ll run through what you’ll learn, and if the Masterclass is worth the subscription cost
Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQ MasterClass Overview
If you haven’t heard of MasterClass before, they work with the prominent experts to produce online multi-part tutorials on a range of topics.
The full list of instructors is impressive and varied, with classes from Gordon Ramsay, Martin Scorsese, and Stephen Curry to name a few.
You used to be able to purchase each “Masterclass” individually, but now you’ll need to subscribe and get access to the full library of courses.
The trailer below shows how the course is structured, and the level of quality you can expect.
What’s included in the course
The Masterclass is broken into 16 parts. Each part consists of a video where Aaron teaches a topic and a companion PDF download.
Each video ranges from 5 – 35 minutes in length, with some topics broken into multiple videos. The section on Brisket is the largest with 5 different parts.
You can read a short description of each lesson on the course description page on the MasterClass website.
The course topics can be broken down into theory, practical recipes, and some general interest topics.
The recipes will look familiar if you’ve already seen his web series, but they do go into a lot more detail. You get a full breakdown of how Aaron prepares Pork Butt, Pork Ribs, Steak, and of course Brisket.
There’s also plenty of theory covering wood, fire and smoke, beef selection and working with Offset smokers.
After spending two weeks going through the entire course, here are my initial thoughts:
What I liked:
- The whole series is beautifully presented with extremely high production values. While it’s aimed to be educational, you can easily put this on a big screen TV, sit back and enjoy watching it.
- I found it really interesting to hear details about how they do things at the restaurant. You even get a few looks inside Franklin BBQ at one point.
- The way the course is structured works well if you’re a beginner as each recipe gets a little bit more complicated. If you have some experience you can jump into any topic without any issues.
- The downloadable textbook is an excellent companion resource that you can refer back to instead of re-watching the whole video.
Reasons the course might not be for you:
- The name of the course is Aaron Franklin teaches ‘Texas Style’ Barbecue. If you aren’t a big fan of Texas style, then the Masterclass might not be for you.
- While the MasterClass presents everything nicely in a single, structured course, you could probably piece together a lot of the recipes and techniques by watching various YouTube videos.
- In all the lessons Aaron cooks on a large offset style smoker. While a lot of the techniques he teaches will apply no matter what smoker you cook on, there is a lot of detail about fire management and wood that won’t be practical for a lot of people.
A MasterClass subscription will set you back $15 per month, billed annually so the real cost is $180
I think the MasterClass is fairly priced so long as you plan on watching at least one more class. The level of detail and quality of production is impressive.
While you could probably find most of the information contained in the course by scouring the internet, having a single resource with everything organized into topics is a great way to quickly level up your barbecue skills.
I think this would also make an excellent gift for anyone with an interest in barbecue.
You can enroll in the course or get more information over at the MasterClass website.
What’s Aaron like as an instructor
If you’ve watched any of his free videos on YouTube you’ll already know that Aaron is an excellent teacher.
He explains concepts in a straight forward way, with a good dose of humor.
The lessons alternate between him showing you step by step style instructions, to him providing a more interesting background on the history and conventions of barbecue.
In-depth look at what the Masterclass covers
In the next section, I’ll go into a lot more detail sharing my experiences with some of the main modules to help you decide if the course is worth the cost.
Fire & Smoke, Wood and Offset Smokers
I’m putting my thoughts about these three different modules together because they are all about Aaron’s approach to building a fire and managing the smoker during the cook.
One of my main concerns going into this was how useful these sections would be if you don’t own a large offset smoker.
If you cook on an offset smoker (or to an extent, a charcoal smoker) the lesson on fire and smoke is excellent.
Aaron goes through the entire process of setting up the fire on his Offset from choosing wood to building the fire in great detail.
He puts a lot of emphasis on showing you how to build a clean fire with good airflow.
For those of you cooking on electric, propane or pellet, it’s interesting to see how Aaron sets up a fire, but you won’t get a lot of practical things to apply.
“The art of the fire is to be proactive with it, to guess what your needs are before you get there.”Aaron Franklin
I found it fascinating to watch how Aaron works on his huge Offset, but I could see this being less relevant for some people.
Luckily he does give tips for how to apply what he teaches to smaller smokers that are more typical
He also goes into a lot of detail about how to choose wood, and how the moisture in the wood will affect the fire.
Highlights from this section include:
- What the color and consistency of the smoke can tell you about your fire and how to avoid a dirty fire that causes bitter over smoked taste
- Lots of pointers for when things go wrong and you find your smoker putting out bad smoke
- Gives you a lot of detail about how an offset smoker works
- It’s impressive to see the level of detail and thought he puts into fire management. Really goes into great depth into his thought process for managing the fire, and adding wood.
- His goal is to get his smoker to within 5°F of target temp the entire cook
- Some good tips for managing the fire on cold or windy days
I have to say watching Aaron work the fire made me want to go out and buy a huge offset smoker.
It was interesting to hear him say that he thinks the fire is the most important part of what they do at Franklin BBQ.
I feel like ‘recipe’ isn’t quite the right word to use to describe this part of the Masterclass.
They are more of a deep-dive into Aaron’s process, and how he thinks about barbecue. Starting with Pork Butt and ending with Brisket, each recipe ramps up in difficulty.
They’re all broken into easy to follow steps and each recipe follows a similar format.
I like how he plans his cook and comes up with a game plan. He starts with when he wants to eat, and when the meat needs to come off, and then works backwards to work out when the meat will be wrapped and when he needs to start.
1. Pork Butt
The first recipe in the Masterclass is for pulled pork. A good introduction because it’s a forgiving piece of meat to smoke.
- I laughed when I saw him use his signature pink butcher paper for the planning stage!
- As you would expect the recipe is fairly simple, Texas style. The rub is simply equal parts salt and pepper with some paprika for color.
- He goes through some simple techniques like spritzing and wrapping.
- Shows you in a lot of detail how he uses a thermometer probe to feel for doneness.
The recipe and process are quite similar to the free YouTube video that came out a few years. But in this case, you get a lot more detail.
It’s a great lesson because it teaches you a lot of concepts you will use for more difficult cuts of meat.
If you already have a lot of experience there isn’t a lot of new information, but it’s always interesting to see the little details in Aaron’s technique to get the best result out of a simple recipe.
Straight after the lesson on pork butt you move on to spare ribs. As Aaron explains, these sit around the middle of the difficulty spectrum.
Aaron uses a modified version of the 3-2-1 method for cooking ribs.
“I think a lot of times people throw ribs on and say oh just cook em, they’re going to be fine. But the truth is they’re really really finicky.”Aaron Franklin
- He suggests keeping a notebook for every cook you do to record things like temperature, weather when you wrapped, etc. So you can go back and review and keep improving
- Explains how he selects and trims a full rack of spare ribs.
- The rub is identical to the pork butt recipe (Texas style gets very similar after awhile).
- Goes into lots of detail on positioning the ribs on the smoker and how he spritzes the ribs to avoid drying out the edges.
- Makes a nice vinegar based sauce which he applies to the ribs before he wraps them.
Let’s be honest, this is why people buy the course! If there’s one thing Aaron is known for it’s ‘line-up at 6:00AM worthy’ brisket.
I really don’t want to give too much away, other than to say this section is exhaustive.
To give you an idea of the level of detail you can expect, the lesson on trimming brisket is 34:20 long.
The entire section is broken into 5 parts (plus a 6th on beef quality and selection).
Topics covered include:
- Building the fire
- Applying the rub
- Spritzing and getting through the stall
- How to check for tenderness
- How to slice the brisket
Out of all the lessons I found the section on slicing brisket the most interesting. I definitely learned a lot of new tricks and discovered a few things I was doing wrong.
I think this is a great option if you want to fast track your barbecue education.
I really liked the MasterClass interface and how the course was structured and presented.
Aaron is a great teacher, and you can tell how much he loves his craft.
If you’re not a big fan of Texas style barbecue, then the recipes might not be appealing to you.
However, the technique covered applies to all styles of barbecue so even if you don’t follow the exact recipes you’ll still learn a lot of valuable skills.