Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Monk: For some reason, it’s taken me years to finally read “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” as I assumed it was just yet another barbecue recipe book, albeit one from the man behind the most renowned barbecue restaurant in America. But I’m happy to report that it’s so much more than than – more textbook than cookbook – and is a valuable reference for any backyard smoker.
Aaron Franklin and co-author Jordan Mackay, a California based wine writer, take their time before they get to the meat of the matter. The first chapter covers Franklin’s humble beginnings with barbecue and how he leveled up from backyard smoking on a cheap offset to the restaurant he has today (his wife Stacey partnering with him the whole way). It’s a story that has been well-covered before but perhaps not to the depth Franklin writes about in this first chapter.
Franklin (the writing is primarily in his voice) then goes hardcore textbook on the reader, discussing different types of smokers (including the thermodynamics behind how they work) and even how to construct your own offset or modify an existing one if you’ve got one already.
The next chapters cover the wood, fire management for smoking, and finally the meat. Franklin goes in depth into the different types of wood used for barbecue, how to start and maintain the fire during a smoke, and the different meats he smokes (with a particular focus on brisket, naturally).
Finally, he gets to the main event in Chapter 6 (“The Cook”), which builds on the previous three chapters. From the prep work needed to being the smoke to the basics of smoking meat to different spices commonly found in barbecue rubs to the dreaded stall and finally the myth behind the smoke ring. Any aspiring pitmaster will surely pore over every page of this section, dog-earing along the way.
The last quarter of the book is where you will find recipes on how to smoke each meat as well as what sides and sauces to make and even what to drink with barbecue. Franklin is clearly a beer guy, and he gives in-depth thoughts about which beers pair the best with barbecue (avoid IPAs and higher ABV beers, for instance).
I will surely be returning to “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto” as I continue my backyard smoking experiments during the pandemic, and as you will read next week this and the “Franklin Steak” book will soon be occupying permanent space on my bookshelf.