It’s been nearly a month since I was in the heart of Texas sampling the best BBQ the Lone Star State has to offer. The thought of smoked meat still weighs heavily on my mind a month after the journey was completed. In an effort to complete drawing the picture that was so explicitly put in front of us over the course of three days, I’m going to try to finish writing about my BBQ experience.
Consistent Perfection are the words that come to mind when I think about the food at Aaron Franklin’s joint in Austin. There was no better BBQ to be had once we had eaten there. Naturally, we were inclined to get some of everything that they offer (including a cold beer). I wish my grasp of the English language was adequate enough to describe the meat that we got. Please bear with me as I attempt to write in an hour what it has taken years for people to understand.
Let’s begin our story at the ass-crack of dawn, coincidentally the time we got up to wait in line at Franklin BBQ. In order to get the world famous BBQ at Franklin, one must be prepared to pay the piper by way of at least a three hour wait, and if you’re not there by about 8:30AM you probably won’t get any BBQ. Some people tailgate for football, I tailgate for BBQ. The line for us started a few minutes after 6:30 in the morning so we had about a four and a half hour wait ahead of us. I don’t assume that you visited my blog to read about waiting in line, but this gives you an idea of where our heads were at by the time we ate at about 11:00. At Franklin, there’s a staff member that takes your order as you wait in line to plan about how much meat will be left at the end of the line which is nice, and it also gets your head in the game fairly early on. After the whole rigamarole of waiting, our much anticipated moment of truth was upon us. As we told the meat cutter what we had ordered, the meat was cut right in front of our faces. You might not think that you can heighten anticipation much after a four and a half hour wait, but if you do think that, then you’ve never been to Franklin BBQ. It was all I could do to keep from catapulting myself over the counter, and burying my face in the cutting board that our order was on. As we sat down at the table to eat, there was only time to snap a couple of quick pictures before we could not control ourselves any longer.
In the catholic church, it is believed that as you take communion, the wine turns into the literal blood of Christ, and the bread, into his literal body. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, like communion, this meat was transcendental. It was on another plane of existence.
This is the part where the English language fails me. The brisket would end up being the best I had on the whole trip. There was an intense beefy flavor that poked through every other great characteristic. It would hold on, and not let go. In addition to the great flavor of meat that was used, the preparation, and execution of this serving was flawless. There was moisture that was coaxed out of these brisket slices that I’m convinced by all rights shouldn’t have been there… thank goodness it still was. Encasing the whole circumference of the slice was a expertly formed bark that was the perfect combination of salt, pepper, smoke, and fat. That same term that I’ve used before comes to mind – meat candy. This was meat candy if it ever existed. Fat that was partially rendered throughout the brisket, and what was left on top was a sticky translucent layer that handily complimented that strong beef flavor.
The turkey that is served is 100% white meat sliced from the breasts of a smoked bird. The turkey was cooked perfectly, and retained a joyous amount of moisture within the meat that was augmented by a quick dunk in liquid right before it is slapped on the tray. The turkey tasted just like that, turkey. There was not an overpowering sense that this meat had been smoked which can happen with lighter poultry flavors in a smoker. The texture was great not simply because the meat was supremely tender, but because they nailed the balance between keeping tender meat, but also maintaining the texture that meat should have before it is cooked to a pulp. I know that if you go to Franklin BBQ you may think that you don’t want to waste time with anything, but red meat, but I implore you, at least get a quarter pound of turkey. You won’t be disappointed.
The sausage at Franklin was surprisingly not the best I had on the Trip. In my opinion the casings on these links were a hair too tough to bite through easily. The flavor, however, was definitely worth biting into. There was a lot of great flavor coming from pepper, and what I could tell were not the dregs left of an animal after the slaughter which can often be the case.
Big fat full spare ribs are what’s on the tray at Franklin BBQ, and they are good to the last shred of meat left on the bone. The first thing I think about these ribs is the rub. These ribs did not need a drop of sauce which is not often the case with pork ribs. The rub that they use is a magical combination of spices that impart all the flavor that these ribs need. I cannot stress to you how common it is to have a perfectly cooked full spare rib, only to find the rib ends where all the cartilage is, dry and overcooked. These ribs were cooked perfectly all the way down the bone, and into the rib end. Once again the meat had juices that I could tell wanted to come out of the pores in the meat. This is indicative of perfectly rendered fat within the meat on the ribs. In my opinion, it is the brisket, and these ribs that stole the show at Franklin. Everything was superb, but these two meats stood out above the rest.
Of course there was also pulled pork. The pulled pork at Franklin was very similar to the pork we were served at La Barbecue with the exception of the already added sauce at La Barbecue. It was great that I got to try the unadulterated pork before I inevitably added the vinegar sauce that is kept on the table at Franklin BBQ. The pulled pork seemed tender enough that I might have been able to smear it over a slice of bread with a butter knife, (note to self – pulled pork spread). Even though the pork was amply tender, and moist, it still retained a good texture that allowed for a tactile chewing experience that should accompany a great pulled pork experience.
Only moments after I left Franklin BBQ I couldn’t wait until the next time I would be in Austin to eat there again. Even though we knew there were three more stops on the day ahead, we did not regret eating almost four pounds of meat for an instant. If you ever find yourself among the privileged few that get to sample what is, in my opinion, the zenith of smoked meat, please do not hold back. Make every effort to maximize your experience here; you will not have many more like it.