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Beef Quality and Selection

Aaron Franklin

Lesson time 08:38 min

Is grass-fed beef superior to grain-fed? Fresh better than frozen? Aaron shares his tips for assessing beef quality and how to buy the best meat for your needs.

Aaron Franklin
Teaches Texas-Style BBQ
Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Back in the early days of barbecue, really it was just about cooking whatever you had. But now with all these options, you can go to the store. You can order meat online. You can go to the fancy pants butcher shop. There are many, many grades of beef. Could be select, could be choice, upper choice, upper 2/3, prime. Then from there, you could get into Wagyu. You could get into A5. You could get into all kinds of different breeds and stuff. But really, what you're looking for is a lot of marbling. I prefer prime. And I also prefer Angus. If we're getting into breeds, I think Angus has a more beefy flavor, whereas Wagyu, the fat might melt out really quickly. But it just doesn't have the beefiness. And then if you get into something on the lower end, like maybe a select piece of commodity, it might not have any fat. It might have been a really poorly-formed muscle, maybe an unhappy cow. And to me, I think a piece of meat tastes a whole lot better when it was a slow-growth animal. That means that it was able to hang out in the field. Eat some grass. It has nice feed. It's not being force fed anything. It can just meander along and get nice and plump. You know, when you have an animal that was forced to grow fast with growth promotants, a lot of times, they'll form fat on the outside. And that's the subcutaneous fat. That's the stuff that you would trim off and throw away, or it would just kind of-- you would leave it on. And it would kind of be a gross, fatty slice. But it's that stuff. it's the striations of fat that you want there. It's the internal marbling. And you can really only get that from an animal that wasn't forced to grow faster than it really wanted to. That fat tastes better. It has more oleic acid in it. You get better flavors. It renders at different temperatures. So I think that's the positive thing about going to a butcher shop is they typically know where their meat is coming from. Hopefully, they know the ranchers. So you can kind of get some lineage on these cows. In a grocery store, almost every single time, whatever you get on the shelf is commodity. And that means it has growth hormones. That means it's probably had a lot of antibiotics. It probably grew pretty fast. I don't like that stuff. I think growth hormones, a lot of times, make meat not cook right. I think they make the fat form in a weird way. I think it makes the fat not render in the same way. And it kind of takes away from a lot of the natural beefy flavor too. So if you can help it, I mean, I always go all natural. But I've said this a million times. Sometimes, you just gotta cook what you can get. [MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of people talk about grass-fed stuff. I think grass-fed beef is amazing. I really love it a lot. But I only really like it for steaks, for fast-cooked stuff. For brisket, you really need some corn in there to kind of plump up the animal. It needs some grains. They need to have enough grass, as much a...

The art of smoke and fire

Once a backyard hobbyist, Aaron Franklin is now the James Beard Award-winning owner of Franklin Barbecue, where the line for his famous smoked brisket is hours long. Now the Central Texas barbecue specialist teaches you his meticulous low and slow process for mouth-watering ribs, pork butt, and brisket. With perfectly seasoned cuts and optimal temperatures, you'll learn to handle an offset smoker like a true pitmaster.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

My hubbie now makes me the best smoked meat!! Thank you Aaron....

A great class for those of us looking to learn the skills and art of cooking well on our smoker. Clear, well organized, and well paced.

Great class for learning the basics of Smoking meats. Loved it! Aaron Franklin did a great job!

Loved it. Went straight for making the brisket that came out fantastic. Next was the ribs. Still need a little bit of work there.


Massimiliano P.

I really love Aaron's class. His ways to explain and to show all the processes are so accurate and detailed. Great, great class. Thanks Aaron!

A fellow student

I enjoy BBQ but I never very good at smoking meat. I followed UTube for years and got so much conflicting information i was totally confused. Finally I found a person that tells the “Really How to Truth”! Honestly, the price for MasterClass was way to cheap, I have waisted enough briskets to pay for this class many, many times. I am so happy, thank you Aaron Franklin!

A fellow student

So I have a 6 pound brisket... Do I need to cook it for 12 hours? or is it the 1 hour per pound rule? Aaron uses the 12 pound brisket. Please, help!

Jean-sebastien G.

What do you prefer, CAB or 1855 (Prime or Choice). I wounder if 1855 Choice is a good option for a restaurant, or it worth the difference to go 1855 Prime or CAB?


Not particular to this session but an overall question I'm sure I may just be missing. How many hes per pound is the goal? 1 hr per lb? So if we are doing a 10lb should we break it down to the same %of time based on what you are doin with the 12? So if he checks it at 3 hrs that's. 25 of the 12 so .25 of 10 hrs is check it at 2.5 hrs. Hope that makes sense! Just dont see anywhere where theres a guide

David M.

Where is this cookbook that the popups keep mentioning. It's not the PDF that is downloadable.

Bud P.

I've learned that sourcing is important. If you're able to get to a butcher shop that sources from small farms, the meat is amazing. Examples would be Underground Butcher or Conscious Carnivore in Madison Wi. Beyond restaurant quality as the best steak houses. Yes, plan to spend more money, but amazing for a treat.

Jim S.

The fact is if we didn’t raise cattle to feed our friends & families there wouldn’t be any cattle.

A fellow student

lessons are great , outside of modifying a offset which is the best to go purchase


Hey guys, make sure you join Aaron's Community! There you can discuss BBQ techniques and other class material, network with other BBQ-loving students, trade recipes and stay up to date on class contests & activities. Here's the link: