Food, Home & Lifestyle

Bonus Chapter: How Brisket Became King: The History of Central Texas Barbecue

Aaron Franklin

Lesson time 07:42 min

In this bonus chapter, Aaron traces the roots of barbecue culture in Texas from European immigrants to World War II vets, highlighting how brisket—a tough, difficult-to-cook cut of beef—became the region’s signature smoked meat.

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Topics include: How Brisket Became King: The History of Central Texas Barbecue


- There's so many different regions of barbecue. There's so many different styles and if you work through the South and you know it might be whole hogs, it might be pulled pork, it might be chicken. And as you work through you can kind of see where places have been as far as their agriculture. And in Texas it's for the most part always been beef. The barbecue culture is so expansive throughout Texas. We've got down by Mexico where it's more barbacoa, it's cooked on mesquite. We've got East Texas, where it's more of a , and maybe it's thicker, sweeter sauces. They've got up in the panhandle where they've got the mesquite trees also. Then they've got Central Texas, and I think much like where anyone grows up, if you grew up in Texas you've got kind of a real natural inclination to a certain type of barbecue. And in Texas it's almost always beef, and it's almost always brisket. I think there's a sense of pride that being from central Texas, like oh, this is barbecue. And it's kind of-- barbecue has always been kind of a special meal, but I feel like at least for me growing up, that was like-- that was the big night. That was-- if you got to barbecue, you were living like a king. That was a big deal, because it is so labor intensive. And I think that's been passed down through so many generations over the years that, you know, as a Texan, there's definitely something very special about brisket. But one big difference is in specifically Central Texas is that we don't really use a lot of sauce. Around here we jokingly say that if you have to put sauce on it, it must be pretty bad. You must have really messed it up. And that can kind be sort of true and sort of not true. I like sauce, and I think that's kind of where the evolution of barbecue is going. All these styles just kind of get-- they keep getting mixed together. But really traditionally Texas barbecue is just meat, bread, maybe a slice of tomato, maybe a pickle, maybe a slice of onion. Flavor wise it starts off with a post stoke, the trees that we have here. And the beef industry, and the fact that we used to have a lot of cows in Texas. But where that came from-- where Central Texas barbecue really comes from is in the early 1900s, a lot of German and Czech immigrants coming to Central Texas, and they brought butcher shops. And they brought these little grocery stores, and they would butcher cows in the back, and they would break down things. And then of course that's before the days of refrigeration. So at the end of the week in these little markets, they would have to either cook the meat, or it would spoil. So that's where barbecue comes in. And it certainly wasn't brisket at that point. It could be hindquarters, fore quarters. It could be tender loins, it could be rib eyes. It could be anything. It was whatever didn't sell in that market needed to get barbecued, and it needed to get smoked. And smoke is a form of preservation, so that would hence get this...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Aaron Franklin

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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