To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact



Aaron Franklin

Lesson time 08:24 min

Wood, and the smoke it creates, is the primary flavor agent in barbecue. In this chapter, Aaron takes you through a woodpile, explaining how to assess a piece of wood and how to choose the right pieces for different phases of your cook.

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.
Get Started


[MUSIC PLAYING] - So one of the things that makes regional barbecue regional barbecue, could be in central Texas, could be in Memphis, could be in Kansas, could be in the Carolinas, doesn't matter where, but really, the thing that makes barbecue barbecue, it makes it regional, is the type of wood. It could be hickory in other parts of the country. It could be mesquite down towards Mexico or in the panhandle of Texas. It could be pecan. Regardless of what you're cooking or where you're cooking or what kind of wood you've got, wood is the primary flavor that we've got on barbecue. What we've got here in central Texas is called post oak. And that's really absolutely what makes central Texas barbecue taste like central Texas barbecue. It's a type of white oak. Post oak really only grows around central Texas and then throughout the South a little tiny bit. It's got a really straight grain. But what makes it kind of different is that it's a white oak, but I believe it has a lot less tannic acid than any other oak out there. And that makes it have a really kind of sweeter flavor. Think of like wine barrels and, you know, making bourbon and stuff like that. You char these barrels. And you get these vanilla flavors. So when you get to that high temperature, the way that these wood fibers break down, the structures break down, really does have a lot in common with wine making and whiskey barrels and stuff like that. And it also has a really nice heat curve. I think we're pretty lucky to have this stuff. If you're in a part of the country that cannot get post oak, and that's, again, what makes barbecue in your region the kind of barbecue in your region, I think it's really cool to be able to use what you've got. If you've got a tree that maybe has a high sugar content, maybe it's a really dense wood, you need to let it kind of age for a while. You don't want to go with green wood. That means it's got a lot of moisture in it. You want to kind of cure it a little bit. You want to air dry it. Even if I was to cut down a healthy post oak tree, it might be two years before even I use it. And that's getting really, really dry because I like to put a piece of wood on. I like it to catch. I'd like to know what it's going to do. But some other woods that don't have the density, you can use them a lot more recent. Only use hardwoods, of course, your pecans, your hickories, your oaks, mesquite, all that kind of stuff, fruit woods. So I'm going to start sorting this stuff out. [MUSIC PLAYING] So what you really want to look for when you're getting through a pile is you want to be able to pick up a piece of wood, and I like to play a game in my head. It's like, OK, how heavy is this piece going to be? Is it going to be super light? Or is it going to be super dense? And the denser the piece is, A, it's got more moisture. But hopefully, it's also got just a better wood structure for better flavor. So while you're playing that game, you'...

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.

Still learning. Great basis to explore and try thing from.

This MasterClass has been inspirational! I am looking forward to putting what I learned from Aaron Franklin to practice come springtime!

Excellent! Aaron is craftsmen with meat and smoke

I've been cooking on fire and grills for almost 50 years. I haven't done much smoking. I feel like I can go forward with smoking meats with confidence after watching this.


A fellow student

Really appreciate your message on sustainable wood practices. I'll be sure to look for farmers in the Central Valley giving up some of their cherry wood as the trees age and/or dry up.


How do you submit a question for Aaron. When are his office hours? Thank you.

Charith K.

Hi, I have a question , As it turns it is not possible to find the wood mentioned in the list in Asia, What wood is recommended for Asian country BBQ such as Srilanka / India ? Thanks in advance.

Tim C.

So I started out with beech wood. I did four cooks with the beech, then I got an odd lot of oak wood. I used the oak for one cook so far and I have noticed something strange. After the oak cook I had a lot more soot built up in my firebox, cook chamber and smokestack. Not just a ply of sooth but the cottony kind. During the cook the wood burned very clean, no excessive billows of smoke or anything. Is this normal for oak, is this a sign of a specific quality of the wood. I also have the oppertunity to get a huge load of cherry wood, has anyone experience with cherry as smoking wood?


Great lesson. I live in an area where walnut, almond, apple, and a variety of California oaks are available. Advice/experience using any of these? Many thanks!

Hayden N.

This chapter / video will not play. giving me either a timeout error or just skipping to CH 6. Have tried to watch on different devices on different internet connection. Frustrating.

David B.

Good to know information. Good wood is not that easy to find and somewhat expensive.

Mark G.

Quercus stellata is as common as an oak comes. Houston is overrun by the post oak.


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: