Aaron Franklin Rub – How To Make Barbecue Dry Rub Like The Master

Aaron Franklin is different from most barbecue pitmasters. He doesn’t use complex rubs. Franklin likes to keep things simple when smoking brisket, ribs, pork butt or other barbecue meat. I wanted to find out how to make an Aaron Franklin style rub, so I did some research.

Aaron Franklin uses a traditional Texas-style rub when seasoning brisket, ribs and other barbecue meat. Franklin uses a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and a 16-mesh cafe grind black pepper. When smoking pork or poultry, Franklin will sometimes add some paprika for color. When smoking turkey, he will mix in some garlic powder and granulated onion for some extra flavor.

Franklin’s Texas-Style “Dalmatian” Rub

A Dalmatian rub of salt and pepper is a traditional Texas barbecue rub. If you’re not a fan of pepper, then you won’t like this type of rub. Franklin doesn’t just use isn’t any old salt and pepper in his rub.

The pepper must be coarse, not fine. A coarse pepper is important because it will give the bark some texture. Franklin will sometimes mix in some other spices, depending on what meat he’s cooking. When smoking pork ribs, Franklin will often mix in some paprika to add some color.

How Franklin Mixes The Rub

When mixing the rub together, Franklin uses a 50/50 mix of salt and pepper. Some people will weigh the salt and pepper, but Franklin usually “eyeballs it”. He measures 1 cup of salt, and one cup of pepper into a plastic container and swirls it around.

“Aaron Franklin Pork Butt (Pulled Pork) Recipe And Technique”

What Salt Does Aaron Franklin Use?

Like most pitmasters, Franklin uses Morton’s Kosher Salt, a very common American product. Kosher salt is much better than table salt, which is too fine. Kosher salt won’t cake together.

It has large granules, so you can see the amount you’re applying. People don’t realize how many additives are in salt. Most types use anti-caking agents, etc, and table salt contains iodine.

What Pepper Does Aaron Franklin Use?

There are dozens of different black peppercorns on the market. Aaron Franklin uses a 16-mesh cafe Grand black pepper on his Texas BBQ. A cafe grind black pepper has a much stronger flavor than a finely ground black pepper and it will give the bark some texture.

In Franklin’s brisket recipe, he uses 1/4 of a cup of black pepper, and 1/4 of a cup of kosher salt. No matter how much you’re making, always keep the 50:50 ratio the same. For more information on the pepper Franklin uses, check out this article: The Best Pepper For Smoking Brisket.

What is 16-Mesh Black Pepper?

Mesh is the unit of measurement used to determine the size of the peppercorns. So the mesh refers to the size of the peppercorn. A whole peppercorn is 6-mesh, and a finely ground peppercorn is 30 mesh.

So Franklin’s 16-mesh peppercorn sits right in the middle. You can buy pre-ground 16-mesh peppercorns, or you can grind your own from whole peppercorns. Companies like McCormick sell 16-mesh peppercorn on Amazon here.

Pepper Mesh
Whole Black Pepper6 – 8 
Half Cracked Black Pepper6- 8 
Quarter Cracked Pepper8-10 
Coarse Black Pepper12- 14
Table Ground Black Pepper18 -28
Restaurant Ground Black Pepper22 – 28
Fine Ground Black Pepper30 – 34
Ground White Pepper60

“How Does Aaron Franklin Trim Brisket?”

Does The Pepper Have To Be 16-Mesh?

You don’t have to use a 16 mesh black pepper. Anywhere between 10 to 20 mesh is suitable for brisket. A 20-mesh is what you would normally see at the dinner table. This is a standard size for a ground black pepper.

Any higher than 20-mesh is too fine. Don’t go any lower than 10-mesh because it will be too large. If you buy a pepper grinder, you can set the gauge to 16- mesh—the perfect size for a barbecue rub. You don’t have to buy a pepper grinder. You can also use a coffee grinder to grind peppercorns to your desired mesh size.

The Burr Mill is it good grinder, and costs about $60 to $70. It will grind your pepper to the exact mesh size. Otherwise, get yourself a good pepper mill. Just make sure you buy one that allows you to adjust the blades so you can choose between a fine, medium grind or a coarse grind.

Just do some browsing on Amazon, and you’ll notice there are dozens of excellent pepper grinders on the market. The electric grinders will make your life so much easier if you have to make a large batch. You can check out the of the best pepper grinders on Amazon here.

This pepper grinder will allow you to make 16-mesh pepper like Aaron Franklin. See it on Amazon here.

Where To Buy Black Pepper For Making Rub

The best way is to find a local supplier who sells large bags of whole black peppercorns. If not, you can get big 16 oz bags on Amazon.

Why Simple Rubs Work Best

Often you’ll hear Aaron Franklin say the meat should be the star of the show. Aaron believes people often go overboard with rub seasonings, with complicated mixes. Franklin is a big believer in keeping it simple. You never want the seasoning to overpower the meat.

For brisket, you want to let the natural beef flavor shine. A complex rub with a dozen spices will take away from the natural flavors. The only exception Franklin makes is for turkey.

According to Franklin, turkey has very little flavor, so it needs more than salt and pepper. For his turkey rub. Franklin uses salt, pepper, granulated onion, garlic powder and paprika.

When Does Franklin Use More Than Salt And Pepper?

If Aaron wants a savory flavor, he will sometimes mix other seasonings into his salt and pepper rub. However, this depends on the meat. In his beef rib recipe, Franklin mixes in some granulated onion and powdered garlic.

Franklin’s Brisket Rub

For brisket, Franklin doesn’t go heavy with the rub.

  • First, he adds the kosher salt. That way, he can see exactly how much salt is going on the meat. Then, he applies the black pepper.
  • Franklin applies the rub by cupping one hand on the side of the brisket.
  • He will then hold the plastic container or shaker 10 inches above the meat and sprinkle.
  • Throughout the process, he will constantly swirl the rub so the heavier granules don’t fall to the bottom.
  • You always want to make sure you get an even coverage, and an even mix of salt and pepper.

Does Aaron Franklin Use Binder?

Franklin doesn’t use a binder on brisket, mainly because he doesn’t go too thick with the rub. A slather (binder) is very common in barbecue. And when Franklin uses a binder, he uses olive oil.

I’ve seen a video with Franklin applying an olive oil to a pork butt before adding the rub. He also uses an olive oil binder when seasoning ribs.

If you really wanted to cake the rub onto the brisket, then you will need to use a binder. Often the brisket will be moist after you remove it from the plastic packaging. So you won’t need a binder because your rub will stick.

What Rub Does Franklin Use On Pork Shoulder?

When Aaron smokes pork butt, he mixes in some granulated onion, a sprinkle of paprika, and garlic powder mixed in with his usual salt and pepper rub. Franklin believes the pork can handle lots of salt. That’s why he’s not shy with the kosher salt.

What Rub Does Aaron Franklin Use On Ribs?

For ribs, Franklin uses a 50:50 mix of kosher salt and black pepper. He also mixes in some paprika for color, and some garlic powder and onion granules to hit some savory tones. Prior to applying the rub to ribs, Franklin smears the ribs in olive oil for a binder.

What Rub Does Aaron Franklin Use On Turkey?

Aaron Franklin uses more than just salt and pepper on Turkey. Franklin says Turkey has little flavor, so more flavor is needed. So when applying the rub, he included granulated onion for texture, garlic for flavor and paprika for color. Aaron also soaks turkey in a brine.

Brining a turkey will add an enormous amount of flavor. Aaron doesn’t need a binder on Turkey. The wet brine makes the rub stick, so there’s no need for a slather.

Can You Pre-Brine Brisket?

You can salt (dry brine) the brisket the night before smoking. This will give the salt time to work its way into the meat. This will add extra flavor and will come into play during the cook.Brisket is a sizeable chunk of meat, so it’s going to need all the help it can get to retain moisture during the long cook.

Aaron applies kosher salt separately. He does this so he can see exactly how much salt is going on to the brisket. You can apply the kosher salt the day before, then place the brisket in the fridge overnight.

This method is called dry brining. This is especially important if you have purchased a cheaper USDA Select Grade brisket. Cheap briskets dry out and have less flavor. So a dry brine will help enormously.

Pitmasters like Aaron Franklin use high-quality beef with lots of marbling. If you can’t afford a Prime or Choice grade brisket, your only option may be a Select grade brisket.

If that’s the case, it won’t have marbling, and therefore no flavor and little moisture. The fat in the marbling will help keeps the meat moist during cooking. Pre-brining the brisket will give the meat more of a chance to retain moisture, and add flavor.

Does Aaron Franklin Inject Brisket?

I’ve never seen Aaron Franklin injecting brisket. This is because Franklin usually keeps things simple. He likes to let the natural beef flavor be the star of the show rather than complex rubs or injection marinades.

Pitmasters who enter barbecue competitions will often inject brisket. They do this to wow judges because every bite matters in comps. However, if you’re just smoking at home, there’s no need to inject—unless you really want to make an impression.

Injecting is beneficial when you’re cooking a USDA Select Grade brisket, or a piece of meat with no marbling. Inferior quality meat needs all the help it can get. So injecting is another way we can boost the flavor and provide some extra moisture.

For the best marinade on the market, check out Butcher BBQ. This is the product used by the pros on the competition circuit. You can purchase it on Amazon here. If you want to meat injector, you can get one for about $20 or $30. Check out my article: Should I Inject Brisket?

The Best Homemade Rub Recipe

If you want a rub with more ingredients, check out this recipe that you can make at home.

Standard Barbecue Rub

Standard Barbecue Rub

I found this great rub recipe through How To BBQ Right. I use this recipe and alter it slightly depending on what I'm cooking. Made by the guys at Townsend Spice & Supply: https://townsendspice.com/

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • - ½ Cup Paprika
  • - ½ Cup Salt
  • - ½ Cup Sugar
  • - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
  • - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
  • - ¼ Cup Chili
  • - ¼ Cup Cumin
  • - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
  • - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
  • - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper


  1. Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
  2. Store rub in rub shakers

The Best Pre-Made Rubs On The Market

If you want a more complex barbecue rub, below are the best rubs on the market. Many are produced by famous pitmasters.

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.


Author and founder at Meat Smoking HQ

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