How Does Aaron Franklin Smoke Brisket? We Give You Every Tip From The Master

Everybody wants to know how to smoke a brisket like Aaron Franklin. In this post, I’m going to walk you through the Aaron Franklin method. However, if you want to go more in depth, I would highly recommend doing Franklin’s Masterclass.

To smoke a brisket like Aaron Franklin, do the following:

  • Franklin trims his brisket to 1/4 of an inch fat.
  • For the rub, Franklin applies a 50/50 mix of kosher salt and 16-mesh cafe grind black pepper.
  • He doesn’t use a binder (slather) on brisket.
  • Franklin brings his brisket up to room temperature before putting in the smoker.
  • Franklin cooks brisket at 250° F using an offset smoker.
  • He cooks his brisket fat-side-up.
  • Aaron uses a water pan for a moist brisket.
  • Franklin allows 12 hours to cook a brisket (1 hour and 15 minutes per pound).
  • He wraps the brisket in butcher paper after 6 hours.
  • Some say Franklin uses beef tallow on brisket at Franklin’s BBQ (at the wrapping stage).
  • Franklin removes the brisket once it passes his tenderness test.
  • Aaron rests his brisket for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Choose A Brisket Like Franklin

Franklin usually cooks a full packer brisket. As you would probably know, a brisket has two muscles; a point and the flat. So when shopping, you can either buy a full brisket (a packer), or one of the brisket muscles (a point or flat). Here are some tips from Aaron Franklin when shopping for brisket:

  • Look for a brisket with a thick flat.
  • Choose a brisket with good marbling, because this will add extra flavor and marbling will help keep the meat and moist during the long smoking process.

How To Trim Brisket Like Franklin

Trimming is an important part of the brisket smoking process. If you take too much fat off, the brisket will end up dry because fat provides a lot of the moisture and protection. If you leave too much fat on, it won’t render. The fat will stop the smoke from penetrating the meat.

  • First, get yourself a decent knife. Aaron uses a sharp curved boning knife he purchases from any butcher supply, or restaurant supplier. Victorinox or Dixon are the best knives for butchering meat. These German knives are high-quality and will last for many years.
  • When Franklin trims brisket, he leaves 1/4 an inch of fat on top. This is the perfect amount of fat to render, protect the brisket, and provide enough moisture so it doesn’t dry out. However, if you are cooking at a higher temp, or have a different type of smoker, leave more fat on your brisket. A hot-and-fast brisket will need more fat.
  • Some parts of the brisket are more vulnerable to others, so a fate covering is important. Especially the section of the brisket facing the heat source of your smoker.
  • Franklin uses an offset smoker, so the heat comes from the side closest to the firebox. If you’re using a regular charcoal smoker, the heat source is probably coming from below. If that’s the case, cook your brisket fat side down. So it really just depends on the direction the heat radiates from your smoker. Leave more fat on the side facing your heat source.
  • When trimming brisket, remove any membranes or blood vessels or anything underneath the brisket because these won’t render. If there’s silver skin underneath the brisket, take the pointy end of the knife and cut it out. The silver skin won’t render. All it will do is make the brisket taste chewy.
  • In most briskets, there’s a thick layer of fat called the deckle. This long strip of fat sits between the point and the flat—and we should remove it because it won’t render.
  • Some people separate the point and the flat and cook them the two muscles separately. If you do this, just make sure that you cook your flat in a pan because it can dry out since it’s lean and thin. I’ve written a whole post on how to cook a brisket flat. You can check it out here: How To Cook A Brisket Flat.

Does Franklin Use Tallow On Brisket?

Save the fat for beef tallow (the pitmasters secret ingredient). Many Texas barbecue joints is the use of tallow on brisket, and some people believe this is one of Aaron Franklin’s secret ingredients. Made from beef fat, tallow is simply cooked down fat with the impurities removed. To make tallow:

  • Save all of your brisket fat trimmings.
  • There are two ways to cook tallow. Either place the fat in a pan and cook it alongside your brisket in the smoker. Or cook the fat in a pot on a stove.
  • Cook down the fat until the impurities have been removed, and you’ll be left with an oily-like substance.
  • Once your brisket reaches the wrapping stage of the cook, pour it over the meat. I’ve written a full post on brisket and tallow. You can check it out here: Tallow On Brisket.

What Rub Does Aaron Franklin Use?

Brisket rubs usually contain a lot of ingredients, but unlike most people, Aaron Franklin uses a simple salt and pepper rub on his brisket. Aaron believes the meat should be the star of the show. But what Franklin uses is just a traditional Texas-style rub. In central Texas, where Franklin originates, a 50/50 mix of salt and pepper on brisket is the norm. To make a similar rub:

  • Franklin uses a 50/50 ratio of kosher salt and a 16-mesh cafe grind black pepper.
  • Put a 50/50 mix of salt and pepper into a shaker container, or a small mixing bowl, and combine the two ingredients.
  • Sometimes Franklin will add paprika into his salt and pepper mix. He doesn’t use paprika on brisket, only ribs, or pork to add color. However, this is always an option as well when you are smoking brisket.
  • For a savory flavor, add some granulated onion for texture and flavor—plus some of garlic powder. If you want to know how to make a fancy rub, check out this article and I’ll walk you through some of the best barbecue rubs on the market and how to make barbecue rubs.

How To Apply Rub To Brisket

  • To get an even mix, use a shaker and keep stirring the salt and pepper. Otherwise, you might only get salt onto the brisket. Aaron uses a plastic container and swirls the mix around.
  • Begin by applying the rub on the flat side of the brisket. Place your hand on the side of the brisket, to protect any from falling off, and do the sides of the brisket first.
  • Hold the container or shaker about 6 to 8 in above the brisket as you’re shaking.
  • With your other hand, pat the brisket down and press the rub into the meat.
  • Aaron doesn’t go very heavy with rub, he’s a big believer in letting the flavor of the beef be the star of the show.
  • Franklin believes that one of the biggest mistakes people make is applying too much rub to their brisket. This can be too overpowering, and he’s a big believer in letting the meat be the star of the show. You want the natural beef flavors to shine.

Does Aaron Franklin Use A Binder On Brisket?

Since Aaron Franklin doesn’t apply a very thick layer of rub to the brisket, he doesn’t use a binder. A slather or blinder is very common in barbecue. Pitmasters usually apply the binder just before the rub to help it stick to the meat. Aaron Franklin doesn’t use a binder on brisket, although he uses olive oil on other cuts such as pork shoulder.

A binder is a preference. The slather will help the rub stick to the meat, which means you won’t get patchy bark. If the brisket is already wet after the packaging, then the rub will probably stick. If you are really wanting to cake the rub on the brisket, then I would apply a binder. Check out this article for more: Binders For Brisket-Should I Slather?

Bring The Brisket Up To Room Temperature

Aaron Franklin leaves his brisket out of the fridge for 1 hour prior to cooking. Beef is the only meat that you can let warm up to room temperature, because chicken poultry fish and pork are too risky to leave out for 1 hour before smoking. Aaron believes that letting the brisket come up to room temperature will allow from more even cook. Smoke is attracted to cold wet surfaces. Some people believe that having a wet cold brisket will attract more smoke, meaning it will be a smokier brisket.

What Smoker Does Franklin Use?

Aaron Franklin famously uses an offset smoker. Also known as a stick burner, an offset smoker has a firebox to one side, and an ambient cook chamber at the other end. Offset smokers are perfect for indirect cooking. They also got a nice smoke flavor to the meat because unlike most smokers, wood is the primary source of heat. A charcoal smoker uses charcoal as its source of heat. Then, add chunks of wood to for smoke flavor.

Fat Side Up Or Down?

Aaron Franklin cooks his brisket fat side up. He also faces the point towards the firebox, which is the thicker part of the brisket so it can absorb some of the heat. Aaron has the flat on the side of the smokestack. For more information, check out this article: Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down – We Settle The Debate

Pros: Fat Side UpCons: Fat Side Up
Bastes the meat (a theory)More seasoning will drip off
A more beefy flavorLess smokey flavor
Practiced by pitmasters Aaron Franklin
and Malcom Reed.
Softer bark on meat side
Cooks faster (if you want a fast brisket)More rub and seasoning will wash off
Cooks fast ( a con if you prefer low and slow)
The pros and cons of brisket fat side up

Does Franklin Use A Water Pan?

When smoking brisket, Aaron Franklin places a water pan next to his brisket. This will help keep the moist and prevent it from drying out. This is optional, and it depends on your smoker. If you are cooking in a cold climate, you might choose to get rid of the water pan because you may struggle to maintain a consistent temperature. Aaron lives in a warm Texas where climate is an issue. Aaron believes in putting a water pan in the smoker to keep the brisket moist. The only reason you wouldn’t want to have a water pan in your smoker is if the humidity is higher. So it depends on the climate where you live.

Temperature And Time

Aaron Franklin smokes most of his meat at 275° F. He goes by the 250° F, per one hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes per pound. So if you have an 8 lb brisket, you’d be looking at about an 8 or 9 hour cook.

Spritzing And Mopping

Aaron Franklin doesn’t mop his brisket, he prefers to spritz. Aaron believes that mopping makes too much of a mess in his cooker, and it’s just more cleaning up. Aaron uses a spray bottle with a spritz. Spritzing and mopping are also important ways to keep your meat moist during the cook. You can use either apple cider vinegar, apple juice, beer or just plain water. Franklin also likes to use a bit of hot sauce any spritz sometimes. Some people believe the spritz adds flavor, but Aaron Franklin uses a spritz just to keep the meat moist and to prevent it from burning, especially the edges.

How Franklin Plans A Cook

Franklin always likes to allow about 12 hours for a brisket cook. If he’s going to serve at 7:00 p.m., he will start cooking at 7:00 a.m. I think the 12-hour rule is a good rule of thumb.

If you’re cooking more meat, such as two or three briskets at one time, or a brisket and a pork butt, then the cook is going to take much longer. There’s only so much heat distribution in a smoker. If you’re using a small cooker with a single brisket, the 12-hour rule is a good rule of thumb.

I’ve always found planning briskets difficult, especially if you’re wanting to serve it for lunch. There’s no proper way of avoiding an overnight cook if you want to serve brisket for lunch. Overnight cooks are a little risky but I know many people in the community do overnight briskets regularly.

If You’re Lookin, You’re Not Cookin

Aaron talks a lot about having consistent temperatures, and by keeping it stable by not opening the lid. This will mean your brisket will cook more evenly and be done sooner. One of the biggest mistakes people made is constantly opening the lid of their smoker. This is one of the worst things you can do because not only will it cause all the smoke and heat to escape from a smoker, it will also cause the temperature to fluctuate. Opening the lid is going to cause recovery time, which is when your smoker needs to work hard to get back to that target temperature.

Be careful not to spritz too much because this can mess with the temperature of your smoker. One of the biggest mistakes people make is constantly opening the lid or having a regular spritzing regime. Spritzing isn’t an important part of the cook, but if you have a 1 hour spritzing rule for the first 5 hours, then this brisket is going to take a long time.

If you use a good internal meat thermometer, you don’t even have to bother opening the lid. You will know exactly what’s going on inside your meat and in your cook chamber. Unlike most people, Franklin doesn’t really use thermometers. Instead, he goes by look and feel. He’s got a general idea of how long a brisket will take. As any pitmaster will tell you, it’s done when it’s done. We cooked it internal temperature, not time. But I would highly recommend using thermometers. Franklin has cooked thousands of briskets, so he’s in a different league.

Does Franklin Wrap Brisket?

Sometimes Aaron Franklin doesn’t wrap. However, in recent years, Aaron Franklin famously wraps his brisket in butcher paper. Wrapping the meat will help the brisket to cook faster, because it will trap all the heat inside the pack. Wrapping will also help the brisket retain moisture.Wrapping will also prevent your brisket from getting too dark and too smoky. So the wrapping will protect the meat. Remember, brisket takes a long time and it could be in the smoker for well over 12 hours could be up to 15 to 18 hours. But in the end, it’s going to look like a meteorite rather than a roast. Certain woods will make the brisket go darker, and certain woods have a strong smoke flavor such as mesquite or hickory. If you are using one of these stronger smoking woods, then I highly recommend wrapping.

Does Franklin Use Butcher Paper or Foil?

Aaron Franklin prefers to wrap his brisket in butcher paper. It allows a brisket to breathe, and will preserve the bark. Aaron doesn’t like foil because it gives the meat more of a pot roasty flavor, and traps too much moisture, making the bark soggy. The brisket will steam itself and cook quick in foil, though. Aaron suggests if you need the brisket done in a hurry, foil is good because it will really help cook the brisket faster. For more on this subject, check out: Paper Or Foil? How Should I Wrap Brisket?

Use foil for lean briskets. If you’ve got a dry brisket, then you might prefer foil because it will help keep more moisture in there and create steam. But if you’re a brisket has a lot of fat and marbling, then it’s going to be moist. If you put a cheap USDA Select brisket, a then it probably won’t have a lot of fat, so you’ll need to use foil.

Experiment.The best thing to do is experiment with all different methods. Cook a brisket wrapped in butcher paper, and another in foil, and another unwrapped. You will notice the difference in taste and texture and total cook time.

Where Does Franklin Get His Butcher Paper?

As far as I know, ABCO supplies Franklin BBQ with huge rolls of butcher paper. However, you may only need a small roll, so here are the best options.

When Does Franklin Wrap Brisket?

Aaron Franklin wraps his brisket after around about 6 hours, but that would depend on the size of the brisket and will vary. It could be between 4 hours 8 hours. There is no right and wrong answer because every brisket is different. The best way to tell is by color and how the fat is rendering off the meat.

Often, Aaron Franklin doesn’t wrap brisket. He’ll just smoke it for 12 or 13 hours — and only wrap it once it’s done. He will rest the brisket in paper. However, in a lot of the videos and things I’ve watched, Aaron Franklin usually wraps in butcher paper. When he’s smoking for himself at home, often he won’t wrap.

Franklin looks for certain signs when deciding to wrap. Often, the brisket will have a nice mahogany color. This should occur about 6 hours into the cook.

Make A Clean Fire

Franklin often talks about producing a good, clean fire and not having dirty smoke. For this, you want to have good air flow through your smoker. Without airflow, your fire will suffocate and create too much creosote. This substance will make your brisket taste bitter and be over-smoked. Also, you don’t want too much thick, white smoke. You want a thin, blue smoke which is what all pitmasters aspire.

If you’re getting a horrible, dirty smoke, then perhaps think about changing woods. Use clean, dry smoking wood—not green wood. You don’t want to see a lot of smoke coming out of that smokestack. It should almost be invisible. Offset smokers are more complicated, and most people will probably learn how to cook on a charcoal smoker. If you using a pellet grill or a set and forget, you don’t have to worry too much about smoke and wood.

Franklin’s View On The Stall

The dreaded stall is very well known in barbecue, and it’s just part of the deal. The stall is when the brisket will plateau at a certain temperature and will not move towards the done temperature. This occurs when the meat sweats, because it will cool the brisket.

Franklin uses a train analogy when discussing the stall. Cooking a brisket is like a train that is building momentum. If you’re cooking hot enough and fast enough, then the brisket is going to have enough momentum to push through the stall. However, if the temperature is too low, it’s going to hit the stall.

When you’re cooking brisket, the temperature will be on an upward scale. It will steadily rise from 100 to 125 to 150. This will occur over the first few hours. Usually once the brisket gets to about 160 or 170° F, this is when the brisket will store.

Wrapping will definitely help you push through the stall, as we’ll cooking a little faster. It’s not such a bad idea to increase the temperature of your smoker after you’ve wrapped the brisket. This will help you to push through the style and I’ll be risk it be done sooner. If you are smoking low and slow, say about 225° F, then your brisket will probably spend a long time in the store. This is fine if you got all the time in the world, but if you need it done, I’d recommend wrapping and increasing the temperature. However, don’t go any higher than 200 75° F.

How Aaron Franklin Wraps Brisket

  • When removing the brisket from the smoker, Aaron always uses the towel. This is always the case no matter what he’s smoking, I’ll send him to this with ribs, pork, everything. Using tongs is very dangerous because you can rip off a sizeable chunk of the bark.
  • Roll out a nice big roll of butcher paper, and cup the paper around the point and then the flat fold it neatly on the edges of the brisket. You want to have enough paper to roll the brisket in the paper about 2 or 3 times.
  • Place the wrapped brisket back in the smoker
  • Place the brisket back in the smoker after it’s wrapped and maintain a stable 250° F temperature for the rest of the cook.

When Does Franklin Remove The Brisket?

The ideal temperature to remove a brisket is once it reaches 203° F. Aaron Franklin doesn’t really use any thermometers, he just goes by look and feel. It should feel nice and floppy when you pull it out of the smoker.

Aaron recommends you do a tenderness test such as the toothpick test. Hope the brisket with either a toothpick or a thermometer probe. It should feel like poking a stick of butter when it’s perfectly cooked. If there’s some resistance, then that means it still has a way to go. There should be almost no resistance when you put a toothpick into the meat. You also don’t want to overcook the brisket.

How Long Does Aaron Franklin Rest Brisket?

In general, Franklin rests his brisket for about an hour. This will allow the muscles to relax, and the brisket to reabsorb some of the moisture. If you were to slice the brisket without resting, most of the juices will spill out onto the cutting board and be lost. To ensure that you get a tender, juicy brisket, it’s good to rest the biscuit for at least an hour.

If you’re not ready to serve, another common strategy is to leave the brisket in its wrapping, and place it in a dry cooler for up to 4 hours even longer. You can leave the thermometer probe in the brisket as you’re holding it in the cooler, and this is great if you’re taking the brisket somewhere for a lunch or dinner.

What Knife Does Aaron Franklin Use To Slice Brisket?

Aaron Franklin uses a 12-in slicing knife. It’s a serrated knife, not scalloped. It looks more like a bread knife and has a serrated edge.

When slicing, you want to do the pull test and the jiggle test. Hold up a slice, and it should have that nice jiggle. You should be able to pull the brisket apart and it should fall apart. It shouldn’t for under its own weight, he should be able to just pull it away delicately, which is called the pull test and if you are judging above your competitions how you would treat brisket.

Aaron Franklin slices his brisket about a thickness of a pencil. Which is about a quarter inch.

Why Brisket Takes So Long

Brisket SizeTemperatureCook TimeIncluding Resting
12 lbs225°F 18 hours 19 hours
18 lbs250°F 18 hours19 hours
12 lbs unwrapped225°F 19 hours20 hours
18 lbs unwrapped250°F 19 hours20 hours
16 lbs275°F 10 – 12 hours 11-13 hours
16 lbs unwrapped275°F11-13 hours12-14 hours
Estimated Brisket Cooking Times

Brisket is a cut of beef from the chest area of the cow. So because it’s a hard working muscle, brisket is full of connective tissue. If cooked incorrectly, brisket is inedible. Brisket needs time at low temperature. If not, all that connective tissue won’t render and it will be chewy. However, when cooked low-and-slow, brisket is a delicacy. When all the connective tissue melts, it becomes a gelatin-like substance that will melt in your mouth and packed with flavor. The two muscles found on a brisket other flat and the point. The flat is the thinner muscle, and the point is the thicker, fattier muscle.

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:

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

My Favorite Brisket 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 Injector: Injecting meat is a great way to take your barbecue to the next level and help you make competition-style brisket. An injector is the only way you will be able to get flavor and moisture into the middle of the meat. The Beast Injector is a stainless steel injector that is sturdy and affordable. Check the latest price on Amazon here.

Brisket Marinade: The best injection solution on the market is the Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection. This marinade is used in competitions and is made by World Barbecue Champion pitmaster, Dave Bouska. You can find the marinade on Amazon here.

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.

Brisket Rub: These days I make my own rub when possible, but I always have a few pre-made rubs for when I’m running low. Barbecue guru Malcom Reed produces Killer Hogs, one of the best brisket rubs I’ve found over the years. Another great rub is Slap Yo Daddy, made by brisket master and multiple World Barbecue Champion, Harry Soo.

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.

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

Recent Posts