2015 is a year of firsts for smoker of meats Aaron Franklin: He just received his first James Beard Award nomination (for Best Chef Southwest), and his debut cookbook is about to hit America's bookshelves. Known for his rise to barbecue dominance at Austin destination Franklin Barbecue, Franklin had no desire to distill his offerings (brisket, pulled pork, and sausage among them) into traditional recipes. "I didn't want to do a recipe book, because I don't really work with recipes," he explains. "It's more about the feel, and the craft, and picking this up, and smelling this, and looking at that, and watching this." It's not for nothing that the book's subtitle is "A Meat-Smoking Manifesto."
"I didn't want to do a recipe book, because I don't really work with recipes." — Aaron Franklin
Franklin says he wanted the book to be reminiscent of a Boy Scout manual. To that end, Franklin goes deep into the components required for barbecue. The table of contents provides the ingredient list for an overarching plan toward barbecue success, spanning the entire book: The Smoker, Wood, Fire + Smoke, Meat, The Cook, Serving and Eating. "There is certainly an underlying theme of do-it-yourself," says Franklin of his book. "You don't have to go out and buy a cooker, you don't have to go out and buy these fancy sauces, you don't have to get over-the-counter barbecue rubs. Just cook it."
Franklin decided to focus on educating with Franklin Barbecue, offering directions and advice for DIY smoker-building and explanations for why wood, fire, smoke, and meat behave together the way they do. "For me, what makes a successful book is [if it's] something that I keep referencing," he says, offering up Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking as a prime example. Some other fun features include a diary describing a day in the life of Aaron Franklin — which starts extremely early and requires many espressos — and a guide to legendary Texas barbecue. "I would like somebody to take away from it the fact that they don't need recipes... It's all about the craft."
Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto is co-authored by writer Jordan Mackay and features photography by Wyatt McSpadden. It will be released by Ten Speed Press on April 7, so pre-order on Amazon and grab an exclusive preview: