PRODUCT REVIEW

Aaron Franklin MasterClass Review: Does it make you a seasoned pitmaster?

Alex Lenox
December 3, 2021

Aaron Franklin MasterClass review synopsis

What you’ll learn: People line up for hours around Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas, for legendary Texas-style BBQ, and in this MasterClass, Aaron isn’t at all shy about giving away the tools and tactics that make his restaurant such a smash hit. You’ll learn about beef quality, creating the right seasoning rub, how to start and manage a fire, trimming meat properly, and how to smoke it to perfection.

How long does Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass take? The 16 total lessons come in at just under 5 hours.

Similar courses: Mashama Bailey Teaches Southern Cooking, Apollonia Poilane Teaches Bread Baking, Gordon Ramsay Teaches Cooking I, Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach Mixology.

Do I recommend Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass? Yes! Aaron is the “King of Texas Barbecue,” and Texas is world-renowned for BBQ, so you won’t find a better teacher out there. He gives away all his secrets and trains you as if you were a new pitmaster at his Austin BBQ joint. 

Are you ready to blow everyone away with your newfound BBQ skills?

Take Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass now.

Every state and country has its own set of attractions ranging from monuments and museums to local cuisine. In my home state of Texas, it’s almost a sin to visit and not eat some real Texas barbecue.

If you’re anywhere near the Austin area, you’ll get one recommendation over and over again — Franklin’s Barbecue.

For years, everyone I knew kept telling me I had to go there. Hearing I’d probably have to wait in line for 5-6 hours before eating somehow didn’t deter me — it intrigued me even more.

I’d had BBQ before, sure, but I had never waited in line for more than 30 minutes for it. But I did, and you know what? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Not only was it the best BBQ I’ve ever had in my life, but I got to meet the man himself.

Meeting Aaron Franklin in person
Aaron Franklin MasterClass Review

That’s Aaron in the front taking the selfie, and I’m the one in the middle of my family with the Texas Rangers hat on. Not only did he introduce himself, but he also took us into the back to meet his staff, show us the massive smokers, and teach us more about their process.

This gave me a taste, and I wanted more. I wanted to know exactly how they created such delicious BBQ so I could do it myself. Luckily for me, MasterClass had the same idea, and that’s how my video-based apprenticeship began.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the Aaron Franklin MasterClass, and I’ll give my personal opinion of whether it’s worthwhile investing your time and money into it.

Disclosure: In the interest of full transparency, Codeless uses affiliate links in our MasterClass reviews to cover our site’s costs.

Our Verdict

Aaron says in the trailer that his MasterClass is exactly what he’d teach a new employee working for him, and I definitely felt that way throughout the entire series. By the end, I felt prepared to jump right onto the line at 1 AM alongside Aaron and his crew.

Aaron Franklin MasterClass Become a Pro at Texas-Style BBQ

$15 /month
PROS
  • Perhaps the most renowned pitmaster in the BBQ is your teacher.
  • Aaron explains the science and method behind everything he does.
  • The video quality and angles are excellent for following along.
  • The workbook makes it so easy to reference what you learned in subsequent cooks.
  • He tells you when to sweat the details and when you can wing it.
CONS
  • Everything smells like smoke. Everything.
  • Sometimes you can get discouraged by struggling with things Aaron makes look easy.
  • When he’s trimming meat it’s challenging to fully understand what and where he’s making his cuts.
  • You’re going to spend some serious coin to get started.

A few frequently-asked questions…

Let’s kick this thing off with a few answers to some frequently asked questions about Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass.

Do I need a subscription to access this course?

Yes, the Aaron Franklin MasterClass is only available with a MasterClass subscription and can’t be purchased by itself. The good news is that once you’re subscribed, you can watch every course without any additional fees

How long is the MasterClass?

Franklin’s MasterClass has 16 lessons, totaling around 5 hours of video content. There’s also a handy workbook that you can read through in less than an hour.

Does MasterClass have a cancellation policy?

Yes, MasterClass offers all subscribers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee.

Is the Aaron Franklin MasterClass actually worth it?

Absolutely! The Aaron Franklin MasterClass is the closest thing you’ll ever get to learning from the man directly. You get to watch over Aaron’s shoulder as he dissects his fire building, brisket trimming, and meat smoking strategies.

Take Aaron’s advice and become your neighborhood BBQ champion.

About Aaron Franklin

Aaron’s parents operated a BBQ restaurant for a couple of years when he was around ten years old. They cooked twelve briskets a day and were only open at lunch, but it’s a lot of work. Naturally, Aaron joined the family business and started doing food prep — and ended up loving it.

Flash forward to when he’s 24, and he bought his first smoker with his girlfriend — now wife — and made his first brisket. He loved the process so much that he decided to open his own BBQ joint before the brisket was even done.

After many successful backyard BBQs, he got himself a 500-gallon propane tank that fit 12 briskets and started cooking for hundreds of people. He cracked the code on the perfect brisket, bought a roadside trailer for $300, and as the word spread about his legendary brisket, the line around the restaurant got longer and longer.

Since opening, the restaurant has won multiple accolades, including the coveted Texas Monthly’s best BBQ joint in Texas award.

How much does Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass cost?

The Aaron Franklin MasterClass is included in any of MasterClass’s three subscription levels.

Pricing and plans for MasterClass subscriptions
MasterClass plans and pricing
  • Standard costs $15 per month and lets you watch classes on one device at a time.
  • Plus is $20 per month and lets you watch on two devices at a time and download videos for offline viewing (iOS only).
  • Premium is $23 per month and lets you watch classes on six devices at a time.

All subscriptions are billed annually.

Subscribe to MasterClass today!

What is included in the Aaron Franklin MasterClass?

Runtime:  4 hours and 36 minutes

Course Value: 5/5

Lessons: 16 video lessons

Supplementary materials: Workbook and MasterClass Hub

Supplementary workbook

The course comes with a handy workbook that helped me pay more attention to the lessons and absorb what Aaron does versus constantly taking notes. I’d still write down things that caught my attention, but luckily most of his secret sauce is in the workbook.

BBQ beef cuts graphic
Aaron Franklin MasterClass workbook

It’s got charts of beef cuts (like the one above), recipe breakdowns, and the science behind the entire BBQ process.

MasterClass Hub

The course also includes a MasterClass Hub, an online forum where students can ask questions, share their journey, and find more insights, tips, and recipes.

The online community for the Aaron Franklin MasterClass course
Aaron Franklin Masterclass Hub

It’s not incredibly active, but it includes helpful answers to many common questions like, “can I use beef ribs instead of pork?”

A complete breakdown of Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass curriculum

Aaron’s class is both informative and entertaining. He provides insider tips you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, and he shares entertaining stories about how he learned through trial and error.

The full Aaron Franklin MasterClass breakdown is as follows:

Curriculum:

  1. Introduction
  2. Fire and Smoke
  3. Smoke: Pork Butt
  4. Smoke: Pork Ribs
  5. Wood
  6. Grill: Steak and Broccolini
  7. Beef Quality and Selection
  8. Prep: Brisket Trim
  9. Smoke: Brisket Part I
  10. Smoke: Brisket Part II
  11. Smoke: Brisket Part III
  12. Finish: Brisket Slice
  13. Prepare: Sauce
  14. Offset Smokers
  15. Aaron’s Journey to Pitmaster
  16. Bonus Chapter: How Brisket Became King: The History of Central Texas Barbecue

Course summary:

There’s something about BBQ that always seems to bring people together. Of all the culinary pursuits, it seems to be the one nobody is afraid to jump into blindly.

People have strong opinions about where to get the best BBQ, but it doesn’t really matter unless you compete at the restaurant level. You’ll instantly become the most popular person on your block the moment you light the fire in your smoker. And Aaron will take you from zero to hero in just 5 hours.

Key lessons I learned:

If I could prepare you in one sentence, I’d tell you it’s an expensive, time-consuming, and detail-oriented hobby, but boy is it addicting.

An 11-pound pork butt (which I learned actually comes from the pig’s shoulder) cost about $20 at my local grocery store. A USDA Prime beef brisket from a local butcher came out to nearly $100 for 11 pounds. They were both delicious, and the expensive brisket was worth every penny.

The smoker I bought from a local sporting goods store cost me just over $500. You can buy precisely what Aaron Franklin uses for a cool $3,000, but I decided to get a smaller offset smoker that’ll do two briskets just fine.

Black offset smoker with wood
Black offset smoker

Beyond the smoker, I needed all sorts of accessories like grapeseed oil for seasoning, a grill cover, fire poker, a small grease trap bucket, an ash collecting bucket, butcher paper, coarse black pepper, kosher salt, paprika, a small ax for chopping wood, a spray bottle, a grill thermometer, water pan, and a multi-probe digital thermometer.

The wood was another beast altogether. There are so many types of wood, and the prices vary widely depending on where you get it. For my pork butt, I ended up using some hickory wood I found at my local hardware store, and man did that burn up quickly. I must’ve spent $30-40 alone on firewood for my trial run.

With the brisket, I ended up finding a local firewood supply farm and ended up getting a 1/4 cord of post oak firewood for roughly $1.11 a log, which surprisingly fit in the back of my SUV.

SUV filled up with firewood
BBQ lumber haul!

That wood was much more cost-effective, and it burned much slower than the store-bought firewood, which also saved me money.

4 takeaways from this MasterClass

People have different opinions on the “right” way to do things. Everyone has their way of prepping, cooking, and resting their meat.

But with Aaron being the “King of Texas BBQ,” I felt confident he was steering me in the right direction from the beginning:

1. Fire management is everything. The biggest mistake people make is not keeping the smoker at a consistent temperature. It either spikes too hot, or they nearly let it go out, causing temperature swings of 100-200 degrees at times.

Aaron is enough of a pro to keep his smoker within 3-6 degrees at all times.

I was lucky to keep it in a 30-50 degree range my first smoke. By the second session, I consistently kept it in a 10-15 degree range by using various tactics Aaron teaches, like opening or closing the doors, rearranging the logs a bit, or even pulling a hot log out for a while to bring the temp down.

Offset smoker lit up and dog supervising
Light my fire!

You also need to keep the concept of good smoke and bad smoke in mind. Ultimately you want a clean fire that gives off almost a translucent blue-looking smoke, AKA good smoke.

Thirty minutes of black smoke won’t make a big difference, but if you smoked it the full 6-12 hours with dirty black smoke, it’d make a big difference in flavor and texture.

2. Have a plan and be ready to adapt. Aaron pulls out a sharpie and some butcher paper before any BBQ session to ensure he sticks to a tight schedule. That way, he can look back and learn from what went wrong and what went right.

Butcher paper outlining pork butt times and temps
BBQ pork butt smoking times and temperature

He has hundreds, if not thousands, of these butcher paper plans saved from over the years with little notes all over them about what happened and what to do differently next time.

3. Keep it simple. You won’t find “secret ingredients” in Aaron’s barbecue. Nearly every recipe is some combination of salt, pepper, and maybe paprika for color.

Seasoned brisket on aluminum tray
Beef brisket prep

Aaron prioritizes the meat and smoke flavor as much as possible and doesn’t want anything interfering with that. He’ll use plain mustard (or hot sauce as a backup) in sparse quantities on the raw meat to get the seasoning to stick properly, but you can’t taste it after half a dozen or more hours on the smoker.

4. Details matter way more than you think. There’s a science to perfecting smoked brisket or pulled pork. The way you trim your brisket to the way you wrap it matters.

Some things you can be liberal with, like seasoning pork since it mixes together when you’re done, but you can bet he’s still got his temperatures within a 3-6 degree range at all times.

Half cooked beef brisket on smoker with probe
Smoked beef brisket

He pulls the pork at specific temperatures and cooks his brisket to specific times. Everything from how you stack your wood in the smoker to what direction the meat is facing in the smoker, and even what setting you use on the spray bottle to mist the meat matters to Aaron.

Even the type of wood you use matters more than you think when it comes to flavor.

Memorable quotes from this MasterClass

“The art of a fire is to be proactive with it and guess what your needs are ahead of time. Having consistent temperatures makes it easier to troubleshoot what may have gone wrong later.”

Lesson 2, Fire and Smoke

“You can wrap in foil which is also known as the “Texas crutch.” I prefer butcher paper. In a perfect world, I probably wouldn’t even wrap the brisket. If I was just doing one at home, I might just let it go because I think it’s really old school, and I like the crunchy bits and textural differences. But if you’re having people over or you’re cooking for a restaurant, you can’t have a bunch of naked briskets running around. So we wrap it in paper.”

 — Lesson 9, Brisket Part I

“In BBQ, that’s what really makes the difference — you can only really get out of it what you put into it. and if you cut yourself short on what you put into it, you’re probably going to end up pretty good, but you’re not going to get to that level of perfection that you want.”

—  Lesson 15, Aaron’s Journey to Pitmaster

Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass pros and cons

If you’re thinking about getting the MasterClass, here are a few pros and cons to keep in mind:

Pros

The pros list feels endless with this MasterClass. Here are some pros off the top of my head:

  • Perhaps the most renowned pitmaster in the BBQ is your teacher.
  • Aaron explains the science and method behind everything he does.
  • The video quality and angles are excellent for following along.
  • The workbook makes it so easy to reference what you learned in subsequent cooks.
  • He tells you when to sweat the details and when you can wing it.

Cons

The course is great, so the cons have less to do with Aaron’s MasterClass more to do with the actual process of learning:

  • Everything smells like smoke. Everything.
  • Sometimes you can get discouraged by struggling with things Aaron makes look easy.
  • When he’s trimming meat it’s challenging to fully understand what and where he’s making his cuts.
  • You’re going to spend some serious coin to get started.

And I can’t stress enough just how much you’ll smell like smoke. After a while, you kind of learn to embrace the smoke as a right of passage. You may even learn to love it.

Do I recommend this MasterClass?

With all my heart, yes.

It’s exciting to learn directly from the Central Texas BBQ master himself. You’ll learn a ton about what to do and, perhaps most importantly, what not to do.

Again, everyone has an opinion on the proper way to do BBQ, but nobody argues when you say you’re following Aaron’s teachings.

Mouth watering sliced brisket on cutting board
Finished beef brisket

Aaron says in the trailer that his MasterClass is exactly what he’d teach a new employee working for him, and I definitely felt that way throughout the entire series. By the end, I felt prepared to jump right onto the line at 1 AM alongside Aaron and his crew.

Now it’s time to roll out the butcher paper, get your sharpie ready, and let Aaron help you plan your next big BBQ. What are you waiting for?

Subscribe to MasterClass today!