Guess what the king of Texas barbecue won’t eat?

"Franklin Barbecue" by Aaron Franklin (Peguin Random House)
Photo: Peguin Random House/TNS

In an adoring Esquire magazine profile of new-age Texas barbecue king Aaron Franklin, Franklin coughs up the truth: “I don’t eat that stuff.”

Franklin, in his 10th year as the owner of truck-turned-landmark-restaurant Franklin Barbecue, said he loves to cook but doesn’t eat barbecue at all.

“I’m just surrounded,” he said: “It’s really heavy, fatty, salty food.”

It was like hearing that Nolan Ryan sleeps at baseball games, or that Chip and Joanna Gaines in Waco really live in an RV.

Fort Worth pitmaster Travis Heim, who followed the same trailer-to-treasure success path at Heim Barbecue, stuck up for Franklin.

“When you cook a few thousand pounds of brisket every week like we do, I guess you can get tired of it,” Heim replied by email.

“I usually taste at least a bite daily to make sure that everything is up to our standards, but I definitely am not eating a big plate of brisket every day. I have more trouble staying away from my wife’s potato salad and pinto beans.”

Franklin’s comment launched a flaming frenzy on Facebook, where Austin American-Statesman writer David Thomas took umbrage that the pitmaster who won a James Beard Award with his brisket talked more in Esquire about eating North Carolina pork.

“Does Franklin need to stuff himself with brisket until he’s as fat as I am? Of course not,” Thomas wrote.

“Does the King of Texas Barbecue need to choose his words carefully to not call brisket ‘that stuff’ … ? Yeah, probably.”

Thomas praised legacy restaurants such as Martin’s Place in Bryan, in its 94th year and one of the oldest barbecue joints in Texas still in the same family. (Riscky’s on Azle Avenue and Bailey’s Bar-B-Q in downtown Fort Worth are also among the state’s oldest.)

“It’s the most Texas place that ever existed,” Thomas wrote: “ Old-men-and-dominoes Texas. Hand-written-specials-tacked-to-the-wall Texas. Chopped-beef-and-a-Lone-Star Texas.”

Lest anyone think Thomas is the anti-Aaron of Texas barbecue, he writes that Franklin comes off like a great guy in Esquire and that “just about everybody who’s waited in that hours-long line” calls the barbecue the best ever.

DeeAnna Krier of Baker’s Ribs in Weatherford said she understands how Franklin might be “fatigued” with barbecue.

“Brian and I eat our brisket most everyday,” she wrote in a private online message.

“Brisket is in our blood. … Anytime we have a party at our house, we have to have brisket or else the guests will get so angry. Even if it’s Mexican food it’s brisket.”

Franklin stayed out of the argument Thursday on social media, but you can order his ebook “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto” or visit his new Asian smokehouse, Loro, a team effort with chef Tyson Cole of Uchi.

From a past Star-Telegram story, here’s Franklin’s recipe for barbecue beans.

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FRANKLIN BBQ BEANS

Makes about 8 cups; serves 8 to 10

“We get a lot of requests for our bean recipe. What makes it so popular? Probably the simple fact that it’s another way of delivering brisket, which is its second-most important ingredient (arguably).”

1 pound dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 cup bean seasoning (recipe follows)

8 cups water

1 cup chopped brisket bark and shredded meat

1. Combine the beans, onion, bean seasoning and water in a large pot and let soak for 4 to 6 hours, or for up to overnight, which is what we do in the restaurant.

2. Add the brisket bark and meat to the soaked beans and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 hours, until the beans are tender.

Bean Seasoning:

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup chile powder

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup coarse black pepper

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well. Store in an airtight container.

This story contains information from Star-Telegram archives.

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