Aaron Franklin's Verdict On Seasoning With Rubs Vs. Sauces

Aaron Franklin, the co-owner of Franklin Barbeque in Texas, has co-written (alongside Jordan MacKay) three books on cooking meat: "Franklin Barbecue: A Meat Smoking Manifesto," "Franklin Steak," and "Franklin Smoke." Considering this bibliography, it's safe to say that Franklin knows a thing or two — or many more — about the best meat-cooking processes, including when to season with a rub versus when to season with a sauce. And during an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, he let us in on how he chooses when to go with which.

Franklin explained that the decision comes down to one thing: whether you're planning on doing a slow cook or going with a faster cooking method. He said, "I typically cook at a pretty high heat, and usually, rubs burn. Rubs are for slower cooks — if you're smoking ribs or brisket or something like that." But if you need to use higher heat and can't stand the thought of only using sauces to add flavor, Franklin's go-to seasoning is an easy option.

Salt is great when cooking with higher heat

During our conversation, Aaron Franklin made one thing quite clear — he can't get enough salt. "I usually use salt on everything," he said. "I'll use a couple of different kinds of salts for different things." He also noted that salt is the one thing that he always has in his home.

His reasoning for putting salt on everything makes a lot of sense: While it is a seasoning with its own taste, it also brings out the flavors of whatever it is you're cooking. Franklin explained, "I keep it pretty simple ... if I'm doing steaks, it's almost always salt. Salt's great. It pulls out the natural flavor that's already there. I don't like to make things taste like what they're not."

Despite his loyalty to salt, he does explore other seasonings in "Franklin Smoke," including one that he describes as being his version of Lawry's seasoned salt, as well as a steak seasoning that consists mostly of mushroom powder. So depending on the cooking method you chose, Franklin has some recommendations. "If I was going to air dry some meat and then slow cook in an oven to par-cook it, I would [use] that steak seasoning," he said. "But for a more intense heat, like in a skillet or on a straight grill, that stuff would burn, so I typically just use salt."