Aaron Franklin Masterclass Review – Read Before You Buy

Aaron Franklin masterclass

​Masterclass recently launched their new course Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas Style BBQ and everyone is wondering if it’s worth the $90 price of admission? The combination of Aaron Franklin’s star power, Masterclass’s massive advertising budget and a slick highlight video reel is very enticing. But when you strip all the marketing away, does Aaron Franklin’s masterclass stand on it’s own?

​For this Barbecue Masterclass review I’m going to compare Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas Style BBQ to Rick Browne’s Cooking With Smoke 101 from Grill Master University.

​I’m breaking this review down into 5 main categories that I think are the most important to consider before you purchase either masterclass.

  • ​Instructor: Who are they and what makes them an expert barbecue teacher worthy of your time and money.
  • ​Course Content Quality: How well does the course do at delivering helpful information and how much of it is filler? What is the experience like going through the lessons?
  • ​Focus on Learning: Information is great but it’s also free. Just look to youtube and google and you can find all the information you want. What we’re looking for here is how well the course helps the students actually learn and produce similar results at home.
  • Production Value: We’re not paying to watch a youtube video shot on a cell phone. We want to see all the angles and the exact details of what the chef is doing. If you’re going to charge money, it better be beautiful and entertaining as well.
  • Value for the Price: How much do you actually get for what you pay. We’re not looking at price alone here, we’re looking at the value. If you could get a cheap steak for $5 or one of those Giant Wagyu Tomahawk steaks for $10 which would you choose? That’s the difference between price and value. Obviously this is subjective but we’ll do our best to break it down for you.
  • Final Summary and Recommendations: Too long didn’t read? Click here to jump to the conclusions. If you’re seriously considering making a purchase I would recommend you take the extra 5 minutes to read through the full review so you can make an educated decision.

Masterclass Instructors: Aaron Franklin vs. Rick Browne, Ph.B

Aaron Franklin

  • Owner and Pitmaster at Franklin Barbecue Restaurant
  • James Beard Award Winner
  • New York Times Best Selling Author of Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto
  • Host of BBQ with Franklin TV Show
  • Launching his own line of Barbecue Pits in 2019 called Franklin BBQ Pits

Rick Browne

  • Doctorate of Barbecue Philosophy from KCBS  (only 26 Ph.B’s in the world)
  • 16 Best Selling Cookbooks with over 170,000 copies sold
  • Host and Executive Producer of “Barbecue America” and “Ready, Aim…Grill” TV shows
  • 4x Master Judge at the Memphis in May World Championships of Barbecue
  • Award winning Photojournalist
  • Finalist on the hit TV Show Chopped

If you ask me, both instructors are Gods among Men. If you go solely on the resume Rick probably inches Aaron out a bit, but Rick has been around much longer and Aaron is more of the up and coming star. I’m sure I could go on for pages and pages just elaborating on the accomplishments of these gentlemen. Both are absolute experts who have mastered their craft through years of experience.

Aaron Franklin: 5 Stars

Rick Browne: 5 Stars

Course Content Quality: Texas Style BBQ vs. Cooking With Smoke 101

Aaron Franklins Texas Style BBQ Course Content Review:

The course comes with 16 lessons. 13 of the lessons are actual content and the other 3 are an intro video, Aaron’s background, and a little bit about the history of brisket. The videos vary in length, but you can expect to sit through about 20-30 minutes per lesson. Between all of the lessons you only learn 3 recipes (Brisket, Pork Rib, Pork Butt) so there is a lot of filler content to stretch these videos to their length. With that said, the 5 brisket video lessons were incredibly detailed and with Franklin’s reputation it’s hard to find a better teacher on the subject of brisket.

Another consideration with the course is that Aaron teaches on a giant wood burner smoker. While this may be great for restaurant owners or barbecue competition teams, the average person uses charcoal, pellets, or an electric smoker so there is a big disconnect. Two videos and at least an hour worth of the content included in the master class talk about wood and how to build/maintain a fire.

Overall the course did well on the content it covered, but it just doesn’t cover that much. The majority of the course goes very very deep into brisket, which is great if you want to learn one how to make one thing very well. I think the average backyard meat smoker will struggle to find true value in this course while the restauranteur will find it priceless.

Course Content Rating: 3.5 stars

Rick Browne’s Cooking With Smoke 101 Course Content Review:

Inside the course there are 91 lessons comprised of pdfs, videos, and app download files. Grill Master University went with a different approach than Masterclass and cut their videos to mostly between 6-8 minutes in length. There is very little if any filler content in the video lessons which makes them more easily consumed and rewatched at a later date to refresh. Throughout the course, students learn 17 different smoker recipes covering a variety of food types including chicken, pork, beef, seafood, sides, and desserts. One of the things I liked the most about this course was that each video lesson includes a set of “Master Tips” which point out different strategies, common pitfalls to avoid, and interesting history facts that make for great conversation starters during a cookout.

Rick Browne teaches on a vertical charcoal smoker which is similar and more relatable to the types of cookers most backyard smokers will be using at home. Every recipe also comes with a detailed barbecue journal which explains every step Rick takes throughout the smoking so students can follow along at home. These journals and the recipes can be imported into the accompanying cell phone app for iOS or Android. The course is also sold as a bundle that includes meat smoking and temperature guides, a physical meat smoking journal, and a stainless steel smoker box for those people who are just starting out on a gas grill.

While Cooking With Smoke is shorter in overall length/duration, this course teaches a much wider array of smoking techniques and is much more suited to the backyard smoker. Whether you are just starting out or have years of experience, this course has a lot to offer.

Course Content Rating: 5 stars

Focus on the learning process: Masterclass vs. Grill Master University

Texas Style BBQ Masterclass:

The course shares a lot of good information and stories, but when it comes to providing students with a repeatable process for learning it was a bit light. They made a good attempt at this by showing how Aaron Franklin takes notes on butcher paper, but these teaching moments are brief and students never learn the process for making their own plans.

Masterclass provides a class forum where students can interact with each other and ask questions. This forum is very valuable due to the sheer number of students, but the activity rate drops off after students complete the course because it is hosted inside the masterclass website.

Learning Process Rating: 3.5

Cooking with Smoke:

There is more emphasis on the fundamentals and food preparation steps for making your rubs, sauces, and brines in the Grill Master University masterclass. The app downloads and barbecue journals also place a greater focus on giving the student the tools to succeed on their own. While optional, each module has a completion assignment where the student must cook one of the recipes in the course and share with their fellow classmates for feedback. Not everyone completes the assignments, but those that do learn at a much faster rate because they pair the trainings with real world practice.

Grill Master University hosts their forum/community on Facebook in a group they call The Grill Master Family. Not everyone has or uses facebook which could be a deterrent for some students, but the upside to this decision is that engagement and activity rates are very high because most people log into facebook on a regular basis.

Learning Process Rating: 4.5

Production Value: Aaron Franklin Masterclass vs. Rick Browne Grill Master University

Both classes are produced by a professional film crew and are very high quality. In terms of cinematic and entertainment value you can’t go wrong with either course. I do have to give Grill Master University a slight edge here again though because they put more work into post production.

In the Aaron Franklin course it’s easier to get lost following a recipe because you need to listen carefully to the audio to determine which ingredients and quantities he is adding.  In the Rick Browne course they provide graphic overlays and highlight each ingredient as he adds them. Nothing groundbreaking, but it was a very nice touch and helps provide visual cues when following along.

Masterclass Production Value Rating: 4.5 stars

Grill Master University Production Value Rating: 5 stars

Value For The Price: Aaron Franklin Texas Style BBQ vs. Rick Browne Cooking with Smoke 101

At the time of writing, the Aaron Franklin course sells for $90 and the Rick Browne course sells for $197. For the reasons stated above  I think it’s an easy argument to make that Grill Master University offers much more value for the price they charge.

Value for the money is something that everyone forms their own opinion on so I’m not going to give a star rating for this one. You can read the above analysis and come to your own conclusions on which course seems more worth it to you.

Final Summary and Recommendations

I hope this Aaron Franklin Masterclass review comparison with Rick Browne’s Grill Master University course was helpful. At the end of the day, I would encourage everybody to take advantage of an online training course to advance their skills. There’s always more to learn and every pitmaster has their own style of teaching.


​Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas Style BBQ

​Rick Browne Teaches Cooking with Smoke 101




Course Content Quality



Focus on Learning



​Production Value



Final Rating



While the Aaron Franklin course is well produced, it lost stars for having a lot of filler content, only teaching 3 recipes, and the fact that it is geared more towards restaurant owners with large wood burner smokers than the average backyard smoker trying to improve.

Rick Browne’s course was also very well produced and was able to win our final recommendation based on the fact that they teach 17 total recipes across multiple food categories, they use a very common charcoal smoker in the trainings and it is geared towards really providing a replicable learning process that any backyard smoker can follow.

Rick Browne
Cooking with Smoke 101 Course

​Cooking with Smoke 101 is an in depth online course that will teach you how to Master Your Smoker and cook delicious meals that are the envy of everyone you meet.

Aaron Franklin
Teaches Texas-Style BBQ

​Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.

Each Share Saves a Steak From Being Cooked Well Done
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