This is the relatively dry, spicy style of pork barbecue, complete with a little skin crackling, for which eastern North Carolina is renowned. It’s featured at hundreds of barbecue joints and social pig pickin’s throughout the region. The cooked meat is either chopped or pulled and doused not with the sweeter, tomatoey sauces used for Lexington-style barbecue in the western part of the state, but the classic vinegar moppin’ sauce.
Traditionally, whole hogs are slowly smoked on huge grates over hickory and/or oak fires. Given the impracticality of digging a large pit in the ground and roasting a whole pig, a very good approximation of eastern-style Carolina ’cue can be accomplished with pork shoulder and an ordinary kettle grill. Typically, this barbecue is served with coleslaw, Brunswick stew, maybe baked beans, hush puppies, and either beer or iced tea.–James Villas
LC Pork Aplenty
The author notes something quite important–the chopped barbecue freezes well. He (and we) think you really ought to consider roasting two pork shoulders (aka pork butts) rather than one. We don’t think we need to divulge why.
North Carolina Pulled Pork
- Quick Glance
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 7 H
- Makes 10 or so servings
Special Equipment: a small (1 1/2 - to 2-pound) bag hickory wood chips and a 10-pound bag charcoal briquets
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
Recipe Testers Reviews
I don’t believe it’s possible to write a recipe for barbecue of any kind. There are too many variables: the type of cooker you have, the size and shape of your hunk of meat, the weather, the type of wood or charcoal you use—too many variables to distill into one tried-and-true recipe. All one can really do is say, this is how I do it, best of luck to you!
With that in mind, I’d encourage you to try this recipe. This recipe is written for a Weber kettle grill, and I don’t own one—so if you’re like me, don’t let that part stop you. The important thing is to come up with a method of indirect grilling. I used a Brinkmann vertical smoker, adjusting the time for the difference in temperature. Mine took about 8 hours total, cooking at around 225 degrees.
It took me a few tries to find a cut of pork that was the right size, with enough skin and fat. This is important. You don’t want a cut that’s been trimmed clean. Talk to the butcher; you may need to special order one.
The sauce recipe here is a traditional Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce. It’s great with a fatty cut like pork shoulder because the acidity balances the fat in the meat. I’d encourage you to try it.
Just be flexible and prepared to adjust the timing. One modification I would suggest is using large chunks of soaked hardwood instead of wood chips, to provide smoke. The wood chips, even soaked, will burn up very quickly. The larger chunks will last you about an hour, and by that time, you’ll need to add more coals anyway. Barbecue is fickle. You aim for a time and a temperature, but it’s done when it’s done, so have another beer and enjoy the process.