Time to get back to basics.
Strap on your reading specs, forget everything you ever knew about BBQ and join me as I take you on a journey inside Lexington Style NC BBQ.
First let's define NC BBQ (source
The big difference between eastern barbecue and western - or Lexington-style, as it's sometimes called - barbecue is that ketchup is commonly added to the sauce of western barbecue. The other difference is that in the east they use the whole hog, both white and dark meat, while in the west they cook only the pork shoulder, which is dark meat and thus more fatty, moister and richer.
Ok, now that we know that Lexington Style
- Sauce contains ketchup
- Pork Shoulder (instead of whole hog)
- Chopped not pulled
I should also let you know a few other tidbits about NC Q.
- It is Pork shoulder or whole hog. (No beef, no ribs, no chicken....)
- Outside of a finishing sauce, there is no sauce used with NC BBQ, also there is not usually any rub used (other than coarse salt).
- Cooking temps are usually in the 275 range
- Whole logs or large splits are used, with little or no regards to TBS.
Here is my version I have been cooking for 30+ years and learned from folks much older than me who knew their way around a pit in NC.
I couldn't locate a whole shoulder out here on the left coast, so I picked up the next best thing.
A ~10lb butt & a ~10lb picnic (these two cuts are what make up a whole shoulder)
It is important to get meat from both cuts to get the true texture you would get in a NC Q joint.
They went on the smoker - naked.
that's right NAKED! No rub, no sauce..NAKED! just as God intended.
(picnic on the left, butt on the right)
After the meat has developed a good sweat, it is time to pour salt in it's wounds.
Coarse kosher salt is sprinkled liberally on the top (fat/skin is on bottom) <Important step!
and literally...I mean liberally.
Leave meat alone at this point until it hits 185 - 190 IT (no foil - ever!)
Once it hits the magic number, it goes into a cooler to rest.
I pulled these at 3am and they sat in cooler until 9am
After I pulled them from cooler, I put into bus tub to separate.
Picnic on left, butt on right
In true NC Q tradition, these were pulled into the major chunks and muscles first, then they get tossed with the finishing sauce.
On a side note: For those who question how much fat renders out in a cook. This is the fat I found un-rendered when I separated the chunks. (less than 1 cup)
note cleanliness of bone. The skin you see was on the picnic, and pulled right off cleanly as well.
Now back to the finishing sauce...
Lexington Style Finishing Sauce
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or up to 1 tablespoon, if you like hotter sauce)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
- Mix all ingredients together and let sit 10 minutes. Add to chopped barbecue when hot to season the meat and keep it from drying out.
Toss it...Toss it good.
Then those chunks and muscles get coarse chopped.
To complete the NC BBQ sandwich, you must use CWB (cheap white buns), and some of the finishing sauce as a dipping sauce.
You also MUST use slaw: white coleslaw or red BBQ slaw - your choice.
That is how you make a traditional NC BBQ sandwich, anything else is not.