What Is North Carolina-Style BBQ?
Submitted By: H. Kent Craig
For as long as there's been civilization, for as long as
people have raised domestic pigs as livestock, civilized human beings have
also eaten those same-said domestically-raised pigs, usually by cooking them
slowly over an open fire-pit of some sort. Then how and why did
extremely-slow-cooked pork carcasses evolve over the past three hundred years
into a carnivore delicacy to be found virtually nowhere else save within the
geographic boundaries of the State Of North Carolina? That's a question I've
been researching as well as pondering all my age of awareness life, and still
remain basically clueless as to exactly why.
You would think that virtually any State, any location
with a predominately rural culture, would have evolved by sheer haute gourmet
tastefulness and preferences for the finest ways of cooking and preparing
pork flesh a meat dish that would be very similar to NC-BBQ, but that's not
the case. I've traveled and eaten pork and beef BBQ in a majority of these
Fifty States, and no where outside of North Carolina do you find barbeque the
way it's cooked and served in N.C.
NC-Style-BBQ General Knowledge
All NC-BBQ is very slow cooked pork carcasses, generally
cooked for a minimum of 16-18 hours at a very low temperature for pork, often
250 degrees or slightly less, sometimes up to 300 degrees but never more than
that. With the (very real) safety concerns about parasites in pork, it's
important for the pork to be cooked completely through, obviously; if you
ever see any pink meat in NC-BBQ, quit eating it right then, and raise hell.
After cooking, the meat is pulled from the bones, and then pulled apart into
bite-size chunks, and then usually chopped further with a large cleaving
knife until a texture is reached that suits the chef. Almost never is
"real" NC-BBQ ever served sliced, except at certain restaurants
that cater a lot to non-NC-natives and the clientele demands such.
By slow cooking at low temperature, the meat is allowed
to "age" without drying out. Almost never is any kind of sauce
applied during cooking, save a tad of vinegar-based with a few spices only
"sauce" which isn't meant as a flavoring agent, only as a hydration
aid to prevent excess binding of the outside part of the meat. I've never
cooked a hog in my life, NC-style or any other way, not for a pig-picking
(more on the cultural grail of NC-style "pig-picking's" later) or
any other reason, so I'm not going to claim to know let alone understand the
culinary alchemy that takes place by staying up all night and maintaining the
vigil of monitoring the carcass until the next day. All I know is that
cooking NC-style pork BBQ is a great job for insomniac carnivores with
enhanced taste buds.