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NC Barbecue

If you’re not a North Carolina native, you may not realize that our state is deeply divided on the “Best” NC Barbecue.

NC has two very distinct styles – Eastern NC Barbecue which uses the whole hog and the sauce is thin, made with vinegar and spices, and Lexington Style Barbecue which only uses the pork shoulder and has a sauce made with vinegar, ketchup and pepper flakes (among other spices).

The History of North Carolina Barbecues

According to Guide To North Carolina Barbecue, a book written by Bob Garner, the North Carolina barbecues revolves around pork. Thanks to the Spanish who introduced America’s southern part to pigs. Cattle were such a letdown, but Swine thrived in North Carolina, more than anywhere else in the world. As a result, pork carried the day as the main meal. It got prepared and seasoned with red or black (or both) pepper, salt, vinegar, and oyster juice. It was then placed over an open fire to cook. Today, with the exemption of the oyster juice, this meal is referred to as the Eastern Style Barbecue.

When tomato gets added to the Eastern Style Barbecue sauce, it transforms to the Lexington or Western Style Barbecue, creating their main difference. The Eastern Style Barbecue also involves cooking all the hog’s parts. But not in the Lexington Style Barbecue that uses only the hog’s shoulder. If you love fatty and moist meat, then this barbecue will suit you. The dark meat from the pork shoulder is not only rich but also moist and fat.

While there aren’t any significant differences between the two types, you need to tempt your taste buds with both of them to realize what your preference is. Today, some barbecue joints are still using an open fire to cook their hog. But many use gas. It doesn’t matter what was used to cook it; what matters is whether it tastes good in the mouth! But it is for you to decide; how can you tell if you don’t have a bite?

Both barbecue styles are significant in the history of North Carolina. You wouldn’t want to visit and go back without a touch of North Carolina’s history attributed to any or both barbecues. Besides, you might just be asked what your NC barbecue preference is so why not be ready with the answer?

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Written by Dennis Franklin


NC Museum of Art