If you can’t make a whole hog, don’t fret! The Godfather’s Eastern North Carolina Style Pork Shoulder recipe and the accompanying slightly spicy vinegar sauce still satisfies your North Carolina barbecue cravings!
The Godmother and I fondly look back to our last cross-country road trip as the Great Barbecue Tour. It was a hot summer, our belongings packed in two separate cars, and it was our first cross-country road trip with a baby riding along. It sounds daunting, but we made our own fun out of it by purposely stopping at or near major barbecue destinations. Kansas City and St. Louis were definite stops along the way for ribs, brisket and burnt ends. Memphis was too far out of our way, but we did manage to find great barbecue in Nashville. But then, there was Carolina…
Carolina Style is distinct from the other styles in that it is divided into three different regions, one of them being entirely owned by the State of South Carolina. The other two regions are entirely dependent on which side of Tobacco Road you’re on. If you’re on the west side of North Carolina, your barbecue will be tomato-based. If you’re on the east side of North Carolina, vinegar plays a starring role, with ketchup playing a supporting role. Apparently, ketchup is banned in South Carolina because it doesn’t exist in their barbecue. Regardless, all are very much tasty, and they all share a commonality that doesn’t exist in the other American barbecue destinations.
Whereas most regions focus on particular cut of meat when serving, like pork ribs (beef ribs if you’re in Texas) or beef brisket, Carolina Style serves up the whole hog. It’s a medley of textures, and it is definitely the sauce that brings it all together. Good luck getting everyone to agree which sauce is the best.
Eastern North Carolina Style intrigued us, especially after try
ing some in Raleigh and then watching the “Cooked” documentary on Netflix. Unfortunately, my grill is not big enough to fit a whole pig, so I attempted to replicate this style with a pork shoulder. We very much enjoyed the end result, and hope you do too.
- 5-6 lb Boston Butt pork shoulder
- Oak wood chips
- *For the rub*
- 1 T paprika
- 2 t light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 t smoked paprika
- 1/2 t garlic powder
- 1/2 t ground mustard
- 1/2 t ground black pepper
- 1/2 t sea salt
- 1/2 t celery seed
- *For the sauce*
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 5 t sea salt
- 4 t crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 t ground black pepper
- 1 t ground white pepper
In a bowl, mix all rub ingredients until uniform. Apply the rub to all sides of the pork shoulder and let it rest while you prepare the sauce and grill.
Place all sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Stir the mixture while bringing to a boil. Once it reaches boiling, remove from heat.
Soak the wood chips in water. Prepare your grill by placing coals on opposite sides of the grill. Add the wood chips along the inner side of the coals on the grill. If you have a gas grill, only ignite the side burners, but place the wood chips in foil shaped like a paper boat. Keep the grill temperature to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit with the vents half-closed at the start.
Place the pork shoulder over the center of the grill. Allow the grill temperature to decrease to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and let it smoke for 4 to 6 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
Carefully remove the pork shoulder from the grill, place it on a serving plate or aluminum tray, and cover with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes.
Remove the foil, and shred or chop the meat as desired. Serve the meat with sauce on the side or on the meat itself.