Barbecue has many interpretations or “styles” across the U.S. and we could argue all day about which one is the best. If you ask me, I’m a fan of them all.
This week I’m sharing with you my take on the Carolina Style of Barbecue. When I think of Carolina Style, pulled pork is the first thing that pops into my mind.
Smoking a whole hog is an art form for these folks and they’ve been perfecting it for many years. The Carolina style also varies depending on what part of the state you’re in but that’s a whole different argument. For me Carolina Style Pulled Pork has to have 3 things: It has to be pork, has to be slow smoked over hickory, and it has to have a tangy, vinegar sauce.
Whole Hog is the pitmaster’s choice when it comes to pork in this region, but for the average guy, it’s not the most viable option. That’s why we are doing this style of Barbecue at home using a Pork Butt (Boston Butt roast).
First you need to source a Pork Butt from your local grocery store or warehouse club. Look for one in the 8-10lbs range preferably bone-in.
Remove the pork butt from the cryovac packaging and rinse under cool water. Pat the outside dry with paper towels and place in a large platter or pan.
For Carolina Style Pulled Pork we only use one seasoning on the pork……Salt. That’s it…no sugar or bbq rub at all…just salt.
Coat the outside everywhere with a good layer of Kosher salt (you’ll about ½ cup at least) and let the pork butt hang out until you fire up the smoker. It doesn’t hurt to even do this the night before you plan to cook. Just take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to smoking.
Set your smoker up for a good long, Low-and-Slow cook. You want it to run in the 250 degree range for 8-10 hours for this Carolina Style Pulled Pork. For fuel I start with a good base of charcoal and I use chunks of Hickory wood for the smoke. I add the Hickory to the coal as needed for the first 5 hours.
Once your pit has stabilized in the 250 range, add 2 chunks of the wood and place the pork butt Fat Side Up on the cooking grate. Close the lid and kick back for a while because good bbq takes time.
The fat will render down over the top of the butt as it cooks but in Carolina the pitmasters also use a Vinegar based sauce for extra moisture. It’s the combination of Hickory smoke, salt, and this vinegar moppin’ sauce on the pork that really makes Carolina Style Pulled Pork.
Here’s my recipe for the Carolina Style Pulled Pork Vinegar Sauce
– 1 quart Apple Cider Vinegar
– 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
– 2 Tablespoons Crushed Red Pepper flakes
– 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper Ground
Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl and let the sauce rest for at least 2 hours. Overnight is recommended.
Once the Carolina Style Pulled Pork has smoked for 2 hours take a peak and see how the outside is looking. If it looks a little dry go ahead and mop or drizzle the top of the butt with the vinegar sauce.
Repeat this process every couple of hours until the pork butt hits 200 degrees internal. It will take in the neighborhood of 8-10 hours for the pork butt to fully cook but don’t rush it.
Once you can stick a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the butt away from the bone and it feel really soft, it’s done. You should see temps around 198-200 degrees on the dial.
Remove the Carolina Style Pulled Pork from the smoker and place on a platter. Don’t plan on tearing it apart right at this moment.
Large cuts of meat need to rest for a few minutes, so cover the platter in aluminum foil and let it hang out on the table for 20-30 minutes. It won’t hurt to place it in a dry cooler with a couple old towels for up to 2-3 hours.
After the pork butt has rested, remove the blade bone and shred the meat by hand for a pulled texture or you can also chop it to a finer consistency like they do in Carolina joints. I prefer it pulled with bits of the crunchy bark mixed throughout.
Last but not least finish off the pile of Carolina Style Pulled Pork deliciousness with a good dose of the Vinegar Sauce. The acidity balances out the flavor of the pork and the peppers add just enough heat to let you know it’s there.
Toss the pork a little by hand and get ready to eat. The only thing you need is a bun and some coleslaw.
If you really want to taste authentic smoked pork, give this Carolina Style Pulled Pork recipe a try.
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Carolina Style Pulled Pork