Being a good North Carolina boy, I have very acute attraction to pigs. I’ve eaten BBQ sandwiches since before I can remember my multiplication tables. Every church fundraiser or every July 4th pool club party was a sure bet that we’d get wonderful pulled pork sandwiches. These were topped with no real sauce per se and cole slaw then wrapped in wax paper. Since I was also husky (according to Sears) I’d be able to pack back about as many as they would send my way….thus began my great cuchon love affair with succulent fatty meat, seasoned to perfection.
The big debate in NC is Western Versus Eastern style BBQ. Eastern NC BBQ is just plain pig with salt and pepper and the occasional butter. There is no rub, no sauce, nothing but the great flavor of the hog itself. The meat is cooked without any type of rub or sauce and once on the plate, then you can add sauce. Eastern NC sauce is vinegar-based, supplanted with peppers and usually has a great kick/heat to it. Once you add this to great pork meat, the marriage is obvious bliss. Western NC BBQ is very similar but the end result is a little tamer, little sweeter and less vinegary. Most of the cooking is done the same, but the sauce has a more tomato-based feel to it. What was strong with vinegar is now calmed by the tomato paste or sometimes ketchup that is combined to create a “lite” version of Memphis-style sauce. Whereas Eastern NC sauce is almost mysterious – ‘what is that flavor? I can’t put my finger on it’ -- in Western NC, pitmasters will actually add the sauce into the pulled pork when they are chopping and pulling, mixing in before they serve it.
The debate makes me tired, simply because so many people talk about it and have their opinions. I’ll just say that I have never met BBQ that I didn’t really like, except bull’s testicles, and both NC styles have their pros and cons. ….but what else is out there? Last January, at our Beer Bourbon and BBQ show in NYC I got into a conversation with one of our guests about BBQ and he couldn’t stop talking about Texas BBQ. His stance is obvious that Texas BBQ is superior in every way to any other BBQ in the world. Mind you, he was from Pennsylvania and had never been Texas, but from what he had tasted at the New York BBQ restaurants he’d frequented, he was sure that Texas is the purest form of BBQ in these United States. Who am I to argue? But I needed to find out for myself.
Cue the ZZ Top music………
Click "read more" below to see where our amazing Texas Brisket Odyssey took us.