the good life
Pork butt, that is.
The invitation may have said “BBQ,” but flipping patties
on an outdoor grill does not equal those three sacred letters.
When it comes to tradition—barbecue is as deep rooted as
it comes. As for the authentic definition, it’s a bit ambiguous
where the term actually came from. But we do know one
thing: it’s all about the low and the slow. Real barbecue is
cooking meat over an indirect source of heat (the low) for a
long amount of time (the slow). The result is a tender, melt-in-your-mouth piece of protein that’s meant to be savored
as leisurely as it was cooked. The best part of barbecue is
the fact that you can get it almost any way you please. Like
your sauce sticky and slathered over ribs? Head to Memphis. Looking for a little sweet with your heat drizzled over
that pile of pulled pork? To eastern Carolina we go. But it
doesn’t stop there, as there are nearly a dozen states claiming that have the craftiest ‘cue in the nation. So how do you
know what you’ll get and where?
Don’t worry, I’ve got your ‘cue queue below.
North Carolina is famous for racking up the wins—and
I’m not talking about basketball. When it comes to being a
barbecue champ, Carolinians know what’s up. Pig experts
here dish it out any way you like, depending on which side
of the state you’re on. Eastern Carolina is all about the
whole hog; while western Carolina is more privy to pork
shoulder. If we’re comparing flavor profiles, though, you
might not tell a big difference. Pork shoulder packs a more
succulent texture and stronger smoke flavor—but that tang
on your tongue is vinegar and hot peppers nonetheless.
Can’t get enough of that notorious North Carolina pulled
pork? You’ll want to throw that thank you back to the Spanish settlers who brought those pigs to the region—making
it famous for picnic items like that juicy shredded meat.
The great state of North Carolina isn’t the only Carolina
throwing their pork into the smoke ring. When it comes to
South Carolina style, one word comes to mind: mustard.
Thanks to the large German heritage found in South Carolina’s lineage, this thick zesty sauce is poured on heavy. But
it doesn’t stop there. South Carolina is actually known for
several different specialties to slather over their slaw-filled
sandwiches. That vinegar and pepper variety isn’t called
“Eastern Carolina style” for no reason. The use of that tangy
sauce stretches from the top to bottom of the eastern part of
both Carolinas. Craving something with a little more richness? Head upstate for a tomato-based vinegar sauce that
will satisfy your heat tooth with a pinch of peppers.
Next stop: Georgia. Put down the peaches. We’re here
for the ham. Unlike the whole hog found in eastern North
Carolina, Georgia is cooking up mostly pork shoulders and
hearty hams. But don’t get me wrong, this state is all for
one and one for ‘cue. As they dabble in a variety of styles,
the great sauce debate doesn’t really exist here like it does
among the Carolinas. Across the state—sauces run free. Stop
off in Atlanta to find a little bit of everything from a vine-gar-based sauce with a tomatoey tang to one that really cuts
the mustard. Head to Brunswick for the notorious Brunswick Stew made with chicken, pork and hearty green peas.
Just don’t argue with the locals about who stewed it first.
‘Cue the Smoke Signal
Why America Goes Hog Wild for Barbecue
Your backyard may be brimming with brews, burgers, and dogs—but call this a “barbecue” in front of a true ‘cue aficionado and you’re likely to get your butt handed to you.
by Fanny Slater