Eastern North Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork Sandwich With BBQ Sauce
It Isn't as Scary as It Looks!
This recipe is for Eastern North Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwiches. The barbecue sauce is homemade and has a vinegar base. It is tangy, spicy, and sweet. Grilling is great in the fall. Most people associate grilling with summertime, but it is also fun to do on a crisp fall afternoon. Put on a sweater, grab a pumpkin-spiced ale, and enjoy the smell of roasting pork wafting through the autumn air.
I know it looks complicated, but I promise it isn't. Initially, this recipe intimidated me, but I did it successfully. And I can tell you that there's really nothing to it. If you really want to solidify your reputation as a master BBQer, invite some friends over and give it a try.
It is best to get your pork bone-in. Leave all of the skin and fat on it. I used an 8 lb pork shoulder with the bone still in and the skin still on.
- Pat the pork dry with paper towels.
- Rub it all over with a thin layer of olive oil. You don't need much, once the pork starts cooking, its own fat will moisten it.
- Generously season it all over with salt and pepper.
- Optional: Put the pork fat-side-up in some kind of grill-safe container. This is to catch the drippings so they don't cause flare-ups or end up all over the bottom of the grill. I used a cast-iron skillet, but you can use a disposable aluminum casserole tray or a cast-iron pan. If not, just throw the meat on the grates. As long as it is not directly over the flame, it is not likely to cause flare-ups.
- Put the pork on the grill fat-side-up. Make sure it isn't directly over the flame/coals! The fat will protect and moisten the meat while it cooks. You will not need to turn the meat at all.
- Cook the pork slowly with the lid down (vents open on a charcoal grill) for 4 to 5 hours. The grill temperature should be between 325° and 350° F (162° and 176° C).
- Call all of your friends and invite them over for pulled pork sandwiches. Take the dog for a walk. Clean the house. Make Carolina-Style Barbecue Sauce and KFC coleslaw (links to instructions above).
- When the meat is done, a meat thermometer inserted into the center should read between 190° and 200° F (87° and 93° C).
- Take the pork off the heat and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or so until it is just cool enough for you to handle. It should still be hot for the next steps.
- Pull the meat from the skin, fat, and bone. Go ahead and set aside the "chitlins" or "burnt ends." These are the crisp, blackened bits of fat.
- Using 2 forks or your fingers, shred the meat into small strips and put it in a big bowl or casserole dish.
- Chop up the chitlins and mix them in with the meat.
- While it's still warm, moisten the pork with 1–2 cups of Carolina-style barbecue sauce.
- Serve it on buns with coleslaw and extra barbecue sauce on the side.
How to Prepare a Grill for Indirect Cooking
"Indirect cooking" means that you don't cook the meat directly over the flame. If you cook such a huge piece of meat with direct heat, the outside will burn, and the inside will remain raw. Instead, you must cook the heat with convection.
- If using a charcoal grill, set up a 2-zone fire. Then, close the lid and open the grill vents so the inside of the grill heats up like an oven and hot air circulates all over the food.
- If you're using a gas grill, create the effect of a 2-zone fire by leaving half of the burners on and half off. Keep the lid closed.
Put the meat in a pyrex baking dish or foil pan and moisten it with a little more barbecue sauce. Cover it with foil, and cook it in a 250° F (120°C) oven for 30 minutes or until hot.