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Eastern North Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork Sandwich With BBQ Sauce

Stephanie loves to travel and eat expensive food. She also loves to cook.

Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

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.


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Pat the pork dry with paper towels.
  2. 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.
  3. Generously season it all over with salt and pepper.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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).
  8. When the meat is done, a meat thermometer inserted into the center should read between 190° and 200° F (87° and 93° C).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Using 2 forks or your fingers, shred the meat into small strips and put it in a big bowl or casserole dish.
  12. Chop up the chitlins and mix them in with the meat.
  13. While it's still warm, moisten the pork with 1–2 cups of Carolina-style barbecue sauce.
  14. 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.
This pork shoulder was barbecued with indirect grilling.

This pork shoulder was barbecued with indirect grilling.

To Reheat

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.


Darrel Cahoon on March 14, 2020:

In norfolk Va. Go to Dumars real pulled pork from a hamburger joint.

Dave on March 31, 2019:

I was Truck driver from Ontario Canada, who learned how good those Pulled pork Sandwiches were, at the side of a few of those Huge Cotton mills in North Carolina. Those shacks that threw the Pig On the BBQ late in the evening, then about 8 in the morning it was taken off, shredded up, mixed all up then they put some on bun, add coleslaw and charge you a dollar for it (1992), these folks fed the folks who worked in the Cotton mill.

I thank you for sharing this, I once picked a folder from a North Carolina Rest area telling how to make this for a crowd, but an ex Girlfriend kept that many years ago.

Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on January 03, 2017:

Good to know for my future barbecues!

Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on January 03, 2017:

Ahh my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I still find it very complicated every time I make it but always worth the effort. Enjoy!

PipsBarbecue on March 18, 2016:

Chitlins are hog intestines. The crispy fatty bits are "cracklins".

Alex on October 19, 2014:

I am currently in the process of making this. I made a few minor changes like letting the rub I did sit for 15 hours. I'm also using a gas grill and have hickory chips wrapped up in tinfoil and it's smoking like a champ.

Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on October 23, 2011:

First of all thanks for the comments and the compliments on Nala, she's a ham and loves the flattery.

And this sandwich is really wonderful. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich at a restaurant a few days ago, and all they did was smother the pork with store bought BBQ sauce. I was really disappointed. The vinegar sauce goes perfectly in this sandwich. This recipe is surprisingly easy and fun to make, and it tastes wonderful.

Of course, there are many types of barbecue, and my other favorite is Kansas city bbq, because I love the sauce, but I haven't dared to try that one yet.

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on October 23, 2011:

Carolina really holds one of the world's most delicious BBqs! I actually haven't been into pulled pork thing, but having read a lot about this delicious pork sandwich has made me try one which truly has amazed me. Thanks for this stephaniedas...and for the recipes as well. Really cute Nala you have. Voted up!

Stephanie Das (author) from Miami, US on October 08, 2011:

@thranax- Its definitely better than a cheap hamburger! Thanks for the comment.

@Attikos- Thanks for bringing this up. You've made a good point. Eastern BBQ is chopped and the sauce is more to highlight the flavor of the meat, whereas here I included direction for shredding the meat and the sauce adds a lot of its own flavor. However, I got this recipe from a Carolina chef at a restaurant where I worked, who also gave me her personal recipe for Lexington sauce, and it's quite different! Maybe it has more sugar because she was using it in a Maryland restaurant and wanted to appeal to more northern taste buds. Anyway, from my experience, there is so much regional variation that the debate over proper terminology in the BBQ circuit might go on forever. Everyone seems to have their own version of the recipe. Thanks for commenting on this fact.

Attikos from East Cackalacky on October 08, 2011:

I'd say this is more of a Piedmont barbecue style, both in the pulling of the pork and in the sauce. Eastern Carolina barbecue is typically chopped and served with a thin sauce of vinegar and pepper with no tomato or sugar in it.

Andrew from Rep Boston MA on October 08, 2011:

Sounds really yummy. I love pulled pork sandwiches and don't eat them enough. I normally settle for cheaply priced hamburgers at my local drive-thous.


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