What is real Carolina style whole pig BBQ?

by Lawrence Heath November 01, 2014 2 Comments

 Vander-pig-260x260

On a warm sunny Carolina Friday afternoon, I loaded up the SUV with gear, packed my freshly mixed pork rub with coffee pepper, picked up a friend, hooked up a large wood burning pig cooker and headed to the east side of Fayetteville to cook what I thought would be my native BBQ, eastern Carolina style BBQ, in a whole pig cook-off in Vander, NC. My friend, John, and I set up our cooker between two veteran teams, Smoke'n Ribs BBQ Pit & Catering out of Castle Hayne, NC and Big Hawg out of Clinton, NC. We received our pig at 9:30 on Friday night with several additional rules not listed in the few materials received before the cook. First, no seasoning could be applied to the meat. None. Secondly, only salt could be used to enhance or crisp up the skin. Yep, we could not use any brown sugar or ground pepper. As we received our pig and final instructions, I quickly surmised the BBQ I cooked over the years for various family and friend gatherings might have its roots a little closer to Memphis than the place of my birth, eastern North Carolina. We trimmed excess fat off the hog, added the only seasoning we had brought to the skin, pork rub with coffee pepper, and stuffed the 103-pound pig in the smoker. Normally, I cook a whole pig for private parties and group retreats for twelve to thirteen hours slow roasted over a wood fire of hickory coals. Nevertheless, after receiving our pig at 9:30, trimming him up a bit and loading him in the cooker we only had about ten hours until judging. We guesstimated increasing the regular cooking temperature from 225 degrees to near 300 to 325 would make up the time. While our pig smoked, my teammate, John Collins, and I helped a neighboring competitor pit boss Louis Mc Dougal, of the team Big Hawg, carry his pig to the prep table while Louis shared a few tips as he prepped his prize winning pig pictured above which took 2nd place. The tips he shared included how to trim additional skin from the hams to give them a more meaty look by using a saw to trim portions of the exposed bones down to the level of the meat and using a small tool to remove the marrow from the outer rim of the spin and fill in the space with some salt for more color contrast. Our neighboring competitor on the other side of our site, Smoke'n Ribs BBQ Pit & Catering, had placed third in the State Championship in 2013. Lead cook Daryl also shared his successful tips with us along with indulgent banana pudding at about 3am. [caption id="attachment_228" align="alignnone" width="300"]Banana pudding cooked and shared by team Smoke'n Ribs BBQ Pit Banana pudding cooked and shared by team Smoke'n Ribs BBQ Pit[/caption] As we were greeted by the morning sun, the event was shaping up to be a beauty contest of sorts with the light colored pork meat cooked primarily with gas cookers stood in steep contrast to our darkly smoked pig roasted over a fire of hickory coals. [caption id="attachment_229" align="alignnone" width="300"]Our Fire Roasted Pig Our Fire Roasted Pig[/caption] Lastly, we learned the judges needed vinegar sauce to dip the meat as they tasted at a table set with plates, utensils, cloth napkins and thematic decor to pull in the remaining points for presentation on the judges score card. [caption id="attachment_227" align="alignnone" width="300"]New friend Louis waited for judges New friend Louis of Big Hawg BBQ team[/caption] I learned a lot, made new friends, and even though our darker smoke-colored pig was not on the leader board our neighboring teams stopped by for second tasting samples of my rendition of eastern Carolina style BBQ roasted over a fire of hickory coals. What is real BBQ on your table? Just leave me a comment below.


Lawrence Heath
Lawrence Heath

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2 Responses

Eddie Booth
Eddie Booth

January 14, 2016

Lawrence,
I can’t believe gas cooked cue beats meat cooked wth hickory coals. The sweet smoked flavor is the cue I learned to love. Capt. Bob Melton cooking pit in Rocky Mount was legendary and B’s BarBQ in Greenville, NC still does it that way. Not the sttuff of today’s contest, but the standard I continue to judge.
I look forward to enjoying your a heaping platter of yours. From 7 to 77 I have tasted many immitators and always have an appetite for real cue!
May you and your buddy keep the passion so the tradition never dies.
Finish well,
Eddie

Lawrence
Lawrence

January 14, 2016

Thanks for the comment Eddie. My family cooked over wood coals when I was a kid but have moved to gas. I am still old school and like to use wood for burgers, turkey or pork BBQ.

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