Several years ago I traveled for The New York Times to Lexington and Greensboro, North Carolina, to sample and explore the barbecues of each region. When I returned, I submitted a full account of my adventures, including the establishments in which I had dined, the techniques for barbecuing, a description of the professional ovens used, the woods burned, and so on. My editors requested recipes for preparing a barbecue in the home and I insisted that you cannot reproduce the same product in home ovens—it simply would not work because of the smoking conditions. They were insistent and I lay awake at night trying to find some compromise. At 6:00 A.M. I decided to experiment. I heated my home oven to 500 degrees, put in a batch of pork loins on a rack, and baked them 15 minutes. I reduced the oven heat to very low—250 degrees—and baked that pork 5 hours, until it was meltingly tender. I smoked it briefly on my barbecue grill to give it flavor, and chopped it to serve on hamburger buns. I have had numerous Southern cooks tell me that it is the best homemade barbecue they have ever sampled.
Speaking of Southern barbecues, each region or state of the South seems to differ as to the preferred meats to be cooked over hot coals. Quite generally speaking, North Carolinians seem to have a preference for pork; Georgians for fresh pork or chickens; Texans seem to prefer beef, and so on. The sauces, too, vary from place to place, although most of them are made with vinegar and ketchup with an emphasis on one or the other. In North Carolina the emphasis seems to be on vinegar; in Georgia on ketchup; and in Texas either one or the other, the sauce frequently spiced with a little chili powder. To tell the truth, the preferences vary from family recipe to family recipe.
© 1987 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.