Pork Barbecue

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: about 2 pounds ;

    8 or More


Appears in

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

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.


  • 2 boneless pork loins (about pounds each), each tied with string
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  • Rub the pork lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Place a rack inside a baking dish. Place the pork loin on the rack and bake 15 minutes.
  • Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. Let the pork bake 5 hours. Turn the loin once each hour of baking time.
  • Meanwhile, heat a charcoal or gas grill. Arrange 2 handfuls of soaked wood chips—such as hickory, oak, or mesquite—used for smoking (available in hardware stores) on the coals, separating them so that they are not placed directly under the meat. Put the meat on the grill and cover. Let smoke at a low temperature about 10 minutes. Take care that the coals or hot surface does not flame up as the meat cooks. You can even scrape away the coals from directly beneath the meat, allowing it to cook away from intense heat. Or if there are double-burner units, turn off the heat of one unit and place the meat on this side. Let the other unit continue to heat.
  • The pork is now ready to be served. It may be served sliced, cut into chunks, or finely chopped. The finely chopped version is generally considered the best. Serve on platters or as fillings for sandwiches.