East Carolina BBQ and Lexington BBQ


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

From Scratch: 10 Meals, 175 Recipes, and Dozens of Techniques You Will Use Over and Over

From Scratch

By Michael Ruhlman

Published 2019

  • About

I’ll start with perhaps my favorite use of the slow-roasted pork shoulder technique: East Carolina BBQ, which I first encountered when I was in college down there in the 1980s and have adored ever since. The straightforward vinegar and brown sugar mix was meant for pork shoulder cooked low and slow over a smoky fire—that’s true barbecue. I highly recommend cutting your raw pork shoulder into slabs and grilling them over flames or, better still, throwing a lot of soaked wood chips in your charcoal grill and getting that pork very smoky. Once grilled or smoked, the slabs of pork can be slow-cooked in a covered pot as noted above.

If you’re not grilling or adding some form of smoke, then use the Lexington-style sauce, which includes, by definition, some form of tomato product, typically ketchup, as I suggest here. (Locals never include fish sauce, but I do—fish sauce ties together all the umami ingredients going on in this sauce.)

I like to serve either type on a soft bun, with bread and butter pickles and chopped pickled chiles along with some of the pickled chile liquid. If you order this in the South, you might very well be served a couple slices of Wonder Bread on the side. In North Carolina, you’d likely get a side of hushpuppies, basically cornbread batter deep-fried in bite-sized portions, and fried okra with your pile of barbecue. But you can serve barbecue however you like—on English muffins would be excellent, and the meat would make the beginnings of a great taco.


East Carolina BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup/240 milliliters cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid smoke (optional)

Lexington BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup/240 milliliters cider vinegar
  • ½ cup/120 milliliters ketchup
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce


Mix your choice of sauce ingredients together and serve with the pulled pork.