Carolina Chopped or Pulled Pork ’Cue

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes at least



Appears in

The Glory of Southern Cooking

The Glory of Southern Cooking

By James Villas

Published 2007

  • About

Barbecue (or ’cue) in North Carolina means hog and hog only (preferably whole hog), and this, in all my Tarheel prejudice, is the king of all barbecue: pit-cooked, hickory-smoked, spicy, vinegary, moist, slightly crackly, incredibly succulent chopped or pulled pork shoulder that is cooked at least 8 hours—a Carolina hallmark for centuries. Debate rages all over the state about the virtues of Lexington-style barbecue (with a slightly sweet vinegar-tomato sauce) versus those of Eastern style (a tart vinegar and red pepper sauce). I love them both and refuse to argue. Ideally, you need an outdoor pit to produce genuine North Carolina barbecue (especially at a traditional pig pickin’), but years ago I perfected a method using an ordinary kettle grill, which continues to impress even the most nagging experts. Just follow the directions to the letter, make sure the pork cooks over a drip pan and not the coals, and, above all, be patient. Also, since this is an all-day affair, and since the chopped barbecue freezes beautifully up to about 4 months without losing its savor and moisture, I strongly suggest you barbecue two shoulders.


  • 1 small bag hickory chips (available at nurseries and hardware stores)
  • One 10-pound bag charcoal briquets
  • One 8- to 9-pound boneless fresh pork shoulder (all skin and fat left on)
  • 4 cups cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 2 heaping tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Soak 6 handfuls of hickory chips in a pan of water for 45 minutes.

Open one bottom and one top vent on a kettle grill, place an aluminum drip pan in the bottom of the grill, stack charcoal briquets evenly around the pan (not in the center), and ignite the coals. When the coals are ashen (30 to 45 minutes), sprinkle 2 handfuls of the soaked chips evenly over the hot coals. Place the rack on the grill about 6 inches over the coals.

Position the pork shoulder, skin side up, in the center of the grill directly over the drip pan (not over the hot coals), lower the lid, and cook 3 hours, replenishing the coals and chips as they burn up. Turn the pork over, lower the lid, and cook 3 hours longer.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by combining all remaining ingredients in a large stainless-steel or enameled saucepan. Stir well, bring to a simmer over moderate heat, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand about 2 hours.

Transfer the pork to a large platter or cutting board, make deep gashes in the meat with a sharp knife, and baste liberally with the sauce. Replenish the coals and chips as needed, replace the pork, skin side down, on the grill, and cook 2 to 3 hours longer or till the meat is tender when stabbed with a large fork, basting with the sauce from time to time.

Transfer the pork to a chopping board, remove and discard most (but not all) of the crisp skin and excess fat, and either chop the meat coarsely with a hatchet or cleaver or pull into shreds. Add just enough sauce to moisten the meat, toss till well blended, and either serve the barbecue immediately with the remaining sauce on the side or refrigerate and reheat in the top of a double boiler over simmering water when ready to serve.

Serve the barbecue with Carolina Barbecue Coleslaw, Brunswick Stew, and hot Calabash Hush Puppies or Beer Hush Puppies, or heaped on a hamburger bun with coleslaw and sauce.