International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

North Carolina Pulled Pork Recipe

North Carolina pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw

(American Southern barbecue pork sandwich)

Image Creative Commons by Nationalmuseet

Average: 3.6 (51 votes)

A certain type of barbecue, using vinegar and sugar as a baste and seasoning for the slow-cooked meat, is unique to the eastern part of North Carolina. The best eastern NC-style barbecue is made at a old-fashioned barbecue joint, with a whole pig roasted over a slow hickory fire.

Barbecue sauce in North Carolina is divided into two types: Eastern with no tomatoes; and Western with a tomato base. There is constant bickering back and forth over which is the true Carolina barbecue. Barbecue in eastern North Carolina originated in colonial times when it was thought that tomatoes were poisonous.

This recipe, while unacceptable to purists, will make a reasonable facsimile of North Carolina barbecue in your oven.

4 to 6 servings


  • Pork butt or shoulder -- 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • Red pepper flakes -- 2 tablespoons
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Pepper -- 1 tablespoon
  • Oil -- 1/4 cup
  • Cider vinegar -- 2 cups
  • Water -- 1 cup
  • Brown sugar -- 3 tablespoons
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Pepper -- to taste


  1. In a large bowl, rub the pork with the red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, oil and liquid smoke. Let marinate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.
  2. Add the vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste to a medium, non-reactive saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Heat oven to 250°F. Put meat in a cast iron skillet or roasting pan on a rack. Place the meat in the oven and roast for 3 to 6 hours, turning occasionally and basting with the barbecue sauce. The internal temperature of the meat should reach at 185°F and the meat should begin falling apart. Remove the meat from the oven and set aside to cool somewhat.
  4. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or two forks. If you like, chop the meat further with a knife.
  5. Bring the remaining barbecue sauce to a boil again and then stir it into the meat bit by bit until it is seasoned to your taste. Serve on hamburger buns and pass the remaining sauce at the table. Serve North Carolina barbecue with coleslaw, baked beans, French fries and cold beer.

North Carolina BBQ Pork Variations

  • On the Grill: If you have a smoker attachment to your grill, that method of indirect heat will produce a more authentic barbecue. Use a mixture of hickory, oak and apple wood chips for maximum flavor.
  • A little Tabasco or other hot sauce is sometimes added to the barbecue sauce. A teaspoon of celery seed can be added as well.

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