North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork

  • Rating ****

Makes 10 servings

Barbecue in North Carolina is defined as pulled pork with a distinctive tangy vinegar sauce--no sweet tomato sauce allowed! The pork is either "pulled" into pieces or chopped with a meat clever and dressed with the sauce. It is served on a cheap white hamburger bun topped with a simple slaw of chopped green cabbage dressed with the same vinegar sauce.
Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium-Low Heat


  • 1 pork butt, Boston butt or untrimmed end-cut pork shoulder roast, 7 to 9 pounds
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 8 plain white hamburger buns, optional

  • North Carolina Coleslaw:
    1 recipe Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, chopped

  • Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce:
    2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon red chili flakes (the more, the hotter*)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


For the Pulled Pork:
Build a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.

Do not trim any excess fat off the meat; this fat will naturally baste the meat and keep it moist during the long cooking time. Brush the pork with a thin coating of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside on a clean tray until ready to cook.

Before placing the meat on the grill, add the soaked wood chips. Place the chips directly on gray-ashed briquettes or in the smoking box of your gas grill. If using a charcoal grill, you will need to add charcoal every hour to maintain the heat.

Place the pork in the center of the cooking grate, fat side up, over indirect low heat. Cover and cook slowly for 4 to 5 hours at 325 to 350 degrees F, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork registers 190 to 200 degrees F. The meat should be very tender and falling apart. If there is a bone in the meat, it should come out smooth and clean with no meat clinging to it. (This is the real test for doneness on the barbecue circuit.) Remember, there is no need to turn the meat during the entire cooking time.

Let the meat rest for 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using rubber kitchen gloves (because it is so messy), pull the meat from the skin, bones and fat. Set aside any crispy bits (fat) that have been completely rendered and look almost burned. Working quickly, shred the chunks of meat with 2 forks by crossing the forks and “pulling” the meat into small pieces from the butt. Alternately, you can chop the meat with a cleaver. Chop the reserved crispy bits and mix into the pulled pork. While the meat is still warm, mix with enough Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce to moisten and season the meat (about 3/4 cup). The recipe can be made in advance up to this point and reheated with about 1/4 cup additional sauce in a double boiler.

Serve hot, with the coleslaw on the side or serve sandwich-style (preferred) on a hamburger bun and top with coleslaw. Serve additional sauce on the side, if desired.

For the North Carolina Coleslaw:
Toss the sauce and cabbage together until well mixed and not quite wet. You may have sauce leftover. Refrigerate. Let sit for at least 2 hours or up to overnight before serving.

For the Lexington-Style Vinegar Sauce:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a large nonreactive bowl and let sit at least 10 minutes. The sauce will keep almost indefinitely, covered in the refrigerator.

NOTE: *The longer the sauce sits, the hotter (spicier) it gets since the heat from the red chili flakes is brought out by the vinegar. Start with 1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes and then add more to taste.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Elizabeth Karmel. All rights reserved.

RecID 11360

Sign Up for Newsletters Here

Delicious recipes, easy meal ideas and holiday inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.