North Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue from Gourmet Magazine

     The next blogger I have the pleasure to introduce you to is Christiane, aka The Mom Chef, from Taking on Magazines. I honestly can’t recall the first post of hers that I read. Something on the now defunct website Foodbuzz (good riddance) must have caught my eye, probably something to do with grilling or barbecue knowing me, although it could just have easily been some mouth watering dessert. That’s not important, though, her style and her real life stories kept bringing me back over and over again. Something about her site just says home to me and I feel like I know her and her family and could walk right in, sit down at dinner and talk like old friends.

     The Mom Chef’s take on blogging is a very unique and interesting one. She. Takes. On. Magazines. If you are like me, you’ve probably seen a recipe in a magazine, clipped it out and maybe even tried it (or maybe it’s sitting on your recipe rack in your kitchen or has made it into a file folder or a binder where it may never see the light of day again). Not the Mom Chef, oh no. She takes them on. In her own words,

What decided me to do this was the number of times I’ve made recipes from magazines and the results just don’t match what the articles say they should. Whether it’s the look of the thing, the taste or the amount that it should serve, I’m surprised at how often it happens. It made me wonder if these recipes should be tested in a regular kitchen with kids underfoot, animals prowling the room, husbands peering over shoulders and all the interruptions that the regular Mom Chef has to face.”

And she tells you how it is. She’s not paid by these magazines. She’s not paid to glamorize the recipes or help sell more magazines. She’s honestly critiquing them. Aside from her stories, my favorite part of her blogs are “The Verdict” and “What I’d Do Different Next Time”.

     Now before I release you into her more than capable hands, I want all you Texans to be on your best behavior and show her how polite we are down here in the Lone Star State. She lives in North Carolina and seems to have some mistaken beliefs about what barbecue is and what we do. Them folks back East seem to have this silly notion that barbecue only means pork shoulder or whole pig, maybe it’s because they can’t figure out how to treat a brisket or have had the pleasure of pulled beef (I kid, I kid). And she seems to think we get grilling confused with barbecue. We all know that ain’t true and we know the difference between the two and can do them both. 😉

     After you read her post for me, meander on down to Taking on Magazines and take a gander at some of her mouth watering recipes. I know you can find something to please your palate, whether you are craving some home cooking or a sweet tasting dessert. And let her know I sent ya. 😉

North Carolina Barbecue

You’d think that when someone asks you to do a guest post for them, it’s a pretty basic deal. You come up with a recipe, you write about it; done.

My husband obviously thought that, because when I received the note from Jason, asking if I’d do a post while he was out of the country, I immediately launched into my ever-increasingly embarrassing to my daughter happy dance. Then I had a heart attack. And he looked on with his jaw hanging to the floor.

You see, I had been asked to cook and write for a griller; a really great griller. That’s an honor. Hence, the happy dance. And the heart attack. Don’t get me wrong, I can grill alongside the best of them. In this world where men belly up to the fire more often than women, I am happy to be the exception, letting my pony tail bob alongside ya’ll with spatula in hand.

The thing is, Griffin’s Grub is based out of Texas, the land of beef. I live in North Carolina, where hogs rule. I can grill a steak; flank, rib eye, or otherwise like it’s nobody’s business. With other cuts of beef, however, the range is my home. The range in my home, that is. Beef short ribs? Of course; braised in wine with a chile puree in a Dutch oven; they’re divine. Chuck roast? A family favorite; slow cooked in my deep ceramic pot; it comes out tender, juicy and delicious.

Pork. That’s a different matter. Slap a slab of any pork product in front of me and my first thought is, ‘Oooooh, where’s the charcoal?’

For you folk that live in the LoneStarState, over here on the East Coast, we have two terms for what you do with that outdoor oven. Grilling is a verb used for everything that isn’t what I’m about to do. Chicken, beef, bison, lamb, even pork tenderloin and chop. They all get grilled.

Barbecue, however, is a noun and a verb and means only one thing. Pork shoulder. If your party includes less than ten people, yes, you can use just the butt or picnic, but for bigger parties, the whole shoulder (with skin) is the way to go. For those who are curious about  where the whole pig pickin’ term comes into play, it’s used when a whole hog is smoked. If you’re ever invited, don’t decline, even if it means you have to drive hours to attend. Picking hunks of perfectly cooked and seasoned pork straight off the grill is amazing.

Today, though, is about regular barbecue. I could go into all the things wrong with the title up there, but since it’s not my recipe, I won’t. Well, not much. Just a little. You see, since it is barbecue, there’s no need to say ‘Pulled Pork.’ That’s a given. Also, this isn’t North Carolina barbecue. It’s eastern North Carolina barbecue. Note the simple vinegar sauce. That’s what makes it so. Head west in my fair state and you’ll see mountains instead of beach and tomato in the sauce instead of vinegar.

So, are you ready to head to eastern North Carolina for some good barbecue?

The Process

If you had to choose the perfect day to barbecue, it wouldn’t be this one because it rained cats and dogs. Since the pork stays on the grill for 8+ hours, it’s nice to have some sunshine instead of needing to dodge raindrops every time you need to flip the butt and mop it, but I didn’t have the choice. Luckily, my grill sits under a nice overhang so while I got a little wet every time I went out to mop the meat, the grill itself stayed dry and at its perfect temperature.

Everyone who does a fair amount of barbecue has their own rub, mop and sauce to go with the pork. However, the main thing I do at Taking On Magazines is to, well, take on magazines. I make the recipes, as written, and review them for ease, taste, clean-up factor, etc. To stay true to my reason for being, I went back to an old Gourmet Magazine, because I knew it was their special grilling issue and that there was a recipe for barbecue in it.

Gourmet Magazine decided to go with a simple salt and pepper rub, which is fine. Mine usually includes a little brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika as well. The magazine’s mop is pretty standard and the since some of the mop is kept out to use as the sauce, all is copasetic.

The idea, as with most low and slow grilling, is to keep the meat off direct heat and to keep the coals at a constant temperature. Because you love your pork, every half hour you have the pleasure of giving it a mop bath and flipping it over, whether it’s raining or not. Once it’s reached the right temperature, it’s a simple matter to let it sit for a few minutes, then shred it with a pair of forks. While the recipe says to serve the remaining sauce alongside the pulled pork, we prefer to just pour it in and let the meat soak it up.

Oh yeah, the coleslaw. I’m still working on getting used to it in the sandwich instead of a side, but coleslaw as a condiment is a must with barbecue. If you want the recipe for the Coleslaw that was provided alongside the pulled pork, you’ll need to visit me to read about it.

Pork Shoulder Roast

The Verdict

Ironically, I had to leave for a few hours to attend a birthday party (my husband took over the mop and flip for that little while) and the host had made barbecue, western style, for the shindig. It was a treat to have that available so I could compare East and West varieties on the same day.

The tomato-based barbecue was definitely delicious; sweet and a little tangy, but I really missed the oomph. The griller admitted to me that he prefers the eastern variety, but not knowing what level of heat the various guests would appreciate, and considering the extra spiciness of the vinegar sauce studded with red pepper flakes, the tomato-based version was the safe route. Additionally, he’d only rubbed the shoulder with salt and pepper.

I have to admit that I feel the same way. I prefer the vinegar-based sauce and this one didn’t disappoint. With a tablespoon and a half of hot pepper flakes infused into the vinegar, it made our mouths tingle. The added sugar did enough to keep the heat from being too much. It was tender, moist and delicious, cooked exactly the way North Carolina barbecue is supposed to be.

My husband must have thought so as well because he wolfed down two sandwiches without stopping for a breath. Dudette liked the tenderness of the meat but found the spiciness a bit much for her six year-old palate.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I missed my rub. Next Time I would mix together 2 tablespoons of sugar, salt, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder and black pepper, 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper and 4 tablespoons paprika, rub that all over the pork, wrap it tightly in plastic and put it in the fridge overnight before I’m going to barbecue it. (See, two recipes in one.)

North Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue

from Gourmet Magazine, July 2012 

31/2 cups cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons hot red-pepper flakes

1 8-10 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (preferably butt end) with skin

Bring vinegar to a boil with sugar, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 tablespoon pepper in a small nonreactive saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved; then cool. Set aside 2 cups vinegar sauce to serve with sandwiches.

While sauce cools, score pork skin in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife (forming 1-inch diamonds), cutting through skin and fat but not into meat. Pat meat dry and rub all over with 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before grilling.

Prepare grill for indirect heat cooking over low heat, leaving space in the middle for a disposable roasting pan.

When coals have cooled to about 300F (45-minutes to 1 hour; when most coals will have burned out), put disposable roasting pan on bottom rack of grill between the 2 remaining mounds of coals, then fill pan halfway with water. Add a couple of handfuls of unlit charcoal to each charcoal mound, then put grill rack on so hinges are over coals.

Oil grill rack, then put pork, skin side up, on rack above roasting pan. Grill pork, with lid ajar (for air, so coals remain lit), basting meat with sauce and turning over every 30 minutes (to maintain a temperature of 250-275, add a couple of handfuls of coals to each side about every 30 minutes), until fork-tender (a meat fork should insert easily) and an instant-read thermometer inserted 2 inches into center of meat (avoid bone) registers 190F, 7-8 hours total.

Transfer pork to a cutting board. If skin is not crisp, cut it off with at least 1/4 inch fat attached (cut any large pieces into bite-size ones) and roast, fat side down, in a 4-sided sheet pan in a 350 oven until crisp, 15-20 minutes.

When meat is cool enough to handle, shred it, using 2 forks. Transfer to a bowl.

Serve pork, cracklings, and coleslaw together on buns. Serve reserved vinegar sauce on the side.

4 thoughts on “North Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue from Gourmet Magazine

    1. It’s hard to go wrong with pulled pork. Very forgiving meat and cheap to feed lots of hungry mouths. The Chef Mom really knoced it out of the park with this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s