North Carolina BBQ

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Original poster
Aug 29, 2006
Manhattan Beach, CA
I live in CA and have only visited NC once before - and now that I've figured out the art and joy of smoking, I want to take a shot at true NC BBQ. Let me just throw this question out to y'all: what makes BBQ "North Carolina" BBQ? Any hints and tips would be appreciated!

(My smoker has been resting too long... it yearns to burn.)
Greetings Blues,
Larry is on the mark. To make true N.C. BBQ (and by the way, I grew up there and thus it's my favorite), I use a boston butt per instructions on this forum. That is, slow cook, foil etc. and my favorite wood is hickory (although many others will work). After the butt is smoked (190* - 200* internal temp), pull it and use some of Florida Jeff's finishing sauce. You can also find that recipe with the search feature on this forum.

Now here's the clincher. Serve the sauce below on the side for each person to use as they wish:

1/4 cup water
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Ground black pepper (to taste)
Finely ground kosher salt (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring ofte, for about 5 minutes. Cool and store in an airtight container or jar. Shake before using. Makes about 2 cups. And by the way, I like to add just a little cayenne myself.

This recipe comes from Mike Mills' book Peace, Love and Bar Be Cue and he sites Wayne Monk, of Lexington Barbecue in North Carolina as the source.
Depends on what part of Carolinas your talking about, the vinegar with tomato above woud be from one area but a vinegar w/o tomato would be the standard in another area.

here is one without tomato
1 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne, can use black pepper in place of cayenne
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Mix all ingredients together. Let stand as long as possible, at least 1/2 a day, but the longer the better.
As far as I know, the carolina style relates most to the hot vinegar based sauce (great recipe on here from a place in Kentucky, but it's really good. I've had some friends from Carolina call that authentic. Anyhow, that and some fresh cole slaw on the sandwich really make it Carolina style.
How about a traditional Mustard Sauce, like Smokey Steve has posted in the Sauces, Rubs & Marinades forum. Mustard sauces are a very large part of (South) Carolina BBQ history, believe it or not, a sauce with roots that go back 250 years from a group of German settlers. I suggest trying a Mustard Sauce...
A comment on the NC sauce topic. I heard that the settlers of North Carolina thought tomatoes were poison. So any true NC sauce would not contain Tomato. I think I'm the guy who posted the Kentucky sauce mentioned above by “jaynikâ€, It is under the group "Sauces Rubs and Marinades, topic: Pork Barbecue Sauces." My id is smokin_all_night. This sauce contains ketchup like the recipe posted above by bwsmith_2000 but is closer to the NC sauces that I have tasted but is indigenous to Western Kentucky, It is not like a regular sweet sauce. It has been described by people who have tried it as having an "Attitude". Most of the NC sauces that I have tasted though are thin.

Aubrey Page


OTBS #007
Being from Paducah, KY, I'm well versed in the eats from the BBQ joint (Starnes) that Aubrey's sauce is drawing from. I've tried a hundred "copycat" versions, and Aubrey's is the closest I've found.

Use it as Aubrey describes... it's a finishing sauce, applied when eating, NOT during the cooking.

Not sure if this will work, but I'll give it a shot. From my trip home last month, a pic of the establishement in question:

And yes, those are stacks of hickory in the back of the building :)
Hi Guys!

Sunrise Barbecue Sauce This comes from a joint in West Columbia, South Carolina!

1cup white vinegar

3/4 cup of your favorite yellow mustard

1/2 cup water

1 small yellow onion,minced

1/4 cup pureed tomatoes

2 Tablespoons minced garlic

2 & 1/2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Mix ingredients in a saucepan and simmer
over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to blend flavors. 8)

Cook until the onions are very tender and liquid has reduced by half. Cool ans Serve. Unused sauce can be kept for 2-3 weeks if refrigerated.

You may adjust the hot pepper in the recipe if you want your hair to catch on fire! :twisted:

Its a good one!

ranger72 8)

OTBS # 14

And here is a link to smokin_all_night's vinegar sauce recipe from the original thread..I have made his finishing sauce and it is excellent.

Go Here:

There are two other sauces worth trying here and they are also indigenous to the deep south.

ranger72 :)
I use a Carolina BBQ Sauce when I do ribs-served on the side of course. Not sure if it's a North or South Carolina sauce though. :D Since I'm at work, I'll have to post the recipe when I get home.
Here are a few I have tried. My wife really likes the mustard based sauce. But not as a BBQ sauce, she likes it as a pork marinade. :?

Western North Carolina Barbecue Sauce
1 stick of butter
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ cup brown sugar
2/3 cup ketchup
1 cup water
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a saucepan; add the chopped onion, and minced garlic, until they just begin to brown. Add white wine vinegar, cinnamon, whole cloves, dry mustard, chili powder, brown sugar and ketchup. Stir, then add water and blend. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Carolina Mustard Sauce
3/4 cup yellow mustard
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

In a medium saucepan, combine ingredients, stirring to blend. Over low heat, simmer 30 minutes. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before using.
To bdkdave, about Starnes and Paducah: I am impressed that you posted a picture of the old green cinder block building that I referred to. I was a regular there as a kid. I left Paducah in 1970 only to return sporadically to visit. So I created the sauce recipe entirely from memory as the only bottle of sauce I had went bad. When in town last in 2003, I consumed lots of the stuff.

Your picture reminded me of a picture and sauce recipe I also posted some time back. It is of a BBQ joint in the Texas hill country. The recipe is of a mustard based sauce. See:

for the post.

My take is that my sauce is thicker than Starnes and thatâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]s by design. Itâ€[emoji]8482[/emoji]s the way I like it. You are correct in that at the restaurant, the sauce is actually applied to the meat when warm as a finishing sauce with more on the table or for sale if you want some more. You order the meat or sandwich mils or hot as I remember. I always ordered by the pound with “no hot†because other family members did not like the meat too hot. Keep the faith and keep cookin that pork BBQ.

Aubrey Page
OTBS # 007
ANYONE who hasn't tried this MUST at least try it ONCE!
I didn't care for it much after a half a day but 4 days later this thing was a beautiful delicacy!

I am a hot sauce freak and my wife isn't. She LOVED this stuff. It's not really that hot. It's just perfect. I did a butt and had this stuff on the counter in a sealed tupperware for 4 days and tried it.
She insisted NO BBQ SAUCE for the pulled pork butt. She only had this. Kids had the Q sauce. Wifey and I ate the pork with this. FANTASTIC!

Thank you so much, very glad I saved this some time ago and got around to it.
There are several types of NC BBQ - all are made with pork of course.

Eastern NC BBQ is typically made from whole hog. Sauce is simply vinegar & peppers (CBP, cayenne).

Lexington BBQ is shoulder/butt & the sauce is a mix of vinegar, ketchup, & spices.

SC BBQ (will find this in Western NC) is a mustard based sauce that mixes mustard, vinegar, & spices.

This is just a simple overview, as each BBQ preference is slightly different. The likeness is from the red slaw. Uses vinegar instead of mayo. Basically, it's just BBQ sauce (see above) mixed with cabbage. GREAT stuff!!!!
3 TBSP Ketchup (Heinz)
4 TBSP Apple Cider Vinegar (1/4 cup)
1 TBSP water
1 Tsp Black Pepper (fine ground)
¼ Tsp White pepper
½ Tsp Cayenne (red) pepper (or more to taste, locals will use 1 Tsp)
2 Tsp Tabasco or other red pepper sauce

All measures are level measurements.

Is this Aubrey's sauce that you are referring to ?
BBQBLUES... Carolina BBQ falls into categories- Eastern Carolina is a Vinegar (apple cider usually) based sauce with no tomato, thin, and almost never sweet but can be hot-as in spicy. Western Carolina is a tomato based sauce, usually thick and often sweet. Can be hot as is spicy, but rarely. I recently read some article about a newfangled, third, "Piedmont" style BBQ sauce that is a combo- thin, but with tomatoe and can be sweet. Sounded like a slant/spin on recipes to sell the book- not sure, since I am no historian nor expert- both of which the author implied according to my take on the book reviewer. Regardless, the first two are pretty much gospel. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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