Eastern North Carolina BBQ – A Family Tradition

by Kim Calhoun on July 3, 2010

If  you’ve spent any time at all in North Carolina east of Raleigh, you will know that people there are very particular about their BBQ. My mother is originally from Goldsboro, NC. So even though I’m not a North Carolina native, I grew up knowing about the “proper” BBQ to eat. Since I have now lived in North Carolina over 10 years, I have learned a lot about this culinary specialty from the eastern part of the state. Since our nation’s birthday is right around the corner, I thought I’d share this unique type of BBQ with my readers.

Eastern North Carolina BBQ

Yes, there is a difference.

The Pig

First off, this recipe is for BBQ Pork. There are more pigs in North Carolina than people. Hog farming is serious business here. This is especially true to areas east of I-95 where the best BBQ is made. In Eastern North Carolina they have “Pig Pickin’s” These are just what they sound like. When the pig is done, you pick off the parts you want right off the pig. Most of the time the person doing the cooking will chop or shred parts of the pig to make it easier for people to get it but you can pick what you want. These pigs are usually bought from a local pork butcher. The most well known in this area is the Nahunta Pork Center. Some people just cook several pork butts to get their BBQ, but a true pig pickin’ is the whole pig on a the biggest grill/smoker you are ever likely to see.

The Pig Cooker

First off,  you must have a pig cooker. This isn’t just any grill or smoker. They take this very seriously. These monstrosities are made from everything from old 55 gallon drums to state of the art cookers that cost thousands of dollars. It has to be able to hold the heat constant for a number of hours. They are a symbol of status. People buy trailers just to be able to carry these huge cookers from place to place. To see what one of the high tech ones look like check out Agri Supply.

The Sauce

Now for the most part, in Eastern North Carolina, people do not share their “secret family recipe” for their BBQ sauce. It’s like an heirloom. Along with Granny’s diamond ring you’ll get the family BBQ sauce secret. Of course, not all people are so secretive, so you can actually get a recipe.  This is a very basic one here. It is a tad on the hot side so if you would prefer a milder sauce cut down the hot sauce and the cayenne pepper flakes.


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine the white vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before using so that the flavors will blend. Shake occasionally, and store for up to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Cooking the Pig

Since I’m not the expert and cooking a pig in this fashion, I found a wonderful article about cooking the pig on a pig cooker from NCBBQ.com . I am, however, an expert at eating one cooked in this fashion.

Alternatives to BBQing your own pig

If you are in Eastern North Carolina there are several places to get this type of BBQ without doing it yourself.

  • Wilber’s BBQ in Goldsboro, NC.
  • Smithfield’s Chicken and BBQ Several Locations
  • McCalls BBQ and Seafood in Clayton and Goldsboro, NC
  • Carolina BBQ in Garner, NC
  • There are tons of BBQ places in Eastern North Carolina to get this BBQ. These are just the ones I can personally attest have authentic Eastern North Carolina BBQ.

    Disclaimer: To my native North Carolina relatives, please forgive me and correct me for any mistakes in this blog post. :)
    Real Disclaimer: I have not been paid to review or or include any of the companies mentioned in this post. However, I do work for Agri Supply. The did not pay me to add the pig cooker they sell to this post.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth July 6, 2010 at 10:20 am

Ha! Love your post. I am a NC native — eastern NC I should say. That is the only way to eat BBQ. Yum!

Have an awesome day!

Meredith August 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

Virginia Beach girl here who eats plenty of the North Carolina style BBQ. I actually grew up in Kansas City, which has it’s own style of BBQ, and the two are radically different. I’m going to guess with the NC style, it’s all about the vinegar in the sauce, am I right? KC style is a bit on the sweeter side.

Kim Calhoun August 2, 2010 at 9:54 am

Yup It’s all about the vinegar and the hotness. I’ve never been to KC. Have to check that out. We’re taking a trip out west next summer. Thanks for stopping by!

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