BBQ Wars

Eastern vs. Western in North Carolina BBQ

Eastern NC barbecue vs. Western style NC barbecue? These are fighting words here in North Carolina. Two distinct styles of smoked pork can cause a lot of heated discussion here with some folks being very passionate about which is best.

Well I just returned from the BBQ Festival on the Neuse in Kinston, located in the eastern part of North Carolina. Eighty barbecue competitors gathered to cook whole hogs. The smell of succulent smoked pork permeated the air in the downtown area. Looking at the different types of smokers used was interesting. Some were very elaborate while others were less fancy. However all of them did a great job of producing delicious barbecue.

In North Carolina there is a constant battle on which barbecue is the best, eastern style or western style. (and remember in North Carolina barbecue is a noun! We don’t say we’re going to have a barbecue, we eat barbecue!). Three major differences are which part of the pig is cooked, the sauce use, the type of slaw and the other side dishes.

In Lexington, NC, considered western style, only the shoulders are cooked or sometimes the butts. In eastern NC whole hogs are smoked. Also eastern style sauce is generally just vinegar with some crushed peppers and spices added. In Lexington the sauce is tomato based, usually with ketchup, with vinegar and sometimes some hot sauce. It’s still thin and we call it “dip”, not sauce. Western style slaw is red, as it has some ketchup added along with the vinegar.

In eastern NC the slaw is made with mayonnaise and is white.For sides in Lexington it’s usually hushpuppies and maybe french fries. Down east it’s often hushpuppies or maybe a hoecake and Brunswick stew. In the past some type of hardwood was used for smoking the pork like hickory or oak. Sometimes city or county regulations require using electric smokers. Both produce fine barbecue if cooked correctly, low and slow. (low temperature over a long period of time).

Regardless of which type is preferred, the next time you’re in North Carolina stop at the local BBQ joint and enjoy some delicious smoked barbecue.

Or if you want to cook at home, check out our selection of delicious bbq sauces here: Barbecue Sauces