Whole Hog BBQ – North Carolina

Most people take vacations to see new things, like the beach or historical landmarks. Some go to Disney World. Others go overseas to experience culture outside of our great, great coutry. When it came time for me to spend a week away from work, the only logical thing to do was to drive ten hours to Eastern North Carolina for some whole hog BBQ.  I’m here to say the next time you have some time off and can’t figure out a place to go – drive somewhere far away and plan a couple of places to eat that you can’t get locally.  Not only does the traveling make the food taste better, but you get to experience another region’s culture that, in this case, has taken hundreds of years to perfect.

If you’re not familiar with Carolina BBQ, or BBQ in general, there are arguments on the proper ways to cook, season and sauce the pig depending on where you’re at.  If you’re in Eastern North Carolina they cook a whole hog over wood coals, meaning an entire pig is placed on top of burning wood embers for a long, long period of time and then chopped and mixed together.  Their choice for sauce is a simple mixture of vinegar and spices.  The Western part of North Carolina uses only the shoulder, which is mainly dark meat, cooked over wood topped with a vinegar sauce combined with different amounts of tomato.

Once you get into South Carolina, you get different cuts and the addition of mustard into the sauce.  I didn’t get to South Carolina on this trip so that will have to be another day.

I’m here to say, without question, Eastern Carolina style is the winner in this region. Whole hog style gives you a mixture of different flavors, from both white and dark meat, and every bite can be different.  The vinegar adds a little tang but GOOD whole hog BBQ shouldn’t require any additional sauce. Finally, what makes whole hog BBQ really shine are crispy pig skins mixed into the BBQ.  My god.  This gives you salty, crispy little bits mixed into the pork adding yet another flavor and another texture.  I would say there are no words, but the whole point of this is putting things into words.  Moving on.

I will be doing a lot of material on smoked pork in the future, so I’ll save you time some time today from the smoked meat education and get to the point of this post.

The first place I went was Skylight Inn BBQ.  If you want some more info on them, use Google. There is more information than you could ever ask for.  This is the best BBQ I have ever had. Hands down, from a man that has a pig tattooed on his arm. If you have never had whole hog BBQ, you should immediately drive to Aiden, NC in the middle of absolute nowhere and try this.  

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I was sitting at the Skylight Inn thinking “What should I do next?” and the only thing that made any sense was to do a Bang-Bang.  Before you think that my idea was to do something innapropirate, let me educate you for a second. A proper Bang-Bang is where you go out to eat, and then you immediately go to a different place to eat.  It could be two lunches, or two dinners, and is absolutely essential when you’re eating in an area that you will not be returning to in the near future.  I got into my rented Doge Dart, which is a fine choice for a compact vehicle (I don’t care what anyone says), and headed to Dudley, NC, which is somehow even more in the middle of nowhere than Aiden, NC, but is also home to Grady’s BBQ.

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You probably can’t find much information on Google about Grady’s.  It’s old school and you can tell before you walk in that the food is going to be a combination of both authentic and legit.  Before you question why I would risk my health eating at a hole in the wall place like this that CLEARLY doesn’t focus on appearance or cleanliness, Grady’s has a posted 99.5 out of 100 health inspection score.  That’s right, North Carolina requires all restaurants to post their scores within their building to the public. Why doesn’t every state do that?

Anyways, same story here.  Whole hog BBQ and the best collared greens I ever had.

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I then retreated and spent the rest of the day recovering until my next altercation with Carolina BBQ in the form of Allen and Son BBQ in Chapel Hill which does not, in fact, cook whole hog.  They use only the shoulder but do use the Eastern Carolina sauce.  I realize this post is called “Whole Hog BBQ” and this is not “Whole Hog BBQ” but I don’t care.  Allen and Son was my first experience with Carolina style non-tomato sauce so I feel it is only right to include them.

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The lessons you should take from this post:

  1. If you’ve been eating pulled pork your whole life you owe it to yourself to go and try whole hog BBQ.  It’s life changing.
  2. When traveling in an area you do not frequent and that has good food, a Bang-Bang is essential.
  3. Go on a food vacation.

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