My friend Chris joined me in Atlanta for the final leg of the barbecue tour, which by that point I had narrowed down to Lexington, NC. When I first started planning, I figured that I might spend three or four days roaming North Carolina, making another 8-10 stops. But by the time I rolled through the state line, my body just didn’t have much gas left in the tank. Plenty in the colon, but not much anywhere else.
North Carolina barbecue is distinctively different from other barbecue styles. While some North Carolinians will argue vehemently over the difference between Eastern and Western North Carolina styles, most places offer chopped pork with a vinegar based sauce. In the “west”, which really means central, they usually smoke shoulders and put varying degrees of tomato paste/ketchup in their sauce, while in the east, which means pretty close to the coast, they smoke the whole hog and their sauce is mostly vinegar with some spices.
That much you can find out pretty easily. But you should also know that you can order it coarsely chopped instead of the finely chopped, nearly minced variety that comes when you order normally. This gives it a little more texture, which if you’ll appreciate if you grew up on pulled pork. More importantly, you can order the outside brown instead of the inside white. If you like the smoky flavor and are willing to give up a little bit of the juiciness for it, the outside, brown, or outside brown is the way to go. My personal preference is outside, coarsely chopped because I think you get more barbecue flavor and you’re better able to taste the meat. Some folks call the outside “Mr. Brown” and the inside “Ms. White”, but I think I’d kick my own ass if I ever used those terms.