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North Carolina Barbecue "Kiss-Up"


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Today's Raleigh News & Observer had a story today that Raleigh will host a barbecue festival in October. This ain't no ordinary festival, however, as many of you know that North Carolina is no ordinary barbecue state. Here, we have a long, divisive tradition of barbecue. Places east of Raleigh make what is referred to as "Eastern Style" barbecue, which is whole hog slowly cooked over wood and sauced with a vinegar and hot pepper sauce. To the west is the domain of "Western Style," also known as "Lexington Style" barbecue, which is generally pork shoulders or butts slowly cooked over wood and served with a vinegar and pepper sauce with a bit of ketchup and, sometimes, sugar added. Honestly, there are more similarities between the styles than there are differences, but our State General Assembly has actually argued about which barbecue is better or the "official" style of North Carolina.

The Tar Heel Barbecue Classic will be held in my fair city, where we don't even have a good barbecue restaurant. However, because we're pretty much neutral ground and the unofficial dividing line between the styles, it makes sense to have this event here. A great thing about the festival is this: the vendors selling eastern style Q will set up on the eastern side of Fayetteville Street, and the western style vendors will be on -- you guessed it -- the western side.

So let the debate begin on these fine pages of the eG Forums until the true judging occurs on October 6 and 7.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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You know, I'm really starting to wonder about all the hype that claims our two traditions are "divisive." Is there really divisiveness, outside of grandstanding politicians who want to generate quotes on a dull day?

Yes, the styles are slightly different (and slightly alike, for that matter), but is there really any true Carolinas barbecue fan who won't eat both styles?

I've been covering barbecue for a lot of years, and I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the differences in a form of "ours is better than theirs."

People acknowledge the differences, but I just don't detect a lot of heat over it. I haven't met anyone from the Western side of the state who refuses to eat Eastern style, or anyone from the East who refuses to eat Lexington style.

OK -- grab your cleavers and mince me up.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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You know, I'm really starting to wonder about all the hype that claims our two traditions are "divisive." Is there really divisiveness, outside of grandstanding politicians who want to generate quotes on a dull day?

Yes, the styles are slightly different (and slightly alike, for that matter), but is there really any true Carolinas barbecue fan who won't eat both styles?

I've been covering barbecue for a lot of years, and I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the differences in a form of "ours is better than theirs."

People acknowledge the differences, but I just don't detect a lot of heat over it. I haven't met anyone from the Western side of the state who refuses to eat Eastern style, or anyone from the East who refuses to eat Lexington style.

OK -- grab your cleavers and mince me up.

It has become a tradition on the UNC sports message boards for someone to start a BBQ thread every now and again. You would be surprised how many partisans from one side of the state refuse to eat the BBQ from the other. If I can make a generalization, I find that those on the Eastern side of the state tend to be a bit more parochial than those on the Western side but I think there may be more to that than just the method of cooking a pig.

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So, as a new (albeit temporary) resident of Raleigh, I understand that to sample true Western NC BBQ I need to do a day trip to Lexington. What's my destination town for a day trip to sample Eastern NC BBQ?

Looking forward to this event... lots of BBQ in one place is a good thing, no matter what way you slice it.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Maybe one glorious day the Carolinas will unite under the umbrella of great barbecue and also include SC's

Don't push it!

And the respective vendors will likely serve the appropriate sides wth their barbecue, so there can be a slaw degustation, too, if you please.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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I find that those on the Eastern side of the state tend to be a bit more parochial than those on the Western side but I think there may be more to that than just the method of cooking a pig.

That is because Eastern is so much better : :laugh:

Not just 'cause it was what I was raised with, mind you, but I think Eastern is better because it is a "purer" product...for lack of a better word. I feel the true taste of the smoked meat comes out. In Western, the first thing I always taste is the sauce...I want to taste that great smoked meat flavor.

Edited by VaNC (log)
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I prefer Eastern style that is done properly, primarily because you get a good mix of the light and dark meats. The problem is that there are so few decent places that cook an entire pig.

There are far more decent Western-style places, simply because it's much easier to cook shoulders, and when done correctly with a simple sauce and a light hand, they can be equally smoky and almost as tasty!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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You know, I'm really starting to wonder about all the hype that claims our two traditions are "divisive." Is there really divisiveness, outside of grandstanding politicians who want to generate quotes on a dull day?

Yes, the styles are slightly different (and slightly alike, for that matter), but is there really any true Carolinas barbecue fan who won't eat both styles?

I've been covering barbecue for a lot of years, and I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the differences in a form of "ours is better than theirs."

People acknowledge the differences, but I just don't detect a lot of heat over it. I haven't met anyone from the Western side of the state who refuses to eat Eastern style, or anyone from the East who refuses to eat Lexington style.

OK -- grab your cleavers and mince me up.

It has become a tradition on the UNC sports message boards for someone to start a BBQ thread every now and again. You would be surprised how many partisans from one side of the state refuse to eat the BBQ from the other. If I can make a generalization, I find that those on the Eastern side of the state tend to be a bit more parochial than those on the Western side but I think there may be more to that than just the method of cooking a pig.

That's what you get for paying attention to sports fans. These are people who get leap up and down in their own living rooms based on something that happened with an inflated ball. We're not dealing with "rational" from the get-go.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Often driving through the Carolinas on the way to Mr. Moore’s home chomping grounds, I’ve had my share: Lexington No. 1, Jim’s, Allen & Son’s, in South Carolina Henry’s Smokehouse among many others.

Anyway, I thought though Allen & Son’s was considered the perfect east/west hybrid. The dance floor is yours.

Nobody eats at that restaurant anymore. It's always too crowded.

---Yogi Berra

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So, as a new (albeit temporary) resident of Raleigh, I understand that to sample true Western NC BBQ I need to do a day trip to Lexington.  What's my destination town for a day trip to sample Eastern NC BBQ?

Looking forward to this event... lots of BBQ in one place is a good thing, no matter what way you slice it.

I've heard it said that Wilson is the place for Eastern style. I haven't been there myself, however.

On my last BBQ tour, we went to Goldsboro. I thought the barbecue at Wilber's was very good.http://hollyeats.com/Wilbers.htm

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So, as a new (albeit temporary) resident of Raleigh, I understand that to sample true Western NC BBQ I need to do a day trip to Lexington.  What's my destination town for a day trip to sample Eastern NC BBQ?

Looking forward to this event... lots of BBQ in one place is a good thing, no matter what way you slice it.

Boy there was this one time I had really great eastern style whole hog right in Raleigh.....now where was that again....called something like Dean's Semi Annual :rolleyes:

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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You know, I'm really starting to wonder about all the hype that claims our two traditions are "divisive." Is there really divisiveness, outside of grandstanding politicians who want to generate quotes on a dull day?

Yes, the styles are slightly different (and slightly alike, for that matter), but is there really any true Carolinas barbecue fan who won't eat both styles?

I've been covering barbecue for a lot of years, and I haven't yet encountered anyone who talks about the differences in a form of "ours is better than theirs."

People acknowledge the differences, but I just don't detect a lot of heat over it. I haven't met anyone from the Western side of the state who refuses to eat Eastern style, or anyone from the East who refuses to eat Lexington style.

OK -- grab your cleavers and mince me up.

It has become a tradition on the UNC sports message boards for someone to start a BBQ thread every now and again. You would be surprised how many partisans from one side of the state refuse to eat the BBQ from the other. If I can make a generalization, I find that those on the Eastern side of the state tend to be a bit more parochial than those on the Western side but I think there may be more to that than just the method of cooking a pig.

That's what you get for paying attention to sports fans. These are people who get leap up and down in their own living rooms based on something that happened with an inflated ball. We're not dealing with "rational" from the get-go.

Heh-

Go Wolfpack! :biggrin: Yes, I am completely irrational in my living room from Dec-March (hopefully April again someday soon). I am not as irrational about barbeque, however. (I hope!). I like both styles, but tend to favor the eastern style, which I was introduced to in college. I agree that Wilber's is a great place (it's been a while since I've been there).

A good place to get try eastern NC and Lexington NC bbq side-by-side is a place called Prissy Polly's in Kernersville (it's just off business-40 http://www.prissypollys.com/ ). Great sides, too. I really like the collards! Hmmm...come to think of it, I haven't been there in awhile either!

Anne

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Although Prissy Polly's, like many barbecue joints, does not cook with wood. They use electric cookers and pump in smoke. This approach can result in some tasty meat, but is it really barbecue.

Nevertheless, having both NC styles in one place is unique.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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So, as a new (albeit temporary) resident of Raleigh, I understand that to sample true Western NC BBQ I need to do a day trip to Lexington.  What's my destination town for a day trip to sample Eastern NC BBQ?

Looking forward to this event... lots of BBQ in one place is a good thing, no matter what way you slice it.

Boy there was this one time I had really great eastern style whole hog right in Raleigh.....now where was that again....called something like Dean's Semi Annual :rolleyes:

tracey

Semi-annual? Hardly! But for those who attended either of the eGS-sponsored pig pickins, you saw how much work goes into making barbecue the right way. It's just not a simple, commercially viable business. Wood is expensive, and the labor costs aren't getting any cheaper, either. Few people want to work in ultra-hot, smoky pits for hours at a time. So, enjoy the few remaining "old school" barbecue joints while you can.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Speaking of NC BBQ contests... has anyone ever gone to the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon? <clickety>. I'm wondering if this is a worthy weekend trip.

The winner apparently earn the right to participate in the national barbecue contest in Kansas City....

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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Speaking of NC BBQ contests... has anyone ever gone to the Blue Ridge BBQ Festival in Tryon?  <clickety>.  I'm wondering if this is a worthy weekend trip.

The winner apparently earn the right to participate in the national barbecue contest in Kansas City....

I've been many times -- I've judged that one a number of times -- but it's been awhile. I am going back this year for the first time in about three years. I gave it a rest for a while so I didn't get burned out.

It is a KCBS-sanctioned event, as opposed to Memphis In May sanctioned.

If you're never been to a barbecue championship, it is a fun experience. Contesters are a breed unto themselves. The Blue Ridge is held in a very pretty setting, in an open park with a couple of low mountains nearby. When I went in previous years, it was a cross between a festival and a contest. There was a crafts fair and a few rides, then a number of tents for the barbecuers. Presentation is part of the program, so most contesters build elaborate stage sets in their areas. Most of them are people who compete at multiple events every year.

You can't try the barbecue at the individual tents because of health department rules, so usually there are three or four large outfits that sell barbecue. (But I'll tell you an insider's trick -- if you wander through after the judging is over, when the contesters are packing up, somebody is usually giving it away so they don't have to haul it home.)

If you go and you aren't having a good time, you are just around the corner from Tryon, which is a pretty mountain town, and you're a short drive from Saluda and Asheville. It's nice part of the world to visit in summer.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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I have gone to Tryon 4 years in a row....just to sample though, not as a competitor. I will end up writing about the festival for 33's website. Tryon gets an average of 80 competition teams and I have found that most are very happy to chat, share BBQ, a chair or even a cold beer. If you see me there, just don't slow me down with idle chatter...there's too much great Q to sample :laugh:

With all due respect to the lovely and talented Kathleen Purvis, booth presentation is not part of the final judging criteria in a KCBS event (Tryon is a KCBS event), only in a Memphis in May sanctioned event. Still though a lot of the teams do put on quite a show in regards to their booths. If you are going to stay up all night in a dusty horse field keeping your cooker in the 200 degree range, you best be comfy.

And here's a tip for sampling. Don't walk up to a team and blurt out "HEY CAN I GIT SOMADISH?" Introduce yourself, comment on their team wagon, ask how many competitions they have been to, how did they think up their ridiculous name and then politely ask for a taste. I have seen many folks walk up with an empty plate and their fingers poised only to be told that "we're not giving out any samples".

Pork to the People!

John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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With all due respect to the lovely and talented Kathleen Purvis, booth presentation is not part of the final judging criteria in a KCBS event (Tryon is a KCBS event), only in a Memphis in May sanctioned event. 

Pork to the People!

While I would never question the reporting skills of the esteemable chef from Greenville, S.C., I would point out this section from the KCBS rules, as posted on the society web site:

"Sbowmanship and cooking are separate entities and will be judged as such. Specific information will be provided by a contest organizer if there is to be a showmanship award."

In other words, there can be a showmanship category at a KCBS sanctioned event, but it is separate from the KCBS judging, which is meat-only. I believe that Tryon has included such awards in the past; I know it has included dressed-pig entries. (And yes, dressed pig is exactly what it sounds like. Pigs. Dressed up.)

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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With all due respect to the lovely and talented Kathleen Purvis, booth presentation is not part of the final judging criteria in a KCBS event (Tryon is a KCBS event), only in a Memphis in May sanctioned event. 

Pork to the People!

While I would never question the reporting skills of the esteemable chef from Greenville, S.C., I would point out this section from the KCBS rules, as posted on the society web site:

"Sbowmanship and cooking are separate entities and will be judged as such. Specific information will be provided by a contest organizer if there is to be a showmanship award."

In other words, there can be a showmanship category at a KCBS sanctioned event, but it is separate from the KCBS judging, which is meat-only. I believe that Tryon has included such awards in the past; I know it has included dressed-pig entries. (And yes, dressed pig is exactly what it sounds like. Pigs. Dressed up.)

I stand partially corrected K. A "best booth" award is separate from the BBQ competition award in a KCBS event but the booth's appearance is part of the overall score at a Memphis in May sanctioned event.

My friend C W Fretwell, the BS Pitmeister has won a Grand Champion award at Tryon 3 times yet he is as bare bones as you can get. The Parrotheads have a great looking set up but....

If you're there we must get together over tea.

John Malik

Chef/Owner

33 Liberty Restaurant

Greenville, SC

www.33liberty.com

Customer at the carving station: "Pardon me but is that roast beef rare?"

Apprentice Cook Malik: "No sir! There's plenty more in the kitchen!"

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  • 1 month later...

As a partisan of Central Texas style barbecue, I must say that this thread has been very amusing and enlightening to me. I hope to venture over to your part of the country to experience your style of barbecue.

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This event has been moved to April.  I'll post details when I learn more.

April 2008?!

$@!%$... I won't be here in Raleigh anymore next year. Dagnabit.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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