Which style of Carolina BBQ is the best?
It’s an endless debate among North Carolinians we’ve all had at some point whether we wanted to or not. You may have even gotten flashbacks to heated culinary arguments with friends or family members in the past just by reading the question.
We asked FOX8 viewers to tell us their favorite style of Carolina BBQ and maybe vent some of their strongest opinions in the process, and they certainly responded.
Lexington-style came out on top with a little over 55 percent of the vote. But Eastern-style still has its fair share of fans with around 36 percent of voters saying they prefer it.
Depending on your preference, you can either say Lexington-style came out on top as the rightful winner or Eastern-style didn’t get the appreciation it deserved.
Unsurprisingly, South Carolina BBQ didn’t get much support given how devoted to NC BBQ we are in the Piedmont Triad.
The only thing we’re totally sure of is the merits of each style will continue to be disputed.
The two most well-known ways to prepare BBQ in North Carolina are Eastern and Lexington-style, which is also called Piedmont-style.
Eastern-style BBQ uses the whole hog, or as the saying goes “every part but the squeal.” A vinegar-based sauce is then used to complete the recipe after the whole pig has been smoked. The meat is the main attraction here with less emphasis being placed on the sauce.
There are no tomatoes used in an Eastern-style recipe, which is why some love it and others, to put it lightly, don’t love it.
If you want to add fuel to the fire during a debate over which style of NC BBQ is the best, casually mention that Eastern-style is known by many North Carolinians as the “original” recipe.
Lexington-style BBQ gained popularity in the early-20th century around the World War I era.
This style only smokes the pork shoulder instead of the entire pig and goes for a more sweet and spicy flavor with the sauce when compared to Eastern-style.
The red sauce used in a Lexington-style recipe is typically made from a mix of vinegar, ketchup, pepper and various spices. Depending on the specific recipe, the sauce could range from sweet, spicy or outright hot.
While plenty of us here in NC have strong opinions about the best and worst BBQ sauces, the debate gets more contentious when you include the most popular forms of South Carolina BBQ as well.
South Carolinians go with the whole-hog approach similar to NC’s Eastern-style but vary things up with a wider variety of sauces.
Here are the four main sauces used in SC BBQ:
You’re likely to find mustard sauce around the lower coastline and midland region–SC’s “mustard belt.”
Vinegar and Pepper
This spicy sauce is popular along the SC coast, so you may have enjoyed it on a vacation or two.
Chances are pretty high that you’re a fan of this sauce, or at the very least have tried it a few times, since it’s sold in most grocery stores in the Carolinas.
Heavy tomato sauce is found in the western and northwestern parts of SC.
Light tomato sauce is found in upper SC and is made up of a light vinegar and pepper mix with ketchup or tomato added for a bit of sweetness.
No matter which type of sauce or cooking style you prefer, all of us in the Carolinas can agree that the meat has to be smoked or it isn’t BBQ.