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Jim Leff and NC BBQ

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Jim Leff and NC BBQ

Low Country Jon | Oct 4, 2006 03:39 PM

Wow, as someone who was born and raised in NC, reading what Jim has written about NC BBQ so far (dispatch #17) is sort of painful. I guess food critics are paid to be opinionated, but claiming that native diners were eating their own BBQ "wrong" because they were not ordering "outside brown" takes a lot of nerve. Of course, Jim ordered "outside brown" at his first BBQ stop on this trip and found it dry and disappointing. Now, he's learning! I assure you "outside brown" or "with brownings" is not some hip, hidden method of ordering BBQ in the Carolinas. The fact is most diners are probably aware of it but just don't like it. It's actually not that hard to find, but good examples ARE a bit harder to find. Brownings do often tend to be dry and hard to chew, so many people prefer to do without. There's nothing "wrong" about that.

As Jim moves east and south, I hope he tries to maintain an open mind about the BBQ of the Carolinas. I think many outsiders never learn to appreciate America's original BBQ because they want it to be like what they've had in Memphis, Texas, or Kansas City, but it is something else all together. Towards the coast, it is traditional to cook the whole hog, and the beauty of this style of chopped or pulled pork is the way the different parts of the pig combine in sublime ways, accented by a very simple vinegar and pepper sauce. There's nothing like finding moist, flavorful strands of rib meat mixed in with the lighter shoulder and ham meat. Though there are exceptions (like the Skylight Inn in Ayden), smokiness does not tend to be a primary component of whole hog BBQ, because, unless you are partaking of the brownings, there's just not a whole lot in the mix that has been directly exposed to smoke, even if the pit is a wood burner. Just keep an open mind and enjoy!

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