Let’s Talk Crockpot Carolina Pulled Pork BBQ
In my quest to find the Holy Grail of Pulled Pork BBQ I have eaten more of it then I really want to admit to. I have tried and pulled apart (no pun intended) more recipes you can imagine. I’ve read many books, watched hundreds of videos and cooking shows on the subject and I’ve sat in many BBQ restaurants trying the different styles they offered up. Some have been very good but others, well, not so much. Pulled pork to me isn’t a bland and over cooked piece of pork drowning in a sea of bottled BBQ sauce. There is so much more to it and styles vary by region which I’ll cover down below. In my quest I also want to be able to show you that you can have an amazing dish that you can prep in 15 minutes, plug in your crock pot, enjoy the rest of your day and 8 hrs. later, you and your guests will be enjoying some of the most tender, juiciest and flavorful pulled pork you will ever taste. As a side bar, an inventor named Irving Nachumsohn (surname:Naxon) invented the Crock-Pot and received the patent for it in 1940. This man should have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Can you imagine all the household arguments he unwittingly helped to avert over the years!
Regional sauces perhaps best define the history of American BBQ. From the Carolina’s to Texas and Kansas City, lovers of BBQ fanatically ally themselves with specific styles of sauces and dips. Let me introduce you to some of the most influential styles and you can judge for yourself.
Eastern North Carolina Vinegar Sauce
This vinegar-based sauce is by far my most favorite style of sauces. With a spicy and acidic African flavor, it was quickly adopted in eastern North Carolina. It’s a thin watery wash that is considered to be the “Mother” of all BBQ sauces and can be traced back several centuries. Unlike many of our modern sauces we are accustomed to seeing on our store shelves, the eastern-style does not use a tomato base. Instead, a tart combination of vinegar (usually cider), spices and hot sauce make up it’s base. I also add brown sugar for a sweet and tangy flavor profile.
Piedmont or Lexington-Style Dip
A major turning point in the history of American BBQ sauce occurred in 1876 with the introduction of Heinz Ketchup. In North Carolina, it caused a deep divide over the validity of using tomatoes in ‘cue. Western Carolinians traditionally cook pork shoulder and dress it up with a tangy vinegar-based sauce that is slightly reddened and sweetened by ketchup. This sauce is also used to make a delicious “Red” slaw.
South Carolina-Style Mustard Sauce
Because human taste buds don’t recognize boarders, South Carolinians share many of the same traditions as their northern counterparts with one exception----Mustard Sauce. Like the Piedmont-Style dip, German Immigrants also introduced another condiment to the region. Mustard, and thus Carolina Gold was born. This mustard-based sauce is thinned with vinegar and adds a wonderful zingy flavor to pulled pork.
Texas-Style Mop Sauce
One thing we do know about Texas is that Texans pride themselves on doing things differently and doing it bigger! So, it seems only logical they would develop their own BBQ tradition that can rival anyone. Texas’s beefy cuts of meat are often prepared with a savory “Mop” sauce-----so called because its applied with a mop. The sauce is more of a thin glaze that moistens the meat and adds flavor as its smoked. Mop sauces may include beef stock, vinegar, Worcestershire, spices and garlic. It’s crazy good on smoked beef brisket.
Kansas City-Style Sauce
This thick, sweet and tangy sauce dominates our collective consciousness when it comes to American BBQ traditions. We see it on our super-market shelves, slathered on ribs at our favorite restaurants and as a dipping sauce in just about every fast food chain. It’s the thick and gloppy sauce BBQ novices have come to recognize, enjoy and love across the country.
To sum up, wherever and however they are applied, BBQ sauces add a unique and flavorful signature that ensures BBQ is one of our country’s great folk food traditions.