North Carolina bbq
Sam Jones BBQ/Instagram; Skylight Inn/Facebook

10 Essential Barbecue Joints in North Carolina

From the vinegar-pepper sauce in the East to the sweeter, tomato-based sauce in the West.

The North Carolina barbecue scene is steeped in a rich history, dating back to when Native American tribes slow-cooked meat over open pits. However, it was the introduction of pigs by European settlers that truly shaped the distinctive style that defines North Carolina barbecue today. What sets it apart is the focus on whole-hog cooking, where the entire pig is slow-roasted over hardwood coals.

North Carolina barbecue is a celebration of simplicity and tradition. The hallmark use of a vinegar-based sauce, often with a peppery kick, enhances the natural flavors of the pork. The state is also divided into two barbecue camps, each with its loyal followers: the Eastern style, featuring whole hog and a vinegar-pepper sauce; and the Western style, using pork shoulder and a slightly sweeter tomato-based sauce.

Barbecue restaurants, ranging from roadside shacks to established eateries, dot the landscape. The communal spirit of barbecue, coupled with its unique flavors, makes it more than just a meal; it's a cultural institution deeply embedded in the fabric of North Carolina, offering a taste of history with every savory bite.

There are countless establishments in North Carolina with unparalleled barbecue. But we did our best to bring you some of the very best the state has to offer.


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