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Carolina Pulled Pork
The Carolinas aren't just home to great college and pro football teams. They own one of the best hot sandwiches ever made in America: pulled pork. The cut of meat is usually pork butt, otherwise known as a bone-in shoulder roast. And in the Carolinas, the sauce is typically heavy on the vinegar and spice. There are loads of variations on spice rubs and sauces that go with "proper" pulled pork. Most rubs include a mix of ground mild and hot chile peppers with a little sugar, salt, and other seasonings. The sauces tend to be high in vinegar with solid doses of salt, chile peppers and a touch of sweetness to balance out the flavors. Here's my take on this classic American sandwich. I like some ketchup in the sauce, western Carolina-style. Keep in mind that slow-grilling a pork butt takes about 5 hours. But you'll get some damn good pull when it's done!

Sauce:
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mild hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Rub and Pork:
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder roast (a.k.a. Boston butt), 6 to 7 pounds
  • 1 pound coleslaw mix (shredded green cabbage and carrots), optional
  • 12 hamburger buns
  • 5 cups wood chips (hickory is best)
Before You Go: The night before, mix sauce ingredients in medium glass or ceramic bowl. Microwave 1 minute to warm up sauce and dissolve salt and sugar. Stir, then set aside 1/2 cup of the sauce to mix with the coleslaw, if using. Pour both portions into zipper-lock bags. Seal and chill in refrigerator or cooler.

Mix rub ingredients in 2-gallon freezer-weight zipper-lock bag. Scatter rub over pork, patting it in with your fingers. If you have any rub left over, mix it into the sauce. Put spiced pork into 2-gallon bag that contained the spice rub. Seal and chill in refrigerator or cooler overnight.

The morning of the tailgate, put wood chips and enough cold water to cover in freezer-weight zipper-lock bag. Seal and chill in cooler for 1 hour. Or if your cooler's full, soak the chips at the game in a bag or bucket.

When You Get There: Remove pork from cooler about 20 minutes before grilling. Heat grill to medium-low (about 300°-325°F). If using charcoal, spread hot coals to opposite sides, and drop a large disposable aluminum pan in empty space in middle. Brush and oil grill rack. Drain about 1 cup of wood chips and scatter 1/2 cup over coals on each side. If using gas, drain all of wood chips and put in smoker box or in foil directly over one of the heated burners (see page 000). Heat gas grill to high until you see lots of smoke then turn heat to medium-low. Turn off middle burner(s), or if you only have two burners, turn off the burner that doesn't have the pouch over it.

Put seasoned pork butt, fatty side up, over unheated part of grill. Cover and cook until pork is dark all over and fall-apart tender (about 190°F on an instant-read thermometer), 4 to 5 hours total. If using charcoal, add fresh coals and remaining wood chips when the old ones die out, about once an hour.

While pork cooks, pour reserved 1/2 cup sauce into large bowl. Mix in coleslaw mix, if using, until thoroughly coated.

Rest meat off heat to let juices redistribute, about 20 minutes. Using a fork or your fingers, pull pork into shreds, breaking up crispy bits and discarding bones or excess fat. Put shredded pork in large disposable aluminum pan with about 2 cups of sauce. Put pan back on center of grill or cover with foil to keep warm. Pile a big mound of pork and some coleslaw, if using, on each bun. Drizzle on more sauce to taste.

Makes about 12 sandwiches.

Neighborly Tips: If your idea of pork barbecue includes a sweeter, smokier barbecue sauce, mix your favorite barbecue sauce into half of the sauce called for here. Or just follow the recipe then pour some barbecue sauce onto your sandwich.

The slaw is optional but traditional on Carolina pulled pork sandwiches. If you like a creamier, less vinegary slaw, try the Creamy Slaw on page 000.

Coleslaw mix is available in the bagged salad section of most grocery stores.

If you have a smoker instead of a charcoal grill, smoke the pork at 225°F for about 8 hours.

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