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  • Writer's pictureDeNaide Dickens

Unveiling the Charred Chronicles: Exploring the Storied History of BBQ in North Carolina

Welcome to Japp's Chop Shop, where the scent of smoke and the sizzle of meat come together to celebrate the time-honored tradition of barbecue. Today, we dive into the rich tapestry of North Carolina's BBQ heritage, tracing its roots through time and uncovering the flavors that have shaped this culinary masterpiece. Join us on a journey through history as we explore the origins, techniques, and regional nuances that make North Carolina BBQ truly legendary.

  1. Native Roots: Embracing the Flame Long before European settlers arrived, Native American tribes in the region practiced open-fire cooking, laying the foundation for North Carolina's BBQ culture. The native inhabitants utilized smoking and slow-cooking techniques to prepare meats, infusing them with smoky flavors that would later become central to the state's BBQ tradition.

  2. The Whole Hog: Eastern Carolina's Reign In the eastern region of North Carolina, whole-hog BBQ reigns supreme. The method of slow-roasting an entire hog over hardwood coals has become a hallmark of the state's BBQ identity. Pioneers like Samuel Jones of Skylight Inn and Wilber Shirley of Wilber's Barbecue elevated the craft, perfecting their own vinegar-based sauces and maintaining the tradition of whole-hog cooking.

  3. The Piedmont: The Rise of Tomato-Based Sauces As BBQ moved westward into the Piedmont region, a shift occurred with the introduction of tomato-based sauces. Figures like Warner Stamey of Stamey's Barbecue and Maurice Bessinger of the Piggie Park chain popularized this tangy, tomato-infused flavor profile. The Piedmont style, with its chopped or sliced pork and red sauce, added a new dimension to North Carolina's BBQ repertoire.

  4. Western Carolina: Smoky Mountains and Ribs Venturing into the picturesque Smoky Mountains, Western Carolina BBQ showcases its own unique style. Here, pitmasters like Wayne Monk of Lexington Barbecue and Jackie "Bub" Houston of Bub-Ba-Q perfected the art of pit-smoking and introduced delectable pork ribs to the region's BBQ offerings. The use of a tomato-vinegar hybrid sauce adds a distinctive flavor to the ribs.

  5. Barbecue as Cultural Heritage North Carolina's BBQ heritage is not just about the food—it's a reflection of the state's cultural identity. BBQ joints, festivals, and cookouts serve as gathering places for communities, fostering connections and preserving traditions. Historical figures like Ed Mitchell, who brought attention to whole-hog BBQ, and Mama Dip (Mildred Council), who championed Southern cooking, have left an indelible mark on North Carolina's BBQ legacy.

As we savor the smoky goodness and tangy sauces of North Carolina BBQ at Japp's Chop Shop, let us remember the historical figures who forged this culinary path. From the Native American traditions to the whole-hog masters of Eastern Carolina, the tomato-infused flavors of the Piedmont, and the rib aficionados of Western Carolina, each style tells a unique story. North Carolina's BBQ heritage is alive and well, and we are privileged to partake in this flavorful journey through time.

NC Whole Hog BBQ


Edge, J. T. (2018). The True 'Cue: North Carolina Barbecue. Southern Living Magazine.

Reed, J. S., Reed, D. V., & McKinney, W. (2008). Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue.

Moss, R. F. (2009). Barbecue: The History of an American Institution.

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