One of the more bizarre attributions given to Asian foods is somehow the idea that we like putting oranges in our food. The criminally disgusting “Orange Chicken” found on Chinese takeout dives all over the country would not be consumed by any self-respecting Chinaman. These days any jackass wanting to make something “Asian” will invariably add oranges to the mix. McDonald’s even jumped on the stereotype by placing mandarins into their “Asian” salad.
Fairly similar is the perpetual menu item in generic BBQ places around the country. Carolina pulled pork will always be on the menu. Of course pulled pork is almost nowhere to be seen in North Carolina!! Now I’m sure there has to be some joint somewhere in the state that does a pulled pork sandwich, but I’ve eaten BBQ from Ayden all the way to Lexington and not a single big name joint offers their pork pulled. In Eastern North Carolina you can have your BBQ hog anyway you’d like just so long as it’s finely chopped.
In Western North Carolina located up in the Piedmont Triangle (aka “Lexington Style”) you actually get a number of choices on how you’d like your pork served. Think of Western NC BBQ like espresso drinks. While it’s all the same espresso and milk you can order a doppio, cortado, cappuccino, viennois, au lait or latte and basically receive a different drink. Now here’s my guide to helping you order BBQ like a pro.
THE CHOP – Remember Carolina BBQ is not pulled it’s chopped or sliced.
- Chopped – This will be the default they’ll give you if you can’t decide. The pork is minced fine and dressed with the house dip (Lexington BBQ has “DIP” not sauce). The vast majority of your Carolina brethren have grown up eating this and it’s pretty much the standard order.
- Sliced – If you like your pork white and lean this is your cut. It’s slightly drier and is a favorite among the older folk who don’t want to pay money for fat. It comes from the picnic portion of the shoulder
- Coarse Chopped – As the name implies, the pork is not finely minced and you still get some meat texture. I personally like this one better. More so because by ordering this, you’ll ensure that your meat is freshly chopped. Places that do fine chopped will sometimes put their meat in this blender like machine called a “buffalo chopper”, it’s awful as the meat dries out quickly. To avoid the dreaded buffalo chopper, order the coarse.
BROWN or WHITE?
- White – North Carolinians don’t tend to like their BBQ too smokey. Thus many places will focus on providing the soft interior parts of the smoked meats where the flavor is not intense. If you don’t specify brown or white, you’ll likely get white.
- BROWN (sometimes called outside meat) – This is the “bark” of the meat. The exposed flesh that gets the most amount of love time with those hickory embers. The flavor of this is intense and slightly drier. Not everyone likes it, but if you’re a fan of smoked flavor, this is it.
So best success you’ll want to get a tray of Course Chopped outside brown. This earns you instant Carolina cred.