Carolina BBQ: We Like Pig Butts & We Cannot Lie

7 Tips for smoking delicious Carolina BBQ from our family grill master, including grilling tools, dry rub secrets, and techniques!

Around our family circle, my husband Seth is the grill master. He can roast a steak to medium rare perfection, sear a scallop without it sticking, and smoke pork to barbequed goodness. Yeah, he is that good!

You probably know we take our BBQ very seriously down here in North Carolina. Cooking barbeque here is a specialized affair sometimes taking most of the night and a better part of the day with its own special rituals and secret ingredients. Family feuding, sabotage and neighborhood rivalries are not unheard of when the butts get to smoking.

Recipes are guarded and handed down on deathbeds. Pigs diets are debated and sauce choice is akin to a personality virtue or flaw. In fact, everyone has their favorite local spot and some of us have even been known to drive two hours just to get the perfect pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on top. You know who you are.?

Furthermore for those Carolinians connected to a little town known as Shelby, it’s not uncommon upon introduction to be quizzed whether you are a Red Bridges patron or an Alston. The response, consequently, decides whether the acquaintance can deepen or not.

Finally don’t get me started on sauces. For us, the king of sauces without a doubt is a peppery vinegar-based concoction, often referred to as Western or Lexington Style. In fact our favorite sauce is homemade by a dear friend we call Boo who lavishly gifts it to us in gallon jugs once or twice a year. From whence, we dole it out to our family and friends in meager quart jars, hoarding the rest like a doomsday preper stockpiling rations.

In Preparation for July 4th weekend and all the summer cookouts getting ready to happen, Seth agreed to share his top 7 tips for smoking Carolina BBQ and maybe even a secret or two.

A tureen filled with Carolina BBQ chopped

7 Tips for Smoking Carolina BBQ:

No. 1 Eat High on the Hog

If you are not smoking the whole hog, choose quality cuts from the top half of the pig like the Boston butt. You want a nice layer of fat around the outside of the meat and a medium amount of marbling within the cut. Do not trim the fat off before smoking. This is where much of the flavor and moisture comes from!

No. 2 Dry Rub Your Butts

Seth recommends coating your pork cuts with a dry rub several hours before smoking. A basic delicious rub should consist of seasoned salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, paprika, and cayenne powder.

No. 3 Low, Low, Low & Slow, Slow, Slow

“Low heat the slower the better” is the smoked BBQ strategy here in the South. Furthermore, the heat should be indirect and you want to avoid flames jumping from the grease dripping. Seth says BBQ should take at least 6 hours or more to cook and can be considered done when it reaches an internal temperature between 160 – 165 degrees F.

No. 4 Real Carolina BBQ is Hickory Smoked

The grill master also swears by a mix of hickory wood chips and charcoal to get the optimal smoky flavor for which Carolina BBQ is prized.

No. 5 Measure that Heat

Don’t underestimate the benefits of a quality meat thermometer and grill thermometer. You’ll need them for accurate readings of the temperature of the meat and the inside temperature of the smoker. Check out one of these thermometers!

No. 6 Get Sauced

If you are smoking a Boston butt or other large cut of pork you should be basting the meat with your BBQ sauce of choice (ahem…Lexington Style) every 30 minutes or so after it has been smoking a few hours.

For ribs, Seth recommends cooking them for a few hours in the smoker then coating the ribs in BBQ sauce and wrapping it all in tin foil to then cook a few more hours.

No. 7 Suit Up Baby

Lastly, Seth swears by a pair of silicone grill mitts like these. The mitts allow you to turn the meat and move it around with out it breaking apart like it would with tongs.


Well fellow BBQ fans, I hope you’ve found Seth’s tips and secrets to delicious Carolina BBQ helpful! I can’t wait to chow down on some pork butts this weekend!?

Happy 4th of July!

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