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Barbecue Secrets

Recipe of the week: Classic Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tidewater Coleslaw

Jul 15, 2010

Classic North Carolina Barbecued Pulled Pork Sandwiches


From Barbecue Secrets DELUXE!, Whitecap Books

Makes 18–24 servings

Note: this dish is meant to be cooked in a charcoal-fired smoker, but you can emulate real barbecue on your gas grill. See the instructions at the end of the recipe.


The concept here is to cook a pork shoulder butt roast (sometimes called a Boston butt) for many hours in a smoky chamber until it is literally falling apart. One test competitors use for doneness is that if the blade bone can easily be pulled out of the roast, the pork is ready to shred and serve. This is real barbecue the way we prepare it for competition, and the way it is eaten in the Southeastern states. You can substitute any good rub you have on hand if you don’t have time to make some from scratch, but fellow Butt Shredder Kathy Richardier’s Butt Rub is the best! This recipe calls for two butts because if you’re going to tend the smoker for such a long time, you might as well fill it up. Pork butt freezes very well, so if you’re not feeding a huge crowd, just serve one of the butts, wrap the other in an extra layer of foil, and freeze it for later use.


For Kathy’s Butt Rub:

1 Tbsp | 15 mL kosher salt

2 Tbsp | 25 mL sugar

2 Tbsp | 25 mL brown sugar

2 Tbsp | 25 mL cumin

2 Tbsp | 25 mL chili powder (like

Chimayo blend, New Mexico, or ancho)

2 Tbsp | 25 mL ground black pepper

up to 1 Tbsp | 15 mL cayenne

1/4 cup | 50 mL paprika


For the pulled pork sandwiches:

2 pork shoulder butt roasts, about

6 to 9 lb | 2.7 to 3 kg each, bone in

1 cup | 250 mL prepared mustard

1 Tbsp | 15 mL granulated garlic

apple juice/maple syrup/bourbon

blend in a spray bottle

(see Barbecue Secret below)

2 cups | 500 mL or more of your favorite barbecue sauce

1 cup | 250 mL North Carolina-style

Vinegar Sauce (see recipe below)

2 dozen fresh, fluffy white buns

Tidewater Coleslaw (see recipe below)


             Combine the rub ingredients in a bowl and set the rub aside.

            Slather the butts with the mustard, sprinkle them with the granulated garlic, and then coat them liberally with the rub. Let the rubbed butts sit for half an hour, until the meat’s juices make the rub look wet and shiny.

            Prepare your smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature up to 200–220˚F | 95–100˚C. Line the drip pan of your smoker with a double layer of foil and fill it with apple juice. (If you want a more crispy crust on the butts, just line the drip pan and leave it dry.) Cook the butts for 11/2 to two hours per lb | 500 g (about 10–14 hours, or to an internal temperature of 185˚F | 85˚C), adding coals and chunks of hardwood as required. We use apple wood in competition.

            About halfway through the cooking time, turn the butts and spray them with the apple juice mixture. Turn them over and spray them again at the 3/4 mark. Two hours before the butts are due to be ready, turn them over again and, with a basting brush, generously glaze them with barbecue sauce. At the same point, throw a couple of chunks of hardwood on the coals. An hour before the butts are due to be finished, turn and glaze them one more time and wrap them in a double coating of foil. One more hour in the smoker, then take them out. Let them rest for at least half an hour (in competition we’ll let our butts rest, wrapped in foil, then wrapped in a blanket and placed in an insulated cooler, for as many as four hours).

            Take the butts out of the foil and place them in a large roasting pan or heavy duty roasting tray. Pull apart the pork, using two forks or your hands sheathed in rubber gloves, mixing the exterior crusty bits together with the tender, juicy white meat. Drizzle the shredded meat with the vinegar sauce and mix it in. (These days I use equal parts vinegar sauce and barbecue sauce – Ronnie.)

            To serve, pile the shredded pork on the buns, drizzle it with some more vinegar sauce and/or some of your favorite barbecue sauce, and top it with the coleslaw for a big, juicy, crunchy, messy barbecue sandwich. Take one bite and you will know what real barbecue tastes like!

Variation: Cooking Barbecue on a Grill


Covered grill method: You can barbecue pork butts on your covered charcoal or gas grill. Follow the recipe above exactly, but use indirect low heat. Indirect heat means you put what you’re cooking on a part of the grill that has no heat under it. This is easier on a gas grill because to maintain low heat on a charcoal grill means you have to add coals every hour or two for a whole day. Use soaked wood chips or chunks wrapped in foil and poked with a fork to create a bit of smoke. It won’t be as smoky as barbecue made in the traditional style, but it’ll still be good! The one advantage of this technique is you can probably get by with a couple of hours less cooking time.


North Carolina-style Vinegar Sauce

Makes a little more than 1 cup | 250 mL

This is old-school barbecue sauce at its finest. Drizzle some of this into pulled pork just before serving to give it some classic heat and tang, or use it to baste pork butt.

1 cup | 250 mL white vinegar

1 cup | 250 mL cider vinegar

2 Tbsp | 15 mL brown sugar

1 Tbsp | 15 mL crushed dried red chile flakes

1 tsp | 5 mL Louisiana–style hot pepper sauce

salt and pepper to taste

       Combine all the ingredients and stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. The sauce stores indefinitely in the fridge.


Tidewater Coleslaw

Makes 8–10 servings


My dear friend and fellow Butt Shredder Kathy Richardier discovered this slaw many years ago and I have substituted my favorite toasted cumin seeds for the celery seeds in the original recipe. This pungent, high-sugar slaw is best as a condiment, piled high on top of a pulled pork sandwich or burger, or on the side of a few slices of barbecued brisket.


11/2 cups | 375 mL mayonnaise

1/2 cup | 125 mL white vinegar

1/3 cup | 75 mL white sugar

1 Tbsp | 15 mL toasted cumin seeds

1 small head cabbage, finely shredded

2 carrots, peeled and finely grated


       Whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, and cumin together in a bowl. Toss it with the cabbage and carrots and refrigerate it. You can make this slaw a few hours ahead of time. Toss it just before serving to redistribute the dressing.


Barbecue Secret

Spray your meat periodically to give it a sweet shine. Starting about halfway through the cooking time, spray chicken, ribs, brisket, or pork butt with a mixture of 2 parts apple juice, 1 part Jack Daniel’s, and 1 part maple syrup.


Photo copyright John Sinal from Barbecue Secrets DELUXE! All rights reserved. Used with permission.