What makes eastern and western North Carolina barbecue sauce different?

Western North Carolina barbecue is often called Piedmont style (after the region), or Lexington style (after the city). As is often the case, necessity is the mother of invention. The North Carolina barbecue debate is rooted in how barbecue was handled and sold in the west, versus the original in the east. While eastern North Carolina patiently smoked a whole hog — a long undertaking — in western cities, barbecue was be sold in pop-up stallswhich made the pork shoulder a much more convenient cut, compared to a whole pig.

The western part of North Carolina had been settled by a number of people from German origin, and they adapted the traditional oriental sauce style to make it closer to a traditional Bavarian dish of pork shoulder in a sweet and sour vinegar sauce. Western NC barbecue sauce usually incorporates a little ketchup, sometimes a little brown sugar, and even a little butter, making the sauce richer and sweeter than its eastern sibling.

No matter where you stand in the North Carolina barbecue debate, native styles and sauces have more in common with each other than with sauces and cooking styles in other parts of the country. Not sure where you stand in the barbecue industry? Include barbecue stops in your travel plans.

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