The sauce is simple to make, but the effect is anything but simple. It cuts through the richness of the smoked meat and enhances it rather than cover it up like heavier barbecue sauces can. When I take the time and the passion to barbecue, I want to taste the meat, not the sauce. This is the beauty of a North Carolina vinegar sauce; it doesn’t cover up the silky, smoky, caramelized pork that is the star of the sandwich.
You can make the sauce and the slaw while the pork is cooking, or you can make them the day before. The key to great North Carolina-style barbecue is being patient. There isn’t a fancy rub or a mop or a lot of tending to do. Cook the pork over a consistent, indirect heat until it reaches an internal temperature of about 195 degrees. That is a higher temperature than most books will tell you, but that is the necessary temperature to make all of the connective tissues break down. The meat becomes so tender that all you need to pull it is two forks. I’m old-fashioned and never use a cleaver. That’s chopped pork, and that’s a whole other thing entirely!
NORTH CAROLINA-STYLE PULLED PORK SANDWICH
Start to finish: 6 hours
Hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
7- to 9-pound bone-in pork butt or Boston Butt
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Barbecue sauce (see recipe below)
North Carolina coleslaw (see recipe below)
10 unseeded hamburger buns
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for low heat, indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the coals to one side. For a gas grill, turn off the heat on one side. Aim to maintain a temperature of 300 degrees.
Do not trim any excess fat off the pork; this fat will naturally baste the meat and keep it moist during the long cooking time. Brush the pork with a thin coating of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside on a clean tray until ready to cook.