Eastern Carolina Barbecue Sauce

Traditional Carolina barbecue begins with a whole hog smoked over coals; here, Sean Brock cooks pork shoulder for 12 hours in a 275°F oven before smoking it for about 1 hour in a backyard grill. He then dresses it with an Eastern Carolina barbecue sauce that relies on the roasting juices for flavor.

Eastern Carolina Sauce
Photo: © Antonis Achilleos
Active Time:
25 mins
Roast Time:
12 hrs
Total Time:
14 hrs 25 mins
12 to 14 servings


Carolina Pulled Pork

  • 1 cup Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika

  • 1 tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 (12- to 14-pound) bone-in pork shoulder, with skin

  • About 50 hardwood charcoal briquettes, divided

  • 8 cups small hardwood smoking chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained (divided)

Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup reserved roasting juices from Carolina Pulled Pork

  • 1 cup white wine vinegar

  • 1 cup cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Hot sauce


Make the Pulled Pork

  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the mustard with the brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, and onion powder. Set the pork shoulder, fat side up, in doubled 14 by 18-inch disposable aluminum roasting pans. Brush the pork with the mustard mixture. Roast, uncovered, for 12 hours, until the meat is very tender and is pulling away from the shoulder bone.

  2. Tilt the pan and pour the roasting juices into a medium bowl; you should have about 1 1/4 cups. Refrigerate the juices for 30 minutes. Skim off the fat before using; set aside 1 cup of juices for the barbecue sauce.

  3. Meanwhile, light 10 of the charcoal briquettes. When the coals are hot, cover them with the remaining 40 briquettes. When all the coals are hot, arrange 6 cups of the soaked wood chips around the coals. Set the roasting pan on the grill grate over the coals and wood chips. Cover the grill, partially open the air vents, and smoke the pork shoulder for 30 minutes.

  4. Carefully remove the pork and the grill grate and stir the coals a few times. Scatter the remaining 2 cups of soaked wood chips over the coals. Replace the grill grate and return the pork to the grill. Cover and smoke for 30 minutes longer.

  5. Transfer the pork to a work surface and let rest for 30 minutes. Pull the meat off of the bones; discard the bones, gristle, skin, and fat. Using tongs and a fork, or your fingers, finely shred the meat and transfer it to a large bowl. Toss the shredded meat with the remaining reserved roasting juices and serve with the barbecue sauce.

Make the Barbecue Sauce

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the roasting juices with white wine vinegar and cider vinegar. Add the dark brown sugar and sweet smoked paprika, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste, and serve.

Make Ahead

The smoked pork shoulder can be prepared through Step 4 and refrigerated overnight. Break the pork into 4-inch pieces and bring to room temperature. Arrange the pork in a roasting pan, drizzle with 1/2 cup of water, cover with foil, and rewarm in a 425°F oven before shredding.

Suggested Pairing

Smoky, ripe Santa Barbara Syrah.

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