More than 350 years ago, Europeans watched as Native Americans built frameworks of green saplings for the purpose of smoking meat over pits of glowing wood coals. Thus began the long tradition of authentic barbecue as part of North Carolina’s rich culinary history.
The first appearance of the word “barbecue” in English was in 1697. In North Carolina, barbecue has always been about fire-roasted pork. Raising pigs was affordable for most settlers, who could turn the animals loose to root for food.
Gone to a barbecue. Back in three days.
~ diary entry by George Washington
The common practice in the first-settled coastal plains, or what came to be known as Eastern North Carolina barbecue, was to roast split whole-hogs over wood coals and anoint the crispy-yet-succulent meat with the English “catsup” of the time — vinegar enlivened with salt, hot peppers, and occasionally a dash of oyster juice for flavor.
German settlers, who later swept into North Carolina’s piedmont by way of the Great Wagon Road, established the custom of barbecuing only the pork shoulder while adding a little tomato puree and sugar to the vinegar sauce of the east. Over time, this use of dark meat from the pig’s shoulder and other meats, in combination with a sweet tomato-based sauce, came to be known as Western North Carolina barbecue.
At The Pit, we proudly carry on the tradition of wood-fired, free-range, vinegar-based, whole-hog Eastern North Carolina barbecue. We also give a nod to our brethren in the west by serving pulled pork, ribs, and beef brisket with our tangy and sweet tomato-based sauce.