North Carolina: the land of the hog. Our state’s proudest culinary tradition is a link to our history, a delicious delicacy, and the cause of one of our favorite arguments outside of college basketball. It’s barbecue.

For you few readers who don’t know, there’s a Great Barbecue Debate in NC. We have two distinct and proud barbecue styles, each with a storied history. They both involve a pig (no beef brisket here — that’s not real barbecue!), but that’s about their only commonality.

  • Eastern style is whole hog smoked slowly, drenched in red pepper vinegar, and often chopped.
  • Western style (or Lexington, or Piedmont, depending on where you’re from) often only uses pork shoulder, is usually pulled, and features a rich, tomato-based “red” sauce.

The differences don’t end with the main course. Eastern style is usually served with white coleslaw, Western with red (there’s that tomato base again).

So which one’s better? We have an opinion, of course...but we’re not telling. Both are celebrated in cookoffs, festivals, and events large and small across the state. Chances are one of them is going to make its way to your Thanksgiving table. This longstanding tradition is a powerful and tasty way to bring people together from all walks of life, and the occasional heated discussion about which one reigns supreme just adds to the fun.

There is one point of total agreement: for die-hard fans, NC barbecue beats any other state’s, anytime.

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