The Meatwave: Barbecue & Grilling Recipes, Reviews, Tips, and Tricks

Tue Aug 3, 2010

That Carolina Tang

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North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

Two years ago I went through a truly transcendent experience, one involving the introduction of vinegar to pork. While visiting two of my most favorite people in world in Eastern North Carolina, it was a given we'd be hitting up some local joints like Allen & Son and Ed Mitchell's The Pit. There I learned, without a doubt, just how well dressed up vinegar could enhance the flavor of barbecued pork.

My instant enthusiasm led me to the purchase of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, a tome of all things North Carolina barbecue. Captured within those pages was an original recipe for North Carolina vinegar sauce, which I made during my next pulled pork cook, and with just a little cut down on the salt, it tasted pretty good to me.

Little did I know that the evolution of the sauce had come such a long way from that dated recipe, and Serious Eaters let me know it in no uncertain terms. With the breadth of comments that post elicited, I've been able to piece together and refine a sauce that I finally feel confident enough is in proper shape to present to the finest smoked swine and the interweb masses at large.

North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

From my original post, where the recipe called for only four ingredients—cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, and salt—I've added only three additional. First is dark brown sugar, adding a nice molasses sweetness that balances out some tartness and also deepens the overall color of the sauce. Ketchup is next up, which gives a little redness to look and thickens it up ever so slightly. Finally, and most importantly, is Texas Pete's Hot Sauce. The cayenne based sauce was created in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I don't think I could make anything and label it "North Carolina" without adding at least a little Texas Pete.

North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

With a couple sugars and salt in the mix, I thought it would be best to give the sauce a quick boil to help dissolve the solids. I believe this step ended up being pretty crucial, since the sauces that got the heat treatment ended up tasting a little more vibrant and cohesive in the end.

North Carolina Vinegar Sauce
Finally, the vinegar sauce really needs a nice rest to finish it off. After cooling to room temperature, sauces that were refrigerated at least one day ended up having a stronger flavor that was more distinguishable when doused onto to meat.


Finally comes the pulled pork, the most perfect pairing for this sauce. I fell in love with the magic it imparted onto some smoky pork in North Carolina and I feel it's replicated incredibly well at home now. Although the sauce is quite strong on spice and tang on its own, when added to the meat, it feels like the natural pork flavor is only enhanced rather than getting a mouth full of hot vinegar. That's the beauty of this sauce and why, after posting a seemingly "wrong" recipe, I took a couple years to refine it to what I now consider its proper state. Not being a North Carolinian though, I still have to ask, "How am I doing?"

North Carolina Vinegar Sauce

  • Prep Time:
  • 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time:
  • 5 Minutes
  • Total Time:
  • 10 Minutes
  • Yield:
  • 2 cups


  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Texas Pete's
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a small, non-reactive sauce pan and bring to a boil. Whisk until the sugar and salt is completely dissolved, remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour the sauce into a jar or squeeze bottle and let rest in the refrigerator one day before using.


  • 01
  • Wilfred Reinke says
    I am slowly learning about the different sauces,styles and their roots. this was really interesting to me. I passed this post on to my friend @cyndiallison that lives in NC and knows here sauces.

    It will be interesting to get her take on it.
    Posted Tue, Aug 3 2010 10:52am
  • 02
  • Bryan Koen says
    Oh, this looks delicious. I miss pork.
    Posted Tue, Aug 3 2010 11:18am
  • 03
  • Josh says
    @Wilfred Reinke Thanks! I'd love to get a local expert opinion.

    @Bryan Koen I'll have your own pork butt waiting for the day you start eating meat again.
    Posted Tue, Aug 3 2010 2:09pm
  • 04
  • Chris says
    The fact that you added any ketchup will get you beat up by East NC diehards (ha ha). But my BBQ experience was from Bladen County and theirs is more of a cross with a Piedmont (Western NC) style sauce, including some ketchup. So I'd be fine with your revised sauce.
    Posted Tue, Aug 3 2010 11:47pm
  • 05
  • Dave says
    Great pics! I love Carolina sauce as a finishing sauce for pulled pork. I'm also growing to love their mustard based sauces for pork and chicken.
    Posted Wed, Aug 4 2010 7:45pm
  • 06
  • Ben says
    Chris is correct. Typically, Eastern NC sauce only consists of vinegar, sugar, salt and hot sauce/peppers. So the ketchup is a no-no for Eastern NC style, if you want to stay traditional. I live in the piedmont, west of Charlotte, so our sauces normally consist of vinegar and ketchup. I smoke my own pork butts for pulled pork about 14-18 hours, and I think it's better than anything I can get locally. My go to sauce has:
    1 cup cider vinegar
    1 cup ketchup
    3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
    1 Tbsp molasses
    1 Tbsp yellow mustard
    1 tsp salt
    1 Tbsp crushed red pepper
    1/4 cup de-fatted pork pan drippings
    No cooking, just mix and throw it on. This is still a thin sauce, but not as thin as eastern NC style. Everyone who has tried it has loved it on pulled pork with coleslaw on top and a toasted bun.

    Mustard based sauces are typically from SC, and is a whole different ballgame.

    I definitely will be giving your sauce a try, as it appears to be a good one. Besides, I'm not a purist. I tend to like stuff that tastes good, irregardless of whether it crosses the line of tradition or not.

    Posted Fri, Aug 6 2010 10:31am
  • 07
  • Ben Cops says
    What's texas pete sauce and what can I substitute for it in the UK? Franks hot sauce? Tabasco?
    Posted Sun, Aug 8 2010 4:26pm
  • 08
  • Josh says
    @Ben Cops Texas Pete is a hot sauce born in NC and made from cayenne peppers. You can certainly substitute another hot sauce, like Tabasco, but Texas Pete has a flavor and history unique to NC, which is why I used it here.
    Posted Sun, Aug 8 2010 10:07pm
  • 09
  • JoshGrillsItAll says
    Have you tried the mustard/vinegar sauces from South Carolina? Most famous is Maurice's.
    Posted Sun, Aug 22 2010 3:35pm
  • 10
  • Sophia says
    I just became a big fan of pulled pork about a year ago. Now I love collecting pulled pork recipes. Thanks for posting this! I made Crockpot Old South Pulled Pork on a Bun recently and it was delicious! Keep up the great work here!
    Posted Wed, Aug 25 2010 10:50am
  • 11
  • jennifer says
    I moved to MD from NC last year and MISS BBQ!!! No one here does it right. Had to drive to Hursey's in Burlington NC last month while visiting a friend to bring 5# of it home. It's under lock and key, and won't be casually doled out to just anyone!

    Posted Tue, Mar 8 2011 10:48am
  • 12
  • wes says
    I'm from SC, too, where have sort of a sauce schizophrenia, based on region, but I've always been partial to the eastern NC and SC vinegar based or the midlands SC vinegar/mustard base. I think you got it right here except for the addition of the ketchup and the Texas Pete -- ketchup doesn't belong east of Durham at all, and you don't need the premade TP (or tabasco or even crystal, my favorite for flavor) if you steep the crushed reds in the vinegar/sugar/salt. We call it a mop sauce, and then put on the table Crystal or TP or Tabasco for extra heat.
    Posted Fri, Sep 2 2011 12:31am
  • 13
  • cheri says
    Made the Carolina Tang sauce yesterday. Was a bit hot for me so added another TBL dark brown and 2 TBL white sugar. Mellowed it out some for my taste buds that love hot but can't handle too hot anymore.
    Was fabulous, my family enjoyed it immensly even though we usually eat my dad's Tennessee sauce on our pork. Thanks so much-it's a Keeper!
    Posted Mon, Oct 24 2011 11:42am
  • 14
  • Texas Craig says
    I hate to admit it, but this Dallas-born and raised boy had to modify the original recipe - it was TOO Hot!

    I used a different hot sauce, so that might have been the reason, but I doubled (at least) the brown sugar, and tripled the ketchup - was still a little bit too vinegar/spicey, but I thought I'd chalk it up to the experience...

    we in the western-most Southern state prefer our bbq sauce sweeter and with more tomato...remember, it's just a preference, not a requirement...

    thanks for the recipe to try!
    Posted Sun, Jan 8 2012 9:07pm
  • 15
  • Jonathan Rice says
    You forgot the most important thing.. 1 half a stick of butter.. I have been eating carolina sauces all my life and cooking it at firestations all over NC. That's the secret of good sauce for chicken or pork. Try it and tell me what you think...
    Posted Fri, Jan 27 2012 1:51pm
  • 16
  • ken benson (kinny binson) says
    my parents owned restaurants for 35 years my daddy's family is originally from benson, nc. but he grew up in fayetteville nc. I opened a restaurant in tyrone ga. called barbeque junction where i served a wide variety of sauces hence "the Junction" the house sauce was a half gal of cider vinegar, a qt or so of water,1/4 cup of salt, 3tbl sp granulated garlic, 3tbl sp onion powder, 5 tbl sp crushed red pepper brought the mix to a boil on the stove then put in the fridge over night. Smoked 6 cases of butts 8-10 lb avg ea. in a pit covered with roofing tin along with 2-3 inside round beef roasts 18-20 lb average . it took 9-10 hrs for the butts to 170 degrees the beef to 130 degrees. I mopped the meats every hr or so with this carolina sauce. it gave me a 2 inch deep hickory smoke ring all the way around the meats. Only hickory wood. picked, pulled and chopped the pork drenched with the sauce then added what ever other sauce the customer wanted or sliced "naked" my personal favorite...couldn't use tomato, sugar or butter or the meats would char before they cooked thru. The beef was chilled and thin sliced for barbeque, fajitas, philly's, italian(chicargo beef) or stroganoff.....kb
    Posted Wed, Apr 18 2012 10:46pm
  • 17
  • Susan Patenaude says
    Lived in the Chapel Hill/Durham area for about twelve years, but wasn't sure where the line of demarcation was for the sauces. I gues I was stuck in the middle. Not sure why those in East NC have such disdain for a little ketchup--just brightens up the sauce and adds a little body and complexity, IMHO. Not the end of the world! I'm making some crock-pot pulled pork right now and I added some Buffalo Salsa Chipotle from Mexico in place of the Texas Pete in my sauce. I'm hoping the smokiness of the chipotle will make up for the lack of smoke flavor in my meat.
    Posted Tue, May 22 2012 5:04pm
  • 18
  • Seline says
    Eastern North Carolina Style is strictly east of Raleigh. Sorry, but what makes it truly "Eastern North Carolina Style" is the absence of Ketch-up or any tomato based product. If it has tomato of any kind in it - it's not Authentic Eastern North Carolina Style.

    A Proud Born and Bread Eastern North Carolinian
    Posted Thu, Jul 12 2012 9:50am
  • 19
  • J Luffman says
    I live in the NW part of the state, and we have amazing 'que here. The best I've had omits the molasses and flakes. I use a similar recipie for anything smoked or grilled. I make a thicker sauce for my grill, the thin for a long cooked smoked something.
    Posted Mon, Jul 16 2012 3:49pm
  • 20
  • James says
    I put a pork butt in the smoker an hour ago and thought I would find a NC style sauce to go with it. Looks like this is the one...I'll let you know how it turns out. My brother is a judge on the Memphis BBQ scene and I'm using a rub he gave me for the pork. I wonder how the two will go together... Memphis meets North Carolina
    Posted Sat, Aug 18 2012 11:33am
  • 21
  • James says
    Josh, thanks for the recipe, it turned out great! I don't know what is or isn't authentic about this since I've never been to any part of NC but if this is how pork is done there then I'll have to make a trip one of these days.
    Posted Sat, Aug 25 2012 11:26am
  • 22
  • p3orion says
    OK, for those trying to figure out the regional argument:

    1) Eastern NC sauce
    Primarily vinegar and crushed peppers, with salt and varying amounts and types of sugar. Very thin, usually clear. When used as a mop, butter is often added. NO TOMATO ALLOWED east of the capital (then again, Raleigh is full of relocated Yankees now anyway, so that's confused things, but we'll try to get y'all up to speed.
    2) Western NC sauce
    Still heavily dependent on vinegar, but a bit more relaxed about some tomato sauce. Usually a bit sweeter and thicker than Eastern style. Crushed red pepper is not usually used, the heat (if any) coming from cayenne or Texas Pete.
    3) South Carolina sauce
    Mustard based. Fairly sweet, tangy from the mustard rather than vinegar. A good example is Maurice Bessinger's, based in Columbia. This style carries south and west into western Georgia and eastern Alabama.
    4) Piedmont style sauce
    The Piedmont is the region in between eastern, western, and South Carolina, so it's not surprising that the typical sauce there is often a combination of all three styles. Good sauces, but usually with a lot more ingredients.

    All of these are meant for use on pulled pork, which is what God meant when He said "Let there be Barbecue."

    Rib sauces are thicker, with a base of ketchup and sugar (molasses, brown sugar, whatever.) That same style sauce will be used on pulled pork up and down the Mississippi (Memphis style, Chicago style, etc.) They usually start with dry rubs, too, and get some or all of the heat from that rather than the sauce.

    Texas sauce is a lot like Memphis rib sauce, except it's sometimes a bit hotter (the south-of-the-border influence) and may have a bit of added mustard or black pepper (the German influence.) Then again, down there they think barbecue is beef brisket, so Texans may be beyond saving.
    Posted Wed, Sep 12 2012 10:52am
  • 23
  • cheri says
    Cracker from Florida with Northern and Southern roots. Makes no matter wether you want to bicker where the sauce is famous or what part of which state....FACT IS that Josh's "Carlolina Tang" sauce is an awesome blend for pulled pork! It all comes down to taste not whether tomatoes are allowed or not. Thanks again Josh for all of your BBQ triumps and sharing. Hope to be able to join one of your get-to-gethers someday.
    Posted Wed, Sep 12 2012 12:35pm
  • 24
  • Flip says
    Just got a smoker and a 130 lbs of pork. The smoker has been running non stop since Sunday. Bacon, ribs, and tonight, rump roast. Started searching for some sauces for the pulled pork, and think it's the coolest thing, all the differences in sauces even from county to county in the Carolinas- to this kid from the Adirondacks, it's all good. We were on a two week vacation in Florida, and on the way home, stopped at Duke's BBQ, which was in my top 3 favorite restaurants (and we visited some great places) and will be trying to come close to those great, thin, vinegar based sauces. Definitely trying all the variations here.
    Posted Tue, Oct 16 2012 6:39pm
  • 25
  • Bob says
    I doubled the recipe with slight changes, including ditching the ketchup, and substituting cayenne pepper for texas pete and kicking up the heat a notch and it was a hit at our annual bonfire party last night:

    4 cups apple cider vinegar
    3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
    2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 teaspoons kosher salt

    I added this to a 4 quart crockpot full of diced roast pork. (Just used the crockpot on low to keep it warm while serving)

    We thought we we never go through that much since we had pulled pork with other sauces, but we ran out early while the other options did not "sell" as well. If you don't want it with as much kick, reduct the red pepper and cayenne by a teaspoon each, and increase the brown sugar by a tablespoon back to the original proportions.
    Posted Sun, Oct 21 2012 7:44am
  • 26
  • Doug says
    Just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I wanted to make my first homemade sauce for some pork that we cooked Imu style (we are living in Hawaii for the year). I usually like Texas style with a kick but this was my first homemade trial. We are going to a friends house for Thanksgiving and we are bringing the pork. I followed the recipe that you gave and it is super yummy. I used to live in Chapel Hill and Greensboro so am no stranger to NC style Q and your recipe hit the spot. Thanks
    Posted Thu, Nov 22 2012 7:40pm
  • 27
  • Doug says
    Just one additional note - I think it would be totally complete to add some slaw to this:-)
    Posted Thu, Nov 22 2012 7:41pm
  • 28
  • JT says
    Sorry folks but there is NO sugar and CERTAINLY NO ketchup in Eastern NC bbq sauce... It's just white and cider vinegar, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper... If your going to do anything add a couple of whole peppers (select hotness to your taste)... The peppers are more about the flavor and not the heat so... So mix it up, shake it up and eat it up... and, remember the longer it sits the more the flavors will be released... Just cooked a shoulder today so I'm enjoying some right now... :)
    Posted Fri, Nov 23 2012 6:34pm
  • 29
  • Phillip says
    I grew up near Winston-Salem, where Texas Pete is made, so I tend to drown just about anything in it. If I remember my T.W. Garner history correctly, TP was originally conceived as a buffalo wing sauce, so I find the sauce it was designed to mimic, Frank's Red Hot, to be an acceptable substitute for those horrific occasions when I have a plate of hashbrowns and scrambled eggs but am out of Texas Pete. When I eat NC BBQ I apply the sauce to the pork and basically just dump a bunch of TP on everything on the plate.
    Posted Wed, Dec 19 2012 5:00pm
  • 30
  • p3orion says
    Phillip, I agree that Texas Pete is great on just about anything, but you're mistaken about it being conceived of as a wing sauce. Texas Pete has been around since 1929, when it was first mixed up by Thad Garner, who was at that time the owner of the Dixie Pig BBQ in Winston Salem.

    That was long before buffalo wings were invented in Buffalo, New York some time in the '60s, with another couple of decades before they caught on nationwide. Until well into the '80s, wings were practically throw-away cheap, because there was so little use for them.

    By the way, you're right about Frank's being almost as good as Texas Pete, but Frank's Wing Sauce is even better than original Frank's as an all-purpose hot sauce. I like the "natural butter-type flavor" that's listed on the label as one of the ingredients, although for the life of me I can't decide exactly what "natural butter-type flavor" actually means.
    Posted Thu, Dec 20 2012 2:43pm
  • 31
  • Maggie says
    Hello there, just emailing from Glasgow, Scotland as I have just 'boiled', yes boiled some pork and it looks a bit on the pale side and lacking in taste although I did put in a few carrots, onions, bay leaf etc., Anyway rather than have it with plain old gravy I noticed your receipt, liked the sound of it and have made it. I will have to serve it up tonight as I cant wait but I will let you know how it goes down with the rest of the family. Wish me luck. Many thanks, Maggie.

    Wishing you a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2013 with lots of love, laughter and delicious food.
    Posted Thu, Jan 3 2013 10:02am
  • 32
  • Maggie says
    PS For the red pepper flakes, I have used chillie flakes, hopes thats OK!!!!!!!
    Posted Thu, Jan 3 2013 10:06am
  • 33
  • p3orion says
    This is off the barbecue topic, but since there are a lot of North Carolina carnivores in attendance, I thought this would be a good place to post this question: does anyone have a good livermush recipe?

    For those of you who do not know, livermush is a mixture of pork liver, pork broth, cornmeal, red pepper and other spices which is all cooked together, then allowed to cool into a brick shape. It can be eaten cold, but is much better sliced and fried (in bacon grease, ideally) and served as a breakfast item.

    Livermush is similar to the scrapple of Pennsylvania (and no doubt evolved from the recipes of the same German settlers) but has relatively less cornmeal than that, I believe. It's found primarily in western NC, but is impossible to get in Georgia, where I live now.

    I've finally found a local source for fresh pork livers, but I have no idea how to go about making my own livermush. I'd love guidance from somebody on how to make some that's similar to the store-bought Neese's or Carolina Pride I remember from when I was a kid.
    Posted Thu, Jan 3 2013 12:15pm
  • 34
  • Eddie says
    The above comments about no ketchup in Eastern NC dip are correct, but you have so little in there I can't imagine it will supply much more than color. Leave it out, and you would have an "authentic" Eastern dip. Not that I stand too much on authenticity. For example, I don't do whole hog in my backyard. Allen & Son uses butts, but I don't know about anyone East of Chapel Hill doing that. For backyard, I do butts with eastern dip.

    I found my favorite vinegar recipe at Weber's site:
    1-1/2 cups cider vinegar
    2 Tbsp granulated sugar
    1 tsp Tabasco sauce
    1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    Kosher salt (to taste)
    Ground black pepper (to taste)
    (Bring to boil, simmer 10 minutes)

    Of course I prefer Texas Pete to Tabasco. It's not quite as hot as Tabasco, so I raise it up closer to 1 tablespoon Texas Pete. I'm not religious about measuring the flakes, either, but I probably double them. I also tend to use turbinado or demerara sugar rather than white.
    Posted Sun, Feb 3 2013 9:30pm
  • 35
  • Danielle says
    Tried this sauce and loved it.THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR POSTING IT! I made a couple changes to reduce the carbs. Making a 4 cup batch, I used 1 packet of Raw Sugar and 1 teaspoon of molasses (as I was out of brown sugar). After simmering for a few minutes and cooling, I added several packets of Splenda and adjusted the salt to taste. It was absolutely excellent. I'm on my second batch in two days! I plan on using it as a low calorie, low carb sauce for my salads and veggies too.
    Posted Thu, May 2 2013 9:46pm
  • 36
  • Al says
    I don't care where the darn sauce is from,if it is it!
    Posted Tue, May 7 2013 3:22am
  • 37
  • Cheri says
    Well said AL! But Josh's fixings really got me hooked. His style and tastes are just too awesome for words. ONE OF THESE DAYS I am going to join a cook out in NY!
    Posted Tue, May 7 2013 8:27am
  • 38
  • darren says
    Just made your sauce last nite and added tablespoon of honey ...delicious
    Posted Mon, May 27 2013 9:53am
  • 39
  • Fred says
    NOT an eastern NC BBQ sauce. I've lived there all my life and have never had one that contains ketchup. Still, it looks pretty good and, sans the ketchup, pretty close to authentic. I need some sauce right now, as I have some pulled, smoked pork but no sauce, so I'm going to try this one.
    Posted Wed, May 29 2013 4:09pm
  • 40
  • Steve says
    Yes! You've got in down correctly. I was raised in Winston-Salem and Texas Pete is a complete MUST. Nice post!
    Posted Sun, Jun 2 2013 12:35pm
  • 41
  • Melba Wells says
    Growing up in the 30' & 40's, in Central Texas, my dad made what I would call NC barbecue sauce--just vinegar, red pepper, black pepper and salt. No sweet stuff for us!. Occasionally, somebody would slip a can of beer in the sauce. How good it was on beef, pork, mutton and sheep which was cut up in chunks, big as your fist. The next day, the sauce was ever so good on a slice of bread and any left over meat.
    Posted Mon, Jun 3 2013 3:50pm
  • 42
  • CJ says
    Anyone have recipe for pit chicken? I have seen the recipe made in 5 gallow bucket with chicken dipped and the cooked/marinade over block fire pit.
    Posted Tue, Jun 11 2013 3:02pm
  • 43
  • John McClancy says
    As a son of tobacco road and traveling consultant, I visit and write reviews of BBQ houses all the time. This looks like a great recipe, sans tomatoes.

    For the record, Eastern-style que should really be shredded, not just chopped. At home, I braise pork shoulders in a crock pot with milk and garlic cloves. Then slice, shred and mix in sauce. Tenderest pig you ever et'. Don't forget the slaw, which is another argument all by itself.
    Posted Wed, Jun 12 2013 12:57pm
  • 44
  • Hermione Hairpie says
    I've got some Carolina BBQ Sauce coming out of my "suzy" right now. ;)
    Posted Thu, Jul 4 2013 1:02am
  • 45
  • Adella says
    I agree -- there's nothing that ruins an Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce like catsup! bleh! vinegar, water, butter, salt, and pepper (red & black) -- wonderfully simple and and simply wonderful. no need to mess up a great thing.
    Posted Sun, Jul 7 2013 10:00am
  • 46
  • Jodie says
    He calls it NC sauce, so the argument about whether this sauce is authentically eastern is irrelevant. I'll be trying this recipe but I will not be adding ketchup as I've got eastern roots. We just can't do it without it feeling wrong. I'm displaced in the Midwest now and I don't have a smoker, so I'm going to try a stovetop tea smoke and then cider vinegar steam in the oven. The crockpot method was just not good enough last time! Topped with creamy slaw on a steamed bun, I'm drooling in anticipation.
    Posted Tue, Jul 16 2013 5:14pm
  • 47
  • cheri says
    Jodie, forget the 'roots', time's are a are tastes and variety! Josh's version of Carlolina vinegar sauce, whether it be Eastern, Northern, Western, Southern or his own NY style is truely awesome.

    I am a BBQ sauce on the right meat with the right sauce kinda' grill person. I love messy pork sandwiches with regular RED sauce that my aunt used to serve EVERY Sunday in Tenn after church. She cooked it for hours in sauce and we only had the pork the bun grilled in a sandwhich press. It was just so yummy and the ONLY WAY I knew how to eat a good pulled pork sandwich until I found this sauce. This gave me a whole new outlook on how to enjoy a pulled pork sandwhich tasting the meat AND the sauce.

    Get the grill out for your meat, not the stove not the crock pot, although with this sauce on it, it probably would not matter. The sauce is good, get over the 'no-ketsup' THANG!
    Posted Tue, Jul 16 2013 7:30pm
  • 48
  • charlotte stephens says
    Can I base babyback ribs with this sauce
    Posted Sun, Sep 29 2013 5:21pm
  • 49
  • BBQGuru says
    Inclusion of tomator kethcup clearly marks you as an amatuer and not to be taken seriously as a BBQ Pitmaster!
    Posted Thu, Oct 10 2013 6:36pm
  • 50
  • cheri says
    WHATEVER, BBQGuru, or so you call yourself. GET OVER IT! I have tried many of Josh's recipes and they are Awesome, he goes where the BBQ 'masters' or so you call yourselves are too afraid to alter tradition. This 'Carolina Tang' sauce is awesome regardless of a little tomato included. You are the amateur in not allowing your predisposed position on BBQ to be expanded. Try it, you just might like it.
    Al says
    I don't care where the darn sauce is from,if it is it!
    Posted Thu, Oct 10 2013 7:57pm
  • 51
  • CarolinaExPatriot says
    I am from Jacksonville, NC (doesn't get too much more eastern than that) and all of the posts that have denounced ketchup are correct: no respectable pig cooker east of I-95 would add ketchup.
    This is pig cooking EC style: Get a 1/2 gallon jug of cider vinegar from the Piggly Wiggly, take out 2 cups and set aside. add about a cup of dark brown sugar, a half bottle of Texas Pete, 1/2 cup salt, a 1.5 oz bottle of McCormick crushed red pepper flakes and a shot of bourbon to the cider vinegar jug. Add another shot of Bourbon to the cook. Set aside mixture (unrefrigerated) for no less than 24 hours.
    About 9 hours before tailgating at ECU have the pledges wake the Brother cooking the pig, Have them make sure the cook is well stocked with the alcoholic beverage of his choice and as he tells them stories about the good old days, have one of the pledges go over and squirt down the pig with the mixture as it roasts at least once an hour.
    Serve with beer, good friends and football.
    Posted Sun, Oct 13 2013 2:31pm
  • 52
  • Brandi says
    I'm not sure if this has been addressed yet or not, but I saw that some people substituted a different hot sauce for the Texas Pete. The thing about that is Texas Pete isn't just any ole regular hot sauce. It's a bit hot, but it's flavorful more than spicy in my opinion. If you substitute it with Tabasco, which is just plain hot, the result will be extremely hot. I'm not a fan of Tabasco, because I feel that it is simply spicy hot without any flavor. Louisiana hot sauce or maybe Frank's hot sauce would be a better option. Texas Pete is the best, though.
    Posted Sun, Oct 20 2013 11:46pm
  • 53
  • p3orion says
    Good call, Brandi. When I was in Texas and (ironically) couldn't get Texas Pete, I found that Crystal is a pretty good substitute for it, too.

    But definitely not Tabasco. It has its uses, but doubling for Texas Pete is not one of them.
    Posted Mon, Oct 21 2013 2:23pm
  • 54
  • Daniel says
    Here in Salisbury,NC. Our BBQ is the best in the country. Don't get any better. The sauce y'all got is off. No Texas Pete.
    Posted Sat, Dec 28 2013 1:06pm
  • 55
  • Mike says
    I'm from Wilmington NC. Like most have already posted, there are MANY VARIATIONS to the "NC Vinegar Based Sauces." There really is no "right or wrong way" to do it. Basically, it all depends on WHO'S uncle or granddaddy came up with which version and THAT is the deciding factor. I say experiment a little and come with whatever version you like best. Just make sure vinegar is the main base. My own personal version has apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, Texas Pete, and a small amount of Heinz 57 steak sauce --not ketchup-- for a dash of color. However, I do think I will try what some have suggested and add just a touch of brown sugar to the sauce. That should round everything out and sounds about right. Now... back to that 8lb. butt that's slow cookin' in the oven. Shucks, I'm hungrier than a tick on an scrawny dog!!
    Posted Wed, Jan 1 2014 5:52pm
  • 56
  • Sheri Aakre says
    I was so glad to find this recipe and the other comments helped too. I am from Virginia but lived in South Carolina and Georgia. Then we got transferred to Rhode Island. Boy did I need a good sauce recipe. I made this and a South Carolina style for tailgating and the Carolina was a hit! They gobbled it up. My husband made me hide some for home it was so good! Needless to say it has become a staple for our pork butt day's. Thanks for taking the time to break it down to help those of us that had only eatin it. Until now make it taste right.
    Posted Sat, Mar 8 2014 11:06am
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  • jerry v says
    Well I live in va but born and raised in eastern nc my grandfather and relative's raised hogs and cooked them in a pit.I use his sauce and I have never in 50 yrs ever put or heard anyone put ketchup in the E N C sauce.
    Posted Thu, Mar 13 2014 10:51am
  • 58
  • Mike's Carolina BBQ Sauce Seasoning says
    Excellent info here. I discovered Carolina Sauce in 2013, and my taste has been changed forever away from tomato based sauce. Vinegar and mustard go so well together in a BBQ sauce. Thanks.

    Posted Tue, Mar 18 2014 3:52am
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  • Ann says
    No sugar or ketchup! That's the only way I ever had it in ENC!
    Posted Thu, Mar 20 2014 4:36am
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  • Scott says
    Best sauce for pulled pork. I use nothing else since finding this recipe. The only alteration I make is in the 'hot sauce'. I prefer something with a little more kick (Addiction Bhut Jolokia / Marie Sharps). Just about any thin vinegar based sauce will do.

    5 stars on this sauce!
    Posted Sat, Apr 26 2014 3:49pm
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  • Cheri says
    Here ye, Here ye, Scott I so Agree. Josh does an awesome job in sharing his taste buds! This sauce hit the spot on my pulled pork sammys!
    Posted Sat, Apr 26 2014 4:39pm
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  • Paul says
    This is roughly the same recipe that I use except with the addition of onion and garlic powder. I found that I like the flavor more if I bring the temp up almost to boil and then turn it off. The longer it stays in the fridge, the better it gets. I get so many compliments every time I cook, it's almost embarassing. I cook and sell bbq as a fundraiser and it's common to have people tell me that it's the best they ever had. Of course smoked pork is going to have a better flavor than one cooked in a gas pig cooker. When you bring the internal temp to 200, it allows the collogen and connective tissue melt down and turn almost sweet. The only downfall to smoking is that you may have it on the smoker for 12-15 hours.
    Posted Thu, May 8 2014 2:45pm
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  • Catherine says
    Looks like a nice middle of NC sauce! I am doing VA BBQ and NC BBQ in a few days - do you know how many lbs of pork are seasoned by 2 cups. Feeding 100%u2026. Scary!
    Posted Sun, May 18 2014 2:42pm
  • 64
  • Catherine says
    oops! That was 100 people! Sorry!
    Posted Sun, May 18 2014 2:44pm
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  • protomeat says
    This recipe is pretty much exactly a Piedmont or Lexington style North Carolina barbecue finishing sauce. The reason the tomato ketchup is not used in the eastern style is cause the Eastern is a purist style the meat is supposed to stand on its own....... And the other reason is Eastern Carolina sauce is meant to baste the hog throughout the barbecuing process if the sauce contains sugar the hog will burn during the hot smoking process.

    When I do Eastern Carolina barbecue I prepare it the purist way and then I have several different finishing sauces I make which people can or cannot choose to use. Personally like to use just a little bit of Piedmont/Lexington style finishing sauce.

    I grew up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
    Posted Wed, May 21 2014 5:00am
  • 66
  • ashley gray says
    My step father use to do easter Carolina pig pickens be for he past away my he r.i.p. he never let any one watch him make is sause but I do know that he DID use brown suger in his sause as do a lot of the other men so you are WRONG if you day they don't use suger. As for the texas pete it may not be made in Carolina but it's in most everyones sause up here with brown suger.... I grow up doing pig pickens an tasted 100s of sause to know.
    Posted Sat, May 31 2014 12:11pm
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  • p3orion says
    Ashley, I don't think anyone said Texas Pete was not from North Carolina; it's made in Winston-Salem. If a NC-style sauce is going to have hot sauce in it at all (rather than just red pepper flakes) Texas Pete the THE only one to use if you're going to be authentic.

    Proto, as Ashley says, there are some eastern NC sauces that contain a bit of brown sugar (at least I think that's what she's saying.) You're right that sauces with a lot of sugar, like most rib sauces, would burn if used throughout the cooking process, but the small amount in a basting sauce does OK, especially considering the temperature on a long cook will probably be less than 250 degrees.
    Posted Mon, Jun 2 2014 3:18am
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  • Hoss says
    I have been using this sauce for years. The only change I make is to add 1 heaping tbs of chili powder. It darkens the sauce and gives it a bold flavor that really compliments the meat. I always try and use fruit wood when I smoke my pork butts with peach being my favorite. This weekend I am going to use a combination of peach and bourbon barrell oak wood.
    Posted Tue, Jun 10 2014 8:43am
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  • GG says
    Never, ever, ever use raw vinegar on Eastern NC Barbecue. Please cook the sauce. I had a very expensive barbecue dinner at The Pit in Raleigh, and immediately knew that the original owner had not really disclosed his true award-winning recipe. It had that nasty raw vinegar. What a waste of a good pig..The vinegar sauce must be cooked, or you don't know what you're doing... imho !!!
    Posted Mon, Jun 16 2014 2:12pm
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  • cheri says
    GG this Carolina Tang sauce is brought to a boil and laid to rest a bit before putting on the pig, and is truly tasty. I made this sauce again last night for a family bbq sandwich night. Some of my pop's Tennessee tomato based sauce cooked on the pulled pork and some of the Carolina Tang on naked pulled pork. The vinegar sauce was the winner and oh so tasty. Thanks again Josh for sharing your recipe.
    Posted Mon, Jun 16 2014 8:27pm
  • 71
  • Texas Mike says
    I've noticed some people calling the so-called Eastern recipes BBQ sauce. Uhm, flavored vinegar is not BBQ sauce. Heck, it's not even a sauce. Looking up the definition of "sauce" #1 says: thick liquid served with food, usually savory dishes, to add moistness and flavor.

    Now then, adding ketchup (which I have zero problem with) and brown sugar, etc...could certainly make this into a BBQ sauce but vinegar, salt, black pepper, and red pepper...alone is TECHNICALLY not a sauce.

    Either way, as someone else mentioned, who cares if it has ketchup or not, if it's Eastern or not....all that matters is that it's good. Just reading this recipe and many of the comments, I know this concoction is good and I will be trying it.

    And if Carolinians think only Pork is BBQ, they don't know much about BBQ. Us Texans will BBQ you a leather shoe and you'll eat it and say it's good.....let alone brisket.

    Seriously though, BBQ pork, chicken, beef, veggies, seafood, etc, etc, etc... It's all good!

    Oh, and if you don't use wood, it ain't real BBQ. I guess charcoal comes from wood so maybe it counts a little bit. ;)

    Posted Mon, Jun 23 2014 7:08pm
  • 72
  • ATL Pirate says
    I am a Greenville, NC native and truly miss a good pig pickin' and all the sides and fellowship that goes along with the event. My favorite BBQ joint growing up was always B's. Thanks, Josh for giving me a sauce recipe that at least closely resembles one that my dad cooked up. Even though it is not authentic or purist as a classic ENC sauce, it's close enough for me!
    Posted Sat, Jul 19 2014 11:57am
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  • cheri says
    ATL Pirate thanks for the 'Fresh' outlook from a NC native. Most seem to just put their high horse on and nose up, instead of having open minds! Great sauce even if a NY'orker developed it. Being of Southern roots, Tennessee and Florida, myself I find that Carolina Tang Sauce truly enjoyable and a pleasant change from ANY BBQ sauce on pulled pork. Onward to the grillin!
    Posted Sat, Jul 19 2014 1:29pm
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  • Jeff says
    Great recipe! I use this all the time on my pork butts since finding it last year.
    Posted Tue, Jul 22 2014 1:19am
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  • Jordasche Kingston says
    Hello. Your sauce looks and sounds great, thank you for sharing. I'm going to try it, and I hope I don't screw it up. I'm a natural health consultant, so I plan to use unrefined coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar, and I'll make my own ketchup. I am really excited to try a high fructose corn syrup free bbq sauce. Thank you, again.
    Posted Mon, Jul 28 2014 1:42pm
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  • Scott says
    There is noi substitute for making your own sauce, but I have to say, being born and raised in eastern NC, the most authentic vinegar sauce in a bottle has to be Grendeddy Daves "Hawgwash" based out of Wake Forest, NC. It's got the spice, sweet, and salt to make some of the best NC BBQ ever in your back yard.
    Posted Fri, Aug 1 2014 12:47pm
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  • DR LR BARYQUE says
    Pretty good sauce, mine is similar BUT I add A handful of my special rub I save while rubbing pork. I add my rub and it's irresistible
    Posted Fri, Aug 1 2014 9:29pm
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  • Peterrabit says
    All this hoop about sauces when the most important thing and I say again IMPORTANT to cooked pork BBQ : first is good selection of meat,then your RUB,and finally SLOWCOOKING with wood of your choice that will give you the smoke flavor you injoy Sauces are made to enhance the flavor of the meat not to cover up it's taste....Good BBQ can stand alone and be great....If used, you what your taste buds like....Don't hide the good taste of the meat.....
    Posted Tue, Sep 9 2014 12:25pm
  • 79
  • Meautentot says
    Dude, I am a NC girl. I was born in Tarboro, lived most of my life in Durham/Chapel Hill, and am settled in Asheville. I've had the gamut of BBQ across the state, and a fair sampling of SC. I feel like you hit the nail on the head as far as a blending of all takes. Definitely more vinegar than Western, but that's as should be! My good friend Adam and I made this the other night and he said "Well, I'll suffer that yankee for this sauce. He appreciates good barbecue, and that is, of course, the great mediator."
    Posted Fri, Sep 19 2014 7:20pm
  • 80
  • Becky says
    The only time I was in North Carolina was a one-hour layover in Charlotte (and a lovely airport it is, by the way!), so your regional arguments seem completely pointless to me.

    If it tastes good, *eat it*, even if it isn't the way it's "always been done".

    In the Midwest, meat has "always been done" with a package of Lipton's soup mix, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a dollop of ketchup.

    This may be tradition, but it isn't worth saving!

    Innovation is not a bad thing, and it doesn't strike at the roots of your regional identity.

    I certainly can't understand the vitriolic denigrations from people who won't try anything new ever. You aren't a master if all you do is copy someone else.

    Josh, keep on posting your recipes, and ignore the haters.

    Posted Thu, Oct 23 2014 7:14pm
  • 81
  • plasterers bristol says
    Yummy sounds delicious this, thanks for posting this up.

    Posted Tue, Nov 11 2014 6:27am
  • 82
  • Dean says
    Too many folks like to split hairs these days. As my great grandpa told my grandpa during the depression "shut up and eat!"
    Posted Fri, Jan 9 2015 11:22pm
  • 83
  • Cahelie Jolly says
    You don't have a clue about "Q" .This potion you have created resembles Lexington, NC style BBQ sauce, which no real lover of E. North Carolina BBQ can abide. Go to Kings, Wilber's, Parker's or Scott's for real Q and learn.
    Posted Sun, Jan 11 2015 11:04am
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  • p3orion says
    Don't look now Cahelie, but there's a lot more to North Carolina than just eastern NC, and their barbecue is as good or better. Josh never said this was supposed to be an authentically (or exclusively) eastern NC sauce; his recipe very nicely captures the flavors of both eastern and western Carolina styles.

    Post your own recipe, and when people are still using and praising it five years later, then you can criticize Josh's.
    Posted Sun, Jan 11 2015 1:46pm
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  • Protomeat says
    I commented earlier - I also wanted to add that any of you eastern nc purists that think the known eastern nc pit masters are using simply vinegar crushed red pepper black pepper Texas Pete and salt - you're probably wrong.

    You probably are just following the base recipe that everyone knows is good.

    Great chefs and cooks play with flavor profiles in subtle ways to create their own unique spins. These spins are often what becomes a guarded secret in a recipe.

    For example there are many ingredients that are also tangy besides vinegar.

    Adding hints of other things (lemon juice etc.) can actually enhance an eastern nc sauce in subtle ways that if used in small enough increments would not be detectable and are the basis of secret recipes that chefs won't even let on that they are using.

    Some pit masters use smoked paprika among other things in the eastern carolina sauce. They just didn't tell you about it.

    For my finishing Piedmont sauce I don't use any ketchup - I prefer tomato paste a little roasted garlic.
    I don't use anything with high fructose corn syrup which most ketchup includes. Also putting texas Pete is basically pointless if you actually understand how to season things.

    Posted Wed, Feb 4 2015 1:37am

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