clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The official Frank-Kaminsky-inspired guide to North Carolina BBQ

New, comments

Sometimes, Charlotte Hornets don't come from the state of NC (though they often do). Here's a guide for the future non-native Hornets.

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Kaminsky quickly learned his lesson after being selected ninth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets: don’t insult North Carolina BBQ.

As you would expect, this was the reaction of North Carolinians everywhere:

In general, it’s just really smart to know the culture of a place you’re going to – when you go to Chicago, for example, you don’t trash their pizza and you don’t ask for ketchup on your hot dog. The same goes in North Carolina – it is the best one true type of BBQ and even if you don’t agree, don’t admit it publicly.

But this is an understandable mistake from a guy who was literally just a day or two into his NBA career. If you’ve never been to a place, it’s easy to not know what’s a big deal and what’s not. I’m sure Frank knows that NC BBQ is a big deal by now, but I think this is just a good time to really dive into the whole BBQ issue. I know Frank will probably read this and hang it up at his new place in Charlotte as his go-to BBQ guide, and I wouldn’t fault you for doing the same.

First, let’s get a broad definition from the know-it-all website, Wikipedia, before we get into the details.

Carolina barbecue is usually pork, served pulled, shredded, or chopped, but sometimes sliced. It may also be rubbed with a spice mixture before smoking and mopped with a spice and vinegar liquid during smoking. It is probably the oldest form of American barbecue. The wood used is usually a hardwood such as oak or pine.

We’ll go on with the article because it’s only been like 250 words, but look at the third sentence: "It is probably the oldest form of American barbecue." I mean, what else do you need to know? It’s the OG of barbeque. That’s the trump card. But in case you want to be difficult and argue that doesn’t matter, let’s go on.

Also, you may notice that I’m spelling it "barbeque". The grammatically correct way is "barbecue", but most restaurants in North Carolina spell it with a "q", most likely because of its correlation with the BBQ abbreviation. If the "q" spelling is good enough for the great barbeque makers of NC, it’s good enough for me.

Speaking of, let’s talk about the word "barbeque" in general and when it’s appropriate. This is where Frank got in trouble so it seems like an important distinction. First, barbeque is pork. I can’t be clearer than that – barbeque is not cow (like Texas brisket) and it’s not a sauce (this is the error Frank made). This makes sense when you think about it simply – you wouldn’t say, "pass me the barbeque" when you’re talking about barbeque sauce in the same way you wouldn’t say "pass the cocktail" when you’re trying to dip your shrimp. That is unless you dip your shrimp in your Cosmopolitan, in which case I guess I’ll have to start another post after this.


And though this doesn’t necessarily apply directly to NC BBQ, you can use the word "barbeque" in other ways, as long as you aren’t calling the sauce BBQ. For example, you can barbeque something or you can go to a BBQ. However, when talking about the actual meat, the definition is pretty clear.

So what’s the big difference between regional barbeques? Well, the non-NC ones aren’t actually barbeque in my opinion – yes, I’m looking at you again Texas brisket lovers – but let’s assume they are for this conversation. The biggest distinction is the sauce it’s cooked with – true NC BBQ is vinegar-based, while other regions often cook the pork with what you and Frank know as BBQ sauce.

Not barbeque:

However, there’s also a pretty big difference in the type of meat. As I’ve mentioned, in Texas, barbeque can I guess really mean anything – it seems like it’s more of a way of cooking than a type of meat, as it includes both pork and beef. Many regions consider BBQ what you may know of as ribs. In North Carolina, when someone talks about BBQ, they’re typically talking about pulled pork – meat pulled from the shoulder of a pig.

And the key is the sauce – the vinegar-based stuff of North Carolina is simply put, the way to eat BBQ. I can appreciate the BBQ brown sauce or BBQ-flavored chips or whatever, but nothing beats a plate of pulled pork with country fixin’s like green beans (cooked with bacon, of course) and homemade macaroni-and-cheese.

Anyway, I'll wrap this up because I'm suddenly quite hungry. But Frank, we forgive you. You probably didn’t know this was personal. We sincerely hope that you come to appreciate and love NC BBQ.