Pigging Out On N.C. Barbecue

Imagine if your job put you on the road for months, requiring you to drive 22,000 miles, talk to 1,800 people and make 228 stops. Sounds pretty dreary, right?

Imagine if that job was trying to find — and then consume — the best barbecue in North Carolina. Sound better?

Jim Early took on that task and has lived to tell the tale. And no, we don't know his cholesterol count.

Early is the author of "The Best Tar Heel Barbecue: Manteo To Murphy." With the data he collected, he created what he calls "the barbecue trail." On the Web site of the North Carolina Barbecue Society he's mapped out the locations of 25 places that cook pork without the help of gas or electricity, an important distinction for True Believers.

"Ninety-nine percent of the places in North Carolina cook with electricity or gas. And I do appreciate the efforts that go into cooking it the old fashion way," he told The Early Show.

He says that a lot of them are small places and a lot of them are a little off the beaten path.

There are places like the Skylight Inn in Ayden, run by Jeff Jones. He says his family started cooking and selling barbecue back in the 1830s.

"My forefathers was feeding a Baptist convention. He come up in a covered wagon and actually fed the people for the church convention out of a covered wagon," Jones recalled.

According to Jones, the labor intensive process for cooking a pig over wood takes 10 to 12 hours. "We burn the wood in the fireplace. We scoop the coals up and that's how we transfer the heat to cook our pigs is with the coals. If you're not consistent with scattering the coals and how much, you're not cooking anything," he said.

Unlike other areas of the South, the "sauce" for the barbecue is profoundly simple: "We just add a little salt and pepper, Texas Pete (hot sauce) and vinegar. We believe that when it's cooked with wood you don't need all that sauce to add back to give it a flavor, because the flavor is already there."

The results are so legendary that Jones sells about 15 pigs worth a day. "Our customers are real loyal, and then we got people who find out about us from the Web or newspaper or TV and they'll schedule their vacation just to come by here and try us out."
  • Marianne Goldstein

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