There’s nothing wrong with North Carolina’s hog-centric, vinegar-doused barbecue. On the contrary, there’s actually a whole lot right with it. But that doesn’t mean a Raleigh pitmaster can’t venture out of his neighborhood once in a while.
At North Carolina State University, Eddie Wilson, CEC, executive chef at the Talley Student Union, is the barbecue guy, not only serving up plates and plates of pulled pork but also teaching a class for the community, BBQ Boot Camp. Wilson has devoted a lot of time into understanding the art and science of smoke and what it does to meat, and his areas of expertise reach way beyond the Research Triangle.
“We teach all barbecue—pork, chicken, beef, traditional Texas, Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia and even South America and Africa,” Wilson says.
He’s gained an appreciation for many cross-regional barbecue elements: the different types of wood in use around Texas and other areas, andouille sausage in Louisiana, mutton barbecue in Kentucky and the mustardy sauces of Georgia. All are delicious in their own succulent, smoky way, Wilson has concluded.
Back on campus, pork and beef are smoked, pulled and used on a huge number of menu items from brisket barbacoa for burritos to mu shu pork. Whole hogs are generally reserved for catering, and N.C. State’s bigger smokers can handle about 100 pounds of hog.
So what’s the next big thing in barbecue? Denver ribs, a term used for lamb spareribs, according to Wilson. The distinctive lamb flavor is mellowed and also enhanced when cloaked in smoke and charred just a little around the edges.
Barbecue in Cali?
Yes, it’s true. And the state’s unique cultural blend infuses barbecue with West Coast cool, as evidenced by Sodexo’s Local Artisan program at the Varian Café, which serves employees of Varian Medical Systems in Palo Alto, Calif.
The café features a carved-to-order item each week and that’s usually tri-tip (the quintessential California barbecue cut), but the smoker also turns out pastrami, turkey breast, salmon, pork shoulder, pork belly, wagyu beef, brisket, bacon-wrapped chicken thighs and more.
Once the meat is carved for a customer, it can become part of an awesome sandwich such as a torta with smoked tri-tip, refried beans, avocado and crema or a French dip made with tri-tip.
Ray Valeske, executive chef with Local Artisan Sodexo, uses a versatile electric smoker that he thinks of almost like a slow cooker, allowing him to pack pork shoulders with lots of aromatics, soy and sugar, and let it cook for hours without the sugar burning.
Heading even farther south
“Looking for something besides barbecue sauce? In South America, chimichurri is a pesto-like condiment with many variations that can include other complementary items like cilantro, oregano, garlic chili peppers, vinegar and oil. It’s excellent with roasted and grilled meats. Try a chimichurri variation with a touch of honey or maple syrup to help stick to some grilled St. Louis-style ribs.”— Jeffrey Bane, MLD, CEC, CCE, dean of hospitality and director of foodservice operations at Cleary University, in Ann Arbor, Mich.