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Carolina Style Cookers

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Joined: 07 Apr 2010
Posts: 172
Location: Mooresville NC

PostPosted: Sat Aug 14 10 2:53 pm    Post subject: Carolina Style Cookers Reply with quote

I've been knee deep in this BBQ stuff for a few years now, and as I learn more and more, I've begun to notice a difference between the different styles of cookers. I started on a Brinkmann Gourmet smoker, which happens to take after the UDS design. Simple enough. As I got more interested in cooking, I started to notice different styles of cookers...such as the offset and the reverse flow. Being a native of North Carolina, it took me a while to realize that there is an entirely different breed of a cooker right here on my home turf and I never really noticed that its design is far from what I knew. It seems that these Carolina cookers use direct heat without the use of a firebox. This got me thinking. In my mind, slow cooking and smoking meat is all about indirect heat, correct? But in Carolina, it seems all the old veteran cookers cook over direct heat on their cookers. I've been eating North Carolina BBQ all my life, and I can't recall ever coming across any tough pork that seemed to be grilled in sense. Maybe one of you Texas boys can set me straight here on the "theology" behind this. How can cooking pork over direct heat yield such amazing results? I for one, cook with an offset Old Country BBQ pit, and my shoulders come out great. But looking at how my fellow North Carolinians natively do their pork, I've ended up confused at the fact that they cook over direct heat. Somebody give me some answers.
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Joined: 15 May 2009
Posts: 2292
Location: New Braunfels, TX

PostPosted: Sat Aug 14 10 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My $.02 worth is that direct heat and intense heat do not have to go hand in hand. Perhaps your fellow Caroliners are building an appropriate fire for the purpose. They also may be using marinating techniques to assist. Both would be a bit tedious however. I can't imagine "Low and slow" and " Set it and forget it" going hand in hand in this case tho.
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Joined: 12 Dec 2007
Posts: 26019
Location: Southeast Texas.

PostPosted: Sat Aug 14 10 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PhilipWicker, long before I had an offset I cooked on a 24'' pipe cooker I built like the old style 55 gall drum cookers. I would load the cooker with 20lbs of charcoal and when they were lit I would go to work. I could cook 15lb full packer brisket in about 5 to 6 hours it was a technique I learned from an old french man. I would sear each side for 1hr then the brisket was wrapped and placed on a cooler spot of the cooker, ribs, and chicken were cooked on there as well. just moving the meat around to achieve a finished product. Sometimes I actually miss the old days. Wink Smile
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Joined: 28 Jan 2010
Posts: 64
Location: Granite Quarry, NC

PostPosted: Sat Aug 14 10 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Everytime I look on craigslist for deals 99% of the time it is one of those old oil tanks cut in half. Like you said most of the time people here do not use a fire box. My friends that have these style cookers burn the wood down to coals and shovel the coals in the pit. It is direct heat, but the temps they ran were around 250 275.

http://charlotte.craigslist.org/for/1895480396.html This is what I see most of the time.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 15 10 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ever cooked in an oven?same thing it's the low heat that cooks it.most pit cookers in the caralinas don't put the meat right over the fire but put the fire to the sides to make the heat.but the idea is not to place the food over the "fire flames" but to cook over the coals after the flame is gone.
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Joined: 11 Aug 2010
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Mon Aug 16 10 11:04 pm    Post subject: NC STYLE COOKERS Reply with quote

Well at long last and after much debate I will give my humble opinion. Having lived in NC all my life and enjoying BBQ all my life, I too became confused about cookers and what style was the best. And this is what I came up with. BBQ as we know it probably was learned from the NC coastal indians when the lost colony was first settled. I am quite sure that they did not have RF style, off-set etc. but cooked fresh killed meat over coals low and slow. Pigs were not native to the new world and were brought here by the europeans and only after having meat cooked low and slow by the indians decided to go with what they had near them and killed and BBQ'ed the first pork in that fashion.

This is the style adopted by the NC communities on the coast and it is the heratige that has been passed down. You can cook any meat low and slow but NC has had a love affair with pork and who can blame them. Remember KISS, as in keep it simple stupid. How much easier can you get.

Also they did not have temperture gauges so the hand held over the coals would give a pretty good indication of the heat and this became the way Pitt masters judged if the coals were right to cook on.

Now as far as low and slow, i.e. 20-24 hours to cook a pig, I personally feel that is probably not right. First pigs were not near as big then, generally I feel a 100lb or 120lb on the hoof were generally very large hogs especially at the turn of the last century and before, this I confirmed by some b/w pictures and talking to old timers many years ago. Now that said I feel they cooked them a little faster, NOT GRILLED, but a little faster then because of 2 reasons. Hog size and the need to get in done in a reasonable amount of time. I personally feel they probably did it in 10-12 hours at the most.

So as you can see the method of low and slow is realative to #1 hog size, #2 design of cooker, i.e. offset, RF, etc and #3 how much time you have at your disposal.

Now as far as coals under the hog, well I have done well over 100 whole hogs and never had a problem, but you have to pay attention to the hog, temp, wind much more closely but you can get it done, and get it done right if you do. But it has to be small coals, not red hot chuncks or logs but small coals just a shovel or 2 every now and then. That is all there is to the NC direct cooking style.

Now all this said, all styles of BBQ probably decended from this direct heat, low and slow method, and all are good. Just dance with the girl you brought to the party and all will come out well.

Thanks for everybodys time and good BBQ to all. Very Happy Donnie
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