This bright and tangy vinegar-based North Carolina BBQ Sauce is the perfect finishing sauce for pulled pork.
What I love most about barbecue is the never-ending regional variations that can be observed in every nook and cranny of this great country. In my opinion, there isn't one best way to prepare barbecue, but instead, many exciting adaptations that can be explored with an adventurous palate. Though perhaps not a common BBQ sauce style in many regions of the country, this thin vinegar-based North Carolina BBQ sauce is easy to prepare and may be your new best friend when enjoying pulled pork.
North Carolina BBQ Sauce
North Carolina barbecue is divided into eastern and western factions. The eastern camp typically makes their BBQ sauce with vinegar, sugar, and red pepper. However, the westerners commonly add a tomato based product, such as ketchup. Personally, I fall into the western camp, as I like the added flavor ketchup provides, as well as the ever so slightly thicker consistency.
Additionally, I prefer to use cayenne pepper as my heat source rather than crushed red peppers. I do enjoy the flavor crush red peppers provide, but they often get stuck in the spout of the condiment bottle if the opening is not sufficiently large. That isn't an issue with the smaller granules of cayenne pepper, which also provide a pleasing flavor of heat.
Pulled Pork Finishing Sauce
North Carolina BBQ Sauce is the perfect pulled pork finishing sauce. Though the sauce for pulled pork is often served on the side, many pitmasters prefer to use a finishing sauce as a mix-in when shredding their freshly smoked pork shoulder. Mixing the sauce directly into the meat adds additional moisture and flavor to the pork.
To use a finishing sauce, simply squirt the sauce directly onto your pulled pork as you are shredding it. The amount you add is determined by your taste preferences. Personally, I add just enough to provide a bit of subtle flavor without it being overly pronounced.
How to Make Vinegar BBQ Sauce
Making a vinegar based BBQ sauce is similar to preparing my molasses and ketchup based Homemade BBQ sauce, the ingredients need to be added to a small saucepan and quickly simmered to allow the sugar to dissolve.
Admittedly, I occasionally skip this step when making a vinegar BBQ sauce. The ingredients seem to incorporate better into this thinner sauce without heat, but doing a quick simmer is the best way to ensure you are getting the best flavor. Regardless of how you prepare it the flavor will continue to improve as it melds in your refrigerator, so this is a great sauce to make in advance.
How to Store North Carolina BBQ Sauce
Since this is a vinegar-based sauce, it will have a long shelf-life. The best way to store this is in an airtight condiment bottle in your refrigerator. I like these condiment bottles (affiliate link) because they have a cap to prevent odors in your refrigerator from seeping into the sauce, and the squeeze bottle makes it easy to apply to your favorite barbecue. However, in a pinch, you can simply use mason jars instead.
North Carolina BBQ Sauce
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (can substitute 2 cloves of minced garlic)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne (more or less to taste)
- Add all ingredients to a saucepan and briefly bring to a simmer.
- Once sugar has dissolved turn off heat and let cool.
- Place in airtight container and store in refrigerator until use.