North Carolinians will tell you that this isn’t a thing, and they’re right. Barbecue in that part of the Tar Heel state isn’t made with chicken. They may even tell you that there’s no such thing as barbecue chicken- that chicken isn’t barbecue and that barbecue can only be one thing – pork. Usually shoulders, sometimes whole hog, slow smoked by men and women that know from years of experience just how to harness the magic of the hardwood fires, the bittersweet kiss of smoke, salt, and sauce to make one of the simplest, most wonderful eating experiences that this country has to offer.
During the years I lived in North Carolina, I was exposed to pounds and pounds of luscious pork barbecue. Some great, some merely good. I tried Lexington-style, which had a sauce laced with ketchup. I even tried South Carolina’s district yellow mustard sauce. But for me there’s nothing that says BBQ quite like pulled meat with the thin, tangy vinegar and pepper sauce for which eastern North Carolina is known.
In this recipe, we will once again take advantage of the chicken thigh’s ability to mimic some of the characteristics of pork to make a pulled chicken that nods at the real thing while offering a quick, simple way to feed a game day crowd – especially if some guests may not eat pork.
Note: resist the temptation to use boneless, skinless thighs here, the added collagen and fat from the bones and skin give the final product the luscious texture we are looking for and help to hold the sauce better.
Eastern Carolina Style Pulled ChickenCourse: MainCuisine: SouthernDifficulty: Easy
Pulled chicken in the style of Eastern N.C. barbecue.
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 cup of chicken stock
½ cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp red pepper flake
1 tbsp granulated sugar
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp liquid smoke (hickory flavor)
Salt to taste
- Arrange the chicken in a covered pan or in a slow cooker.
- Mix all other ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and pour over the chicken.
- Bring the mixture to a low simmer, and cook covered until the chicken is almost disintegrating, up to 90 minutes on the stovetop, or several hours in a slow cooker.
- Remove the meat from the pan, and remove and discard the bones and any intact pieces of skin before using two forks to shred the chicken.
- Return the chicken to the pan juices, and keep it warm until it is ready to serve.
- Serve with traditional accompaniments such as coleslaw, beans, and cornbread or on a white hamburger bun topped with creamy slaw.