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Where did pork pulling start?

In eastern NC a lot of old time restaurants would lay out a whole or half hog on a buffet and you could pull to your hearts content, but if you ordered a plate of BBQ it was chopped. My family's restaurants in central NC all served chopped or sliced BBQ, as did all the other restaurants I'd ever seen in NC until a few years ago. Now some of the chains do it pulled around here.

Is this pulled thing a product of the Food Network televising BBQ comps, or did it originate in another state? Just curious.
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Pulled pork was around in the days of three channel black and white TV,so the Food channel didn't have much to do with it.

Reading old-not necessarily true-history accounts go to three thousand years ago of pig sheds burned in china and cooked meat was so tender it could pull off the carcass.

Not all regions of the country use pulled pork at comps.

Polynesians could pull handfuls off pit cooked pigs.

Indians pulled it off raised bars,over slow fires.

Whole hogs could be overcooked and pulled off the carcass on a table.

Different cuts might come done at different times,and had to be chopped.

Also, poorly prepared[under,or over cooked],meat could be chopped and sauced,and maybe the customer won't know the difference.

If folks were ready to eat,less done pork could be chopped to save fuel,yield of meat,time of cooking.

To utilize every part of the hog-but the squeal-,meat,fat,skin,innards,etc could all be chopped and served mixed.

Lots of vinegar to cut the fat,salt and pepper to give flavor.

The KCBS,FBA,MIM judging schools teach a lot of pulled pork as one good way to present well cooked pork.

Sliced,and large pulled muscle pieces,and bark show off the cooks skill.

The better chains can serve a more tender ,fat rendered pork,but it takes longer to cook and the yield is reduced.

Just a couple of thoughts.
Last edited by tom
Hey Todd,

Also in the Piedmont. Hadn't thought about it. Up to a few of years ago all I saw chopped and sliced. Unless I was lucky enough to go to a real pig pickin. I can think of a couple of places that do pulled locally. Each been around less than 5 years and owners from out of state.
Originally posted by uncsmoker:
Hey Todd,

Also in the Piedmont. Hadn't thought about it. Up to a few of years ago all I saw chopped and sliced. Unless I was lucky enough to go to a real pig pickin. I can think of a couple of places that do pulled locally. Each been around less than 5 years and owners from out of state.

Yep. Hence my question. I had never heard of pulled pork until a few years ago and we were in the BBQ business for over 50 years here in NC. And you rarely see chopped pork on the TV shows. I thought that maybe there was another state that claims pork the way NC does and the idea came from them. I have assisted several startups over the past ten years or so and all do chopped BBQ except for Smithfields.

Somebody asked me this weekend why we served pulled pork as opposed to chopped, and I know I got the dumbest look on my face. I really didn't have an answer. I grew up chopping BBQ. I chop BBQ at home for my family. I personally prefer chopped BBQ. But when I got back into catering about 8 years ago, I started pulling pork for jobs without ever asking myself why, and I had never thought about it until a couple of days ago. Now I need to go out and buy a bigger clever.
When was the first time I heard of "pulled" was at a Hard Rock when I saw it on their menu.

Would be interesting to hear from the Carolina crew if they know of any "pulled" restaurants.

Now, Pig Pullin, certainly done that for longer than I can remember, that was the way we always did ours. NEVER Chopped, but after all, we're in Oklahoma so what do we know about Q? Big Grin

Sliced is almost the same, don't remember a lot of places doing sliced unless it was pork loin
I never heard of chopped BBQ pork until I found this forum a few years ago. It has always been pulled here. Now brisket points, we chop them. I think folks chop their butts and shoulders when they don't want to wait for it to come tender. I thought pulled pork originated close to here, maybe Memphis or Pine Bluff. Heck, Arkansas claims BBQ pork !!!

There's places for chopped, sliced and pulled here. The pulled is the least common though.

I think the reason is because in NC we usually go for whole hog or whole shoulder. Chopping mixes the textures of the meat and the slicing comes from the lower temps the meat is taken off the smoker(meaning you can actually slice it).
Originally posted by DaveN:
I'm in eastern NC and we have some places where you can get either with pulled being more expensive. They tend to get away with chopping more fat/gristle while the pulled tends to be better meat. I always pull mine and remove as much fat as possible.

Since I moved East from Greensboro in '96 I have noticed that most of the BBQ restaurants east of Raleigh tend to mix in a lot of gristle, cartilage, and sometimes bone into their chopped meat. I've been very surprised at the low quality of Que I've gotten at some of the "famous" joints profiled on the PBS show.

In the central part of the state they generally clean the shoulder of skin, cartilage, excess fat, etc before chopping. But they do leave in enough fat to provide for good moisture and flavor.
Truth is that many of the "famous" NC Que joints have gone down hill. Unfortunatly, many newcomers to the state think that bland, dry pork 'mush' splashed with a little vinagar is the 'Real McCoy'. Its nothing more then poor quality fast food.

Other then smoking my own, I find the best NC BBQ off the beaten path at local church and civic fund raising events. Dedicated Pitmasters that serve slow smoked butts and/or Whole Hog 'Pig Pickins' the traditional way.

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