The Difference Between Tennessee And South Carolina Whole Hog Barbecue

Ribs and pulled pork
Ribs and pulled pork - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty / Instagram

Pitmaster Pat Martin is an expert in West Tennessee-style whole-hog barbecue. He's been doing it at his restaurant, Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint, since 2006. But West Tennessee isn't the only place that smokes whole pigs low and slow — it's also a specialty in some regions of the Carolinas. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Martin explained the difference between his West Tennessee technique and the one used by South Carolina pitmasters like Rodney Scott.

The distinction between the two styles starts with the wood that goes in the smoker — in Tennessee, hickory is preferred, while in the Carolinas, oak is more common. Larger hogs are also traditional in Tennessee. Per Martin, "Our hogs are about 200 pounds, whereas a hog you would find over in the Carolinas is about 125." Smoking a larger hog requires a completely different approach to cooking. The big "sausage hogs," as they're called in Tennesee, must be cooked incredibly slowly for a super-long time: about 24 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A smaller pig can be cooked Carolina-style in around half the time at a higher temperature: 250-270 Fahrenheit. Martin told us that the big Tennessee hogs are hard to cook evenly. "The hams are always dragging. They're always the last thing to get done on the hog."

Read more: 13 Underrated Cuts Of Meat You Should Be Grilling

Each Style Has Its Advantages

Whole hog on smoker
Whole hog on smoker - Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Pat Martin loves all kinds of barbecue, and he admitted to us that there are things he prefers about Carolina barbecue that Tennessee just doesn't deliver. "Because we cook ours lower, we don't have skins in ours like they do in the Carolinas; they blister the skins." This delicious rendered skin can then be mixed into the pork when it's being served. In contrast, Martin uses the skin on his hogs as a natural shield to prevent the belly and shoulder of the pig from overcooking while he's waiting for the hams to finish.

Conversely, one advantage of Tennessee barbecue is that you get to choose what cut of meat you want, unlike in Carolina, where the whole pig is typically chopped together. "Most of the people [in Tennessee] traditionally would always be opinionated about where they wanted their sandwich pulled from. If they wanted lean meat, they would ask for loin meat or ham. If they wanted fatty meat, they'd ask for the belly."

Despite all these differences, these two venerable barbecue traditions still share many similarities. Vinegar-based barbecue sauce is common to both styles because its acidity balances the fattiness of the pork. People in both regions typically serve the meat on sandwiches -- and always topped with slaw. Whether you're in South Carolina or West Tennessee, you won't have to look far to find amazing barbecue pork.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint has locations in Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Read the original article on Tasting Table