How to Use My Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub

 

Ok, here’s my confession: if you’re a true North Carolina “east” BBQ fan, you might not like my blend – although I want to encourage you to try it before you dismiss it. East Carolina BBQ emphasizes smoking the whole hog, and doing so with a tart and spicy rub that emphasizes vinegar and savory hot pepper. West Carolina BBQ is more oriented toward smoking the shoulder butt with a rub and dip that includes sugar and tomato paste (or ketchup). 

My rub is in the “west” North Carolina tradition, although I have tried to keep enough savory in it to satisfy many an “east” afficionado. I’ve worked to balance the heat and the sweet – which is what tickles my tastebuds. I hope it tickles yours, too!

At the same time, I don’t think a rub is “just a rub.” It’s also a spice blend, and there are plenty of good ways to use it in your daily cooking! For example…

Easy Oven-Baked Chicken Breast Dinner

Here’s a complete mid-week dinner that can be on the table in half an hour!

Ingredients

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or equivalent amount of chicken tenders
  • 1½ tbl Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub
  • 3 garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 3 garden-fresh onions (sweet Vidalia is a great choice), sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 1 tbl Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub mixed into ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tbl prepared bread crumbs (optional)

Directions

1. Before starting your busy day, place chicken breasts in the refrigerator to thaw. (I usually set frozen food in the refrigerator the night before.)

2. When you return home, crank the oven on to 350° F to pre-heat.

3. Remove the thawed chicken from the package, rinse, pat dry. Then coat on all sides with my Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub.

4. Place on a full-sized cookie sheet or in a large baking pan. (Put down a sheet of parchment paper first to make cleanup a breeze.)

5. Slice tomatoes and onions into ¼” thick rounds. Place on the same baking sheet as the chicken.

6. Mix 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub with ½ cup sour cream and 3 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs. Spread over the tops of the tomatoes and onions.

7. Place tray in heated oven and bake 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Serve immediately, perhaps with a fresh garden salad.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Red Pepper and Black Olive Sauce

With thanks to Rachel Ray, who inspired this delicious recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 center-cut pieces of beef tenderloin (2-2½ lbs each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2+ tablespoons Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub
  • 5 whole roasted red peppers, chopped, drained, and patted dry (see roasting instructions, below)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, stripped from the stems
  • 1 cup good-quality kalamata olives (or other black olive; but fresh rather than canned), well-drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 500° F.

2. Liberally coat the meat with the oil and Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub – at least 1 tablespoon rub per tenderloin.

3. Place meat on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Roast 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350° and cook another 30 minutes.

Do not open the oven in the first 10 minutes, even if it seems smoky! You are developing a crust to seal in the juices, and partially steaming the meat. Ideally, don’t open the meat until at least 20 minutes have passed at 350°, at which point you can check to see if the meat is cooked to your desire in the center – especially if you prefer your meat rare.

4. When the meat has cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest 10 minutes. Then slice thinly against the grain and at an angle from top to bottom for maximum flakiness and tenderness.

5. While the meat cooks, place the roasted, chopped peppers, garlic, parsley, and black olives in the blender. Turn it on, then drizzle in up to 3 tablespoons olive oil until the mixture thickens into a thin mayonnaise-like consistency.

To serve, top piles of thinly sliced meat with the red pepper-olive sauce. Add a side of thickly cut crusty bread and plenty of fresh, cultured butter.

Roasted Red Peppers

Make these peppers a day or more in advance. Keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them – up to 5 days.

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting (about every 10 minutes).

3. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cover it tightly with aluminum foil. Set aside for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.

 

4. Remove the stem from each pepper and cut them in quarters. Remove the peels and seeds. Discard the stems, peels, and seeds.

Tip: Don’t cube or dice the peppers until you’ve removed the skins – it’s a lot easier to de-skin quarters than small squares!

 

Carolina Style Pulled Pork (with Carolina Coleslaw)

This is a very simple recipe and meal – really, it can’t get much easier to make a delicious lunch or dinner treat for your next party or gathering! But it does take time to do it right, so consider preparing your pulled pork a day or more ahead, if your party day is going to be busy. Then simply reheat it in a low oven or on the grill before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder butt (this is not a part of the pork’s butt; it’s the upper portion of the front shoulder, also known as Boston Butt.)
  • 1-2 packets of my Carolina Sweet BBQ Rub
  • 1-3 tbl olive or pure peanut oil (if you use peanut oil be sure it’s pure – most available peanut oil is mixed with some low-quality vegetable oil or is treated with an anti-foaming agent; neither is good for your health)

Hint: In choosing the size of the pork shoulder (or how many pork shoulders) you need, estimate ⅓ to ½ lb finished pork per person; and know that pork shoulder loses about 40% of its weight between cooking and removing the bone. So, a 5 lb pork butt will yield about 3 lbs of finished, pulled pork. At ½ lb per person, that will feed 6 people (9 people at ⅓ lb per person). 1 packet Carolina Sweet BBQ Rub will easily and richly coat a 5-pound roast, but only thinly cover twice that. For best flavor, you want a thick coat that blackens richly as it cooks.

Preparation

Coat the thawed pork butt in a very thin film of oil. Then cover thoroughly with my Carolina Sweet BBQ Rub, and pat or rub it in. (You can add 1-2 tsp salt to the rub before you spread it over the pork, if you wish.) Let it rest, fat side down, until it’s time to cook.

Cooking/Smoking

You can cook a pork shoulder butt in the oven, or on a grill. But you can’t smoke your pork in the oven.

Simple Oven Method

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Select a large enough roasting pan with a rack in it for lifting the meat off the floor of the pan; place the seasoned pork on the pan, fat side up. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Continue cooking until a thermometer reads 190 degrees, typically 4 – 5 hours. Remove the pork from the oven and rest it 20 minutes or so, to finish cooking and so you can pull it apart without burning yourself.

Smoking on a Grill

To smoke your pork shoulder, you’ll need a package of smoking wood chips. You should be able to purchase one for about $5 wherever grills or smokers are sold. Soak your chips in water for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the grill so they’ll smoke rather than burn. (Leftover chips can be let dry and re-bagged.)

Gas grill

To use a gas grill for smoking you will need a smoker box and a drip pan. Both are available wherever gas grills are sold, and should not be very expensive. They are, however, a great investment!

Make sure you have a full propane tank! (A backup wouldn’t hurt, either, but one tanks should be enough.)

Fill your smoker box with the well-soaked wood chips.

Preheat the grill to high.

When smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium. (If you have a thermometer built into the cover, you’re looking for about 300 degrees cooking temperature.) Center the pork butt on the grate over the drip pan, fat side up. Close and cook until the pork’s internal temperature reaches 195 F. It will take at least 4 hours, unless it’s an unusually small butt, and could take 6 hours. When it gets to temperature, it should be falling-off-the-bone tender.

Charcoal grill

To use a charcoal grill, you will need a drip pan that you can place in the coals to catch the melting fat. Otherwise, you could end up with a flash fire.

Preheat the grill to medium-low. Use the vents to establish a temperature of 300 degrees F.

Spread 1 cup of well-soaked wood chips on the coals. Place the pork shoulder on the grate, centered over the drip pan.

Cover the grill and smoke the pork shoulder at least 4 hours, and as much as 6 (or even longer if it’s a very large butt), until the meat’s internal temperature registers 195 F. It should be fall-off-the-bone tender.

Check the grill every hour, and add a dozen or so fresh briquettes to each side when you do. Also spread another cup of soaked woodchips over the coals at those hourly inspections.

After Smoking – Final Preparations

When the internal temperature of the pork butt has reached 195 F, transfer it to a cutting board or platter. (Use care, if it’s very tender it may fall apart easily!)

Tent loosely with a bit of tin foil and let it rest 20 minutes, until you can pull it apart without burning your fingers.

Using two large forks (or your washed fingers), remove any remaining fat and bits of skin. Then shred the pork into thin, short strips. Patience and time pay off, here. You’re aiming for something like 1-2 inches long and not more than, say, 1/4″ thick pieces. Toss the bones and fat you come across.

Transfer the shredded pork to a nonreactive roasting pan. Stir in enough of your favorite BBQ Sauce to keep the meat moist, but not so much it becomes sloppy. You want it to be able to sit on a bun without sliding out or dripping all over your new summer shorts.

Cover with foil and warm in a 300 degree oven, or on the grill. Keep it covered and on a medium-low heat until served.

Serve on a bun.

If you want to be more Carolina authentic, try this Carolina Vinegar Sauce in place of your BBQ Sauce. Simply whisk until thoroughly dissolved and combined:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1⅓ cups (non-chlorinated) water
  • ¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 t salt (or less)
  • 4 t hot red pepper flakes (halve it for more flavor and less heat)
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 t freshly ground white pepper

 

Serving suggestion: Make a simple Carolina Coleslaw by shredding one small green cabbage, and mixing it with 1 cup of the Carolina Vinegar Sauce and salt to taste. Let it rest at least 1 hour, and even overnight for a softer texture. Use the Coleslaw as a side dish, or as the topping for the pulled pork on a bun.

Simple Baked Tomato and Sweet Onion Side Dish

Use this topping, without the bread crumbs, on medallions of potato or on a whole cauliflower.

Ingredients

  • 3 garden-fresh tomatoes, sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 3 garden-fresh onions (sweet Vidalia is a great choice), sliced into thick (¼”) rounds
  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub mixed into ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Slice tomatoes and onions into ¼” thick rounds. Place on a baking sheet.

3. Mix 1 tablespoon Sweet Carolina BBQ Rub with ½ cup sour cream and 3 tablespoons prepared bread crumbs. Spread over the tops of the tomatoes and onions.

4. Place tray in heated oven and bake 20 minutes.

Potatoes

Slice the potatoes into ¼” thick medallions, spread on a baking sheet, coat with the sour cream and rub mixture, and bake until soft, 20-30 minutes.

Cauliflower

Place an entire head of cauliflower in a small baking dish and slather with the sour cream and rub mixture. Bake until the florets are fork softened, about 45 minutes.