Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches

by Dana ‘Big Papa’ Hillis

Cooking in the Florida BBQ Association (FBA) provides any cooking enthusiast an opportunity to cook at a competition almost every weekend.

If you look at the FBA schedule, there are charity events and some non-sanctioned events on the schedule in addition to our regular cooking competitions, so usually you won’t have to travel too far to find some cooking action.

We recently cooked a fundraiser in the parking lot of the Fort Myers Harley Davidson and had a good time. The police department was raising funds for 911 services and really worked hard to put it together. Next year, keep an eye out for this contest, because it has the opportunity to get really big. When the public catches on to the good BBQ available at this event, it will be a big hit.

Big Papa’s cook team likes to venture off on at least one far-away road trip a year to check out teams and towns we don’t normally get to see. This year we are taking the ultimate trip.

We qualified for the Kansas City Royal and are headed to Kansas City to cook the Invitational and the Open, which will be quite an adventure. The Invitational is Friday night and includes about 200 teams. The Open is Saturday night and could have nearly 600 teams.

The crowd is so big at this event you have to have bodyguards to walk along with your turn-in box so no one bumps into your runner and your turn-in. Turn-ins are every 30 minutes, and our site is almost a 10-minute walk to the judge’s tent. Just a little more excitement in an already stressful schedule!

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Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches 

with BIG PAPA'S BBQ Cole Slaw




• 1 large head of green cabbage

• 3/4 cup sugar

• 1 tablespoon salt

• 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

• 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

Cooking Instructions:

Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core.

Dice cabbage small and uniformly. Place cabbage in bowl and add sugar and salt and mix well

Add vinegar, stir well, and enjoy! If you want to save time, buy pre-cut cabbage from store.

For color, add some chopped carrots or purple cabbage.


Pulled Pork

(In this recipe, a "dry rub" of brown sugar, pepper, paprika and salt flavors the meat before it is cooked, and a vinegary "mop" is brushed onto the pork to add more taste as it is smoked. Once cooked, the meat is "pulled," that is, shredded into slivers that are just the right size for piling onto a bun. The sandwich —drizzled with a bit of the vinegary sauce, which cuts the richness of the meat — is the ultimate in Carolina barbecue. Cook this in a smoker or a barbecue that has been converted to a smoker)



For dry rub

• 3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

• 3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

• 3 tablespoons paprika

• 2 tablespoons coarse salt

• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 2 untrimmed boneless pork shoulder halves (also known as Boston butt; about 6 pounds total) 

For mop

• 1 cup apple cider vinegar

• 1/2 cup water

• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

• 1 tablespoon coarse salt

• 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

• 8 pounds (about) 100% natural lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes

• 6 cups (about) hickory wood smoke chips, soaked in cold water at least 30 minutes

• 12 soft hamburger buns with seeds, split

• Carolina Red Barbecue Sauce

• Big Papa's Coleslaw


Make dry rub:

Mix first 5 ingredients in small bowl to blend.

Place pork, fat side up, on work surface. Cut each piece lengthwise in half. Place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle dry rub all over pork; press into pork. Cover with plastic; refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)

Make mop:

Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Following manufacturer's instructions and using lump charcoal and 1/2 cup drained wood chips for smoker or 1 cup for barbecue, start fire and bring temperature of smoker or barbecue to 225°F. to 250°F. Place pork on rack in smoker or barbecue. Cover; cook until meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 165°F., turning pork and brushing with cold mop every 45 minutes, about 6 hours total. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain 225°F. to 250°F. temperature and more drained wood chips (1/2 cup for smoker or 1 cup for barbecue with each addition) to maintain smoke level.

Transfer pork to clean rimmed baking sheet. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred into bite-size pieces. Mound on platter. Pour any juices from sheet over pork. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer pork and any juices to baking dish. Cover with foil; chill. Before continuing, rewarm pork, covered, in 350°°F. oven about 30 minutes.)

Divide pork among bottoms of buns. Drizzle lightly with barbecue sauce. Top with coleslaw. Cover with tops of buns.


(story continued from above)

We are traveling to Kansas City with three other teams in an RV pulling my 28-foot trailer in an effort to save on fuel costs. We look forward to no flat tires, engine troubles, bad axles or whatever else could go wrong.

Divine Swine, Hot Wachulas, Wooley Bully and Big Papa’s plan on making a good showing for Florida. Uncle Kenny’s and GB’s BBQ are also making the road trip, so Florida will be well represented.

When Kansas City wraps up, we are heading back to Florida to drop everyone off and then heading back to Jackson, Tennessee the following weekend to compete in the semifinals of the Sam’s Club National Championship.

There are 30 teams competing, and the top 10 teams move on to the championship in Bentonville, Arkansas the following weekend at the Sam’s-Walmart world headquarters. So, if we place in the top 10, we’ll go straight to Arkansas. If we bomb out, we’ll head home for a week and then take off to Lynchburg, Tennessee for the Jack Daniels BBQ championship!

It is just plain good luck to get drawn for the Jack. This is a contest you can only get into by winning qualifiers to get your name in a hat, and then getting drawn. Big Papa’s had a couple of draws, got lucky – and got picked.

I have heard great stories about teams that have gone to these contests, and we are excited. We hope to do well and make Florida BBQ proud. There are teams from all over the United States at all these contests, and we will get to see some of our friends we don’t see very often. One of my friends from Michigan that I have not seen in 23 years is coming to see us in Tennessee.

When we get back from the Jack, we will do an FBA event, and then it’s off to the “Best Of The Best” in Waycross, Georgia, which is as good as any contest in America. There is an invitational and an open contest, so it is another busy weekend of competition BBQ.

Thanks for all the support and emails I get. I look forward to seeing everyone at a contest soon.

Bless our Troops! I miss you, Pop.


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