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Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue Hardcover – November 1, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. North Carolina barbecue may be the most complex of a decidedly complicated American tradition, with perennial battles over sauce, meat, wood and countless other factors. Married collaborators the Reeds (1001 Things Everyone Should Know About the South), along with Carolina BBQ Society founder McKinney, help 'cue fans navigate the smoky waters of North Carolina cuisine-its history, practice and players-in this expert guide, tempered with a smart sense of humor and true love for the food (Carolina transplants, the Reeds don't take the region's legacy lightly). The Reeds trace the evolution of the cooking style from its first appearance in the late 1600s, revealing the 19th century origins of the vinegar-based sauce synonymous with the state. Though the focus in on pork, the Reeds delve deep into all facets of the cuisine, including its social and political significance, and offer tips on picking one's restaurants wisely, a blueprint for building your own pit, and recipes. Would-be Carolinian pit-masters will learn all they need about smoking butts as well as whole hogs, whipping up crucial sauces and sides, and preparing dessert (from homemade Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding to Moon Pies and wine jelly). Even if readers never attempt to recreate the region's trademark delicacies, they'll certainly gain a deeper appreciation and understanding for this remarkably complex regional style and the characters who keep it alive. 260 illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


A refreshing, informative, and focused portrait of one of the region's iconic food traditions.--The Journal of Southern History

[A] most worthy book about Tar Heel Barbecue. . . . An indispensable reference work. . . . The authors have carefully recorded first-person accounts of how these restaurateurs go about their business. It is as if they turned on the mike, asked the right question and got out of the way. . . . A fascinating account.--Jack Betts, CharlotteObserver.com

A fine book, one that every Tar Heel, whether born and bred or merely welcomed and fed, needs to read carefully.--Tim Tyson, Raleigh News & Observer

An apogee on all things barbecue. . . . Much more than a simple collection of recipes, the book supplements its exploration of this regional favorite by delving into the history of North Carolina barbecue. . . . And of course, there's no shortage of recipes and cooking techniques presented here, covering not only the meat, but a variety of side dishes, deserts, and even that signature Southern beverage, iced tea.--WNC Magazine

A valuable addition to the barbecue lover's bookshelf.--Charleston City Paper

Sure to be a favorite with folks who love the Tar Heel state and its history and foodways.--Metro Magazine

A dance through the legends, history, fables and reality of North Carolina barbecue. . . . While laughing along with the fun stories, don't forget to take the recipes seriously.--Edible Piedmont

A celebration of the pig's deep connection to the history and culture of the Tar Heel State. . . . The research is astounding, as evidenced by an impressive collection of anecdotal facts and historical photographs. . . . No stone is left unturned, and the book, as well as the story of North Carolina barbecue, is the better for it.--Journal of Southern History

A definitive guide.--Appetite for Books

A fascinating book presented in an interesting fashion. It's not wide, but man is it deep.--BBQ Links

Southern studies guru John Shelton Reed and fellow pork pro Dale Volberg Reed have teamed up with pig-pushing alum William McKinney to give us the first definitive guide to the people, places and culinary secrets behind the world's best barbecue.--Carolina Arts & Sciences News

Highly entertaining and guaranteed to whet your appetite for you-know-what.--Fayetteville Observer

One of a kind, offering a comprehensive exploration of the Tar Heel barbecue tradition.--Sandlapper

Maybe . . . you're wondering where the difference in barbecue styles comes from and why this difference is so fiercely contested. Or maybe you're interested in history or cultural history or North Carolina history. I've got just the book for you. . . . True Tar Heels will have a hard time giving this one away, so buy two.--Moreton Neal, MetroMagazine

The most definitive book . . . on the food that ties sons and daughters of The Old North State together by the taste buds.--Burlington, NC Times-News

The book leaves no glowing coal unturned in its examination of our state's barbecue history, cooking techniques, recipes, and characters who have honed the fine art of turning hogs into something heavenly.--Our State

Should bring readers to a deeper respect for an American art form.--Southern Cultures

Does the world really need another barbecue book?' The answer is yes, thanks to the book's dozens of useful recipes (some lending credence to the claim that three pillars of Southern cooking are sugar, salt and fat), hundreds of evocative illustrations and photos, and a narrative spiced with historical anecdotes.--The Wall Street Journal

A cultural and culinary history of barbecue . . . the book includes directions on shaping cornmeal into perfect hush puppies, a who's who of the region's pit masters, and mouthwatering photographs of sizzling pigs.--The Chronicle of Higher Education

Brings to life the state treasure that North Carolina has in barbecue, and in the people who practice it.--Michael Hastings, Winston-Salem Journal

Captures the near-religious fervor that devotees have for this succulent sustenance.--Duke Magazine

[A] funny, fantastically southern memoir of the infamous East-West brawl over North Carolina barbecue. . . . Everything we ever wanted to know about the history of the 'cue, the sauce, and the people behind this Tar Heel tradition.--Southern Living

A darn good book.--Kathleen Purvis, The Charlotte Observer

If this book doesn't set your mouth to watering, then you need your taste buds checked.--Ben Steelman, Wilmington Star-News

Filled with history, interviews and all kinds of kooky heirloom Southern recipes, this is a lovingly curated book on the 'barbaculture' of the Tar Heel state.--Chile Pepper

In a state where barbecue rules, this is the constitution. It's also a field guide and a backyard manual for how to prepare barbecue and the proper sides properly. Brightly written and profusely illustrated, it's often funny, too. Good food writing is always fun. This rates as a treat.--News-Record.com, Greensboro

A comprehensive and entertaining exploration of the Tar Heel barbecue tradition. . . . Holy Smoke is full of everything you might want to know about Tar Heel 'cue, and probably more.--The Weekly Standard

One thing guaranteed to start an argument in North Carolina is barbecue. Thus, it takes a little courage to write a book on the subject. The Reeds . . . try hard to be scrupulously fair to both the Eastern and Piedmont barbecue camps.--StarNewsOnline.com

It's here. Not another guide to North Carolina barbecue restaurants . . . [but] 'an exploration of the Tar Heel barbecue tradition.' While Holy Smoke is assuredly about food, it is more, in my mind, about 'foodways'--the roots and evolution of the food, which more than any other, is identified with the people of this state and its history and traditions.--Carroll Leggett, MetroMagazine

Part cultural history, part cookbook, Holy Smoke . . . may be the best tome ever written about pulled pork.--The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Part-cookbook-part-manual . . . and an excellent guide to the Tar Heel state's distinctive interpretation of a great American cooking style.--The Christian Science Monitor

This heartfelt, thorough, witty compendium of the state's barbecue places, pitmasters, pig pickins, history lessons, tall tales and basic recipes makes me bone-deep homesick in a way I haven't felt in years.--Rachel Wharton, The Art of Eating

Part cookbook, part how-to manual for the backyard barbecuer and part historical treatise. . . . This well-researched book is a hymn of praise to those pitmasters who have long labored over fires fueled by hickory and smoke.--Blue Ridge Country

Sheer fun. . . . Informative, fast-paced, thorough, and filled with facts. I was reading through it the other evening and could have sworn I smelled the sharp, smoky aroma of pork slowly cooking over hickory coals.--Jack Betts, The Charlotte Observer

It is a treasure trove, a testament (in the Holy Roller sense), an exuberant celebration of the one thing served in the South that is better than fried chicken.--Nicki Leone, BiblioBuffet.com

What every book on barbecue should aim to be: well-researched, wide-ranging, funny, lavishly illustrated, and just downright enjoyable.--alforno.blogspot.com

The authors show that barbecue is more than just a meal. Love, hardship, and generations of striving go into every morsel of this 'white and brown.' All visitors to North Carolina should keep this relevant guide at their fingertips.--Gastronomica

John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed . . . really have written the book on North Carolina barbecue.--Mountain Xpress


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080783243X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807832431
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lubin V. Prevatt on November 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book covers the bases of North Carolina Barbecue. It discusses the history of North Carolina Barbecue, how to cook pork shoulders and whole hogs, gives recipes for famous Eastern and Piedmont barbecue sauces and various side dishes and desserts, and has interviews with the foremost North Carolina barbecue restaurant owners who cook in the traditional style. The book is fun, interesting, and informative. Highly recommended.
Review by Certified Barbecue Judge (Memphis, Kansas City, North Carolina)
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent overview of North Carolina barbecue. What sets this book apart from others on the subject is the amount of detailed research. The authors not only did their homework, they interviewed many of the major figures in North Carolina barbecue first hand.

The unique structure makes the book very readable. First they give a detailed history of barbecue in North Carolina while touching on the debates that echo within the state as to what constitutes "real" barbecue and what does not. This ranges from the style of sauce and what cut of the pig is used, to what fuel does the cooking (wood vs. gas, electric, etc.) Second, they go into the food in detail giving many excellent recipes and enough detail that even a barbecue novice could produce their own 'cue. Finally (and my favorite part) are the interviews. The authors scoured the state, interviewing the important restaurant owners and pitmasters who make North Carolina the epicenter of barbecue as we know it.

Highly recommended for fans of good food and history.
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Format: Hardcover
Bob from Baltimore:

I am a native of Baltimore, Maryland; a state that was the most northern of the southern culture and most southern of northern industry, I have a foot (or toe) in both. I first sampled Carolina Barbecue (BBQ) in the mid 1970's after a sister-in-law married into a North Carolina family. Initially a culinary culture shock; that defied my notion of BBQ, but over the years I came to love the unique local food and the small family restaurants that purvey it. I had the opportunity of meeting the authors of Holy Smoke at a book signing near Chapel Hill, NC. Their knowledge of Southern food and cultural history runs deeper than their most recent work. The book is highly read-able and cleverly illustrated with old images of BBQ "joints", advertisement and other themes. John and Dale Reed aided by Bill McKinney have connected the dots of this pit cooked North Carolina Odyssey to reveal a portrait of tradition, community and rivalry. The only this missing was a scratch and sniff of hickory smoke.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this book as a gift for my husband for Christmas. Let me just say that we LOVE North Carolina barbecue. My husband has thoroughly enjoyed Holy Smoke. It is a great reference for the historical and cultural aspect of NC barbecue and also includes some very interesting and authentic recipes. The pictures are great too. He has several other books dedicated to North Carolina barbecue, but this one is unique.
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Format: Hardcover
"Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue" by John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed ($30, University of North Carolina Press, 316 pp.). This book does a great job of telling its story through its content supported by loads of pictures (although only black-and-white here). However, this book has a juicy back story that goes past being just an ode to the barbecue of its region. Everyone knows of the rivalry among the four major barbecue regions as to which one is the best. But North Carolina has its own rivalry within that rivalry between barbecue of the Piedmont and barbecue of Eastern North Carolina. The authors do a great job of telling that story, making this book all the better. This book, like the others, covers its topic in such a detailed manner that you'll be an expert by the time you finish the book no matter if you've ever set foot in the Tarheel State or not.
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This is a very interesting and educational book. It explains the various styles of North Carolina Barbeque, and the history behind them. Many of the old school Barbeque joints around the state are hi-lighted and described and recipies and instructions are mixed in as well. I collect Barbeque books, and this is one of my favorites.
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Bought it for my father-in-law for Christmas. We took turns reading it over the holiday. He and I agree of all the BBQ books we've read, Holy Smoke might just be the best.
It covers every aspect from history to recipes to making excellent BBQ at home. Highly recommended for fans of North Carolina barbeque.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I like to learn the origins of how something came to be. This book definitely gives you that, and explains the intra state rivalry that has existed here in NC for as long as I remember even in my own family. My father was from the mountains, and his brother was a coastal guy. They'd argue at every cookout about what good Carolina BBQ really was, and I never really got it until I read this book.

Good historical references, and some good recipes for 'Real Carolina BBQ"! What's not to love about this book.
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