Slow Cooker Eastern N.C. Barbecue, Ninja Style

The makings of Kel's BBQ sandwich

We North Carolinians take our barbecue (aka pulled pork for those of you not from these parts) seriously, and are quite divided on which kind is best: Eastern or Western. I’m not getting into any debates here, nor am I going to reinvent the wheel with a history lesson of this fabulous grub since BBQ guru Bob Garner already has done so in his seminal book, “Bob Garner’s Guide to North Carolina Barbecue,” which is available on, and a must read for all lovers of Q.

Bob Garner's Guide to North Carolina Barbecue

I’m also not going to claim that the recipe I’m about to share with you is better than what you will get at places that specialize in barbecue and cook it outside for hours and hours, because that would be a lie. What I am going to offer is a decent substitute that you can make in your own slow cooker, in case you don’t live near a decent BBQ joint and happen to find pork roast on sale. And yes, I am making this in my Ninja® Cooking System (hope you got one for Christmas!), with an Eastern N.C. vinegar-based sauce. The great thing about this recipe is that the Ninja or slow cooker does most of the work for you and you can adjust the sauce to your own specifications.

Start with a small pork roast (2.75) pounds, season it with ground pepper, dry mustard and seasoned salt, and sear it on all sides in your Ninja on the stovetop high setting (use a large nonstick skillet if you don’t have a Ninja).

Sear the pork roast on both sides

Cover the roast with equal amounts of apple cider vinegar, apple juice and water, plus a few dashes of liquid smoke, and cook it for about an hour, still on the stovetop setting. Then turn the Ninja to the “high” slow-cooker mode and let it go for another 3 hours or so, turning the roast several times until you can easily pull it apart with a fork. You should wind up with some nice, melt-in-your-mouth, tender meat. Make sure you don’t throw away the liquid that the pork was cooking in — you will need some of it for the sauce!

Shred the pork

And speaking of the sauce, as I mentioned earlier, this recipe is for an Eastern N.C. vinegar-based sauce. This recipe is for enough to mix with the pork — increase the ingredients if you want more to splash on the barbecue right before serving. Also, this sauce is tasty but not particularly hot – increase the cayenne, crushed red pepper or hot sauce to add some extra heat.

Sauce Ingredients

Kel's Barbecue sauce ingredients

  • 1 cup liquid from the pork roast, strained
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (light or dark, either works fine)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Ground pepper, to taste


Whisk together all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Take a taste to see if you want to add some extra heat to the sauce.

Mix together bbq sauce ingredients

Once you have removed the liquid from your Ninja or slow cooker, place the shredded pork back in it, and toss it with the sauce and cook for another half hour or so, until the flavors have a chance to meld.

Add bbq sauce to shredded pork

Serve with boiled potatoes, slaw, potato salad, baked beans, hush puppies — whatever your favorite fixings are for a traditional barbecue plate. Use leftovers (if there are any) for barbecue sandwiches the next day.

This bbq sandwich looks awesome!

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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