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328 pp., 7 x 9.5, 260 illus., 61 sidebars, 2-color throughout, index

ISBN  978-0-8078-3243-1
Published: November 2008

Holy Smoke

The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue

By John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed

With William McKinney

Awards & Distinctions

Finalist, 2009 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award

North Carolina is home to the longest continuous barbecue tradition on the North American mainland. Authoritative, spirited, and opinionated (in the best way), Holy Smoke is a passionate exploration of the lore, recipes, traditions, and people who have helped shape North Carolina's signature slow-food dish.

Three barbecue devotees, John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed, and William McKinney, trace the origins of North Carolina 'cue and the emergence of the heated rivalry between Eastern and Piedmont styles. They provide detailed instructions for cooking barbecue at home, along with recipes for the traditional array of side dishes that should accompany it. The final section of the book presents some of the people who cook barbecue for a living, recording firsthand what experts say about the past and future of North Carolina barbecue.

Filled with historic and contemporary photographs showing centuries of North Carolina's "barbeculture," as the authors call it, Holy Smoke is one of a kind, offering a comprehensive exploration of the Tar Heel barbecue tradition.

About the Author

John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Both are members of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the North Carolina Barbecue Society. They have collaborated on other books, including 1001 Things Everyone Should Know about the South and Cornbread Nation 4: The Best of Southern Food Writing. William McKinney founded the Carolina BBQ Society while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He now lives in Virginia.


"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

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

"[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

"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

"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

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