Cheaters Only BBQ Pork

All the flavor, even if you’re not ready to go whole hog

Photo: Baxter Miller

“I come from Eastern North Carolina, the world’s epicenter for pork barbecue (not up for debate ’cause this is my book). Still, I’ve never cooked a whole hog at home and I frown at the prospect of fiddling with the temperature of a grill for long periods of time just to achieve the perfect piece of smoked butt. That kind of thing is really for barbecue enthusiasts and I consider myself more of a connoisseur of other people’s efforts. So when I want the flavor of smoke, vinegar, and pig, I turn to the oven and my bag of tricks. 

Smoked paprika, cayenne, time, vinegar, and a coating of caramelized onions lend this roast a lot of the qualities you’ll find in legit ENC-style BBQ. The onions themselves go from sweet and deep to charred and earthy and are what sets this apart from just another slow-roasted pork butt. As with true barbecue, the sum is far greater than its parts.”—Vivian Howard in her new book, This Will Make It Taste Good


  • Serves 4 to 6

    • 1 (3- to 4-pound) bone-in pork picnic or Boston butt

    • 1½ tbsp. kosher salt

    • 1½ tbsp. smoked paprika

    • 1 tbsp. cayenne

    • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper

    • ½ cup R-Rated Onions

    • ½ cup apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Rinse and dry the pork butt with paper towels. Season all sides with the salt, paprika, cayenne, and black pepper. Then, as if the pork is your face and the R-Rated Onions are a mud mask, slather all sides of the pork roast with an even layer of the onions.

  2. Carefully place the pork butt, fat cap facing up, in a Dutch oven just large enough to hold it. Pour the cider vinegar around it, taking care not to wash off the onions. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or a double layer of foil. Slide the pot onto the middle rack of your oven and bake.

  3. After 3 hours, remove the lid and roast another 30 minutes uncovered. The onions on top will crisp up, even char a bit, and that’s what you want. The bitterness that comes with the char will balance the sweetness of the onions and give the impression of burnt ends in proper barbecue.

  4. Allow the pork to rest for about 15 minutes, then skim some of the rendered fat off the vinegary juice that has pooled at the bottom of the pan. Roughly chop, pull, or slice the falling-apart-tender roast and toss it around with the vinegar sauce. Serve warm in tacos, on a sandwich, or with something crunchy and bright in the spirit of slaw.

Excerpted from This Will Make It Taste Good by Vivian Howard