Holy Smoke

The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue

Paperback Edition

By John Shelton Reed, Dale Volberg Reed

With William McKinney. With a new preface by the authors

336 pp., 7 x 9.5, 260 illustrations, 61 sidebars

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2966-7
    Published: August 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-2967-4
    Published: June 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5253-3
    Published: June 2016

Buy this Book

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit Bookshop.org

Awards & distinctions

Best Book, 2017 Awards of Excellence, National Barbecue and Grilling Association

Finalist, 2009 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award

North Carolina is home to the longest continuous barbecue tradition on the North American mainland. Now available for the first time in paperback, Holy Smoke is a passionate exploration of the lore, recipes, traditions, and people who have helped shape North Carolina's signature slow-food dish. A new preface by the authors examines the latest news, good and bad, from the world of Tar Heel barbecue, and their updated guide to relevant writing, films, and websites is an essential. They 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 Authors

John Shelton Reed and Dale Volberg Reed live in Chapel Hill, NC. Both are members of the Southern Foodways Alliance. John Shelton Reed is author of Barbecue: A Savor the South Cookbook, and he is co-founder of The Campaign for Real Barbecue (http://www.truecue.org) and one of the moving spirits of the Carolina Barbecue Society.
For more information about John Shelton Reed, visit the Author Page.

William McKinney founded the Carolina BBQ Society while a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He now lives in Virginia.
For more information about William McKinney, visit the Author Page.


"'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." —Wall Street Journal

"Part cultural history, part cookbook, Holy Smoke . . . may be the best tome ever written about pulled pork." —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

"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

"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, Charlotte Observer

"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