Stephenson’s Barbecue, Willow Springs
Paul Stephenson, Jr.
11964 N.C. Hwy 50 North
Willow Springs, NC 27592-8163
(919) 894-4530

“Stephenson’s Barbecue is one of those rare barbecue stories. There was no family business for owner Paul Stephenson, Jr. to inherit. Paul was a farmer and had hogs. Hog prices were cheap. Paul said one day a man came by and bought 14 of Paul’s shoats. Paul asked what he was going to do with the pigs and the man said he was taking them to the BBQ man. Paul continued his farm chores and as he rode his tractor, he pondered how many sandwiches he could get out of a hog. “Who’s making the money here?” he wondered.

Deciding he was on the wrong end of the stick, Paul began a barbecue business by raising his own pigs. Although he had never cooked a pig, Paul built a very small building in 1958 to start a barbecue business. So as not to embarrass himself, Paul got behind a tobacco barn, dug a pit and cooked his first pig. Paul’s pig turned out fine. In July 1958, Paul opened his little barbecue place.

The wonderful pork offered by Stephenson’s Barbecue is cooked over coals for about seven hours. The meat is then turned and slowly cooked for another two hours. Paul then leaves the meat on the pits six or eight hours more to smoke. The pit is three bricks thick. The heat in the bricks and the dying coals cause the meat to drip slowly all night. It is chopped first thing the next morning. This dripping produces smoke for hours and the barbecue has more smoke flavor than any I have ever tasted. It is absolutely wonderful. The outside brown and the fat are separated from the rest of the meat. The outside brown is chopped real fine. Some of the fat is chopped fine as well and blended back with the hand-chopped meat. The cooking methods and the chopping and blending produce an outstanding barbecue product.

The chopped barbecue comes in a moderately coarse chunky chop. It is without a doubt the smokiest, woodsiest, richest tasting ’cue you will ever eat. It’s a good mix of outside brown with inside white and fat, but not greasy. This barbecue is not just good; it is great. Fantastic flavors explode in your mouth. You will pound the table and your toes will crimp. It’s that good. The barbecue is sauced in the kitchen and you don’t need more.”

Excerpts from The Best Tar Heel Barbecue Manteo to Murphy pages 262-263.