June 30, 2016 6:30 AM EDT

In the eastern Carolinas, tradition dictates that barbecue pitmasters go the whole hog. Literally. Pigs, weighing upwards of 150 lb., are slowly smoked over fresh hardwood coals from dusk to dawn. It’s grueling work, fueled by a sense of historical purpose and stubborn pride. These places are communal gathering spots—and some of the best eating in the country.

Fertel is the author of The One True Barbecue: Fire, Smoke, and the Pitmasters Who Cook the Whole Hog

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