The North Carolina Pork Council is proud to sponsor cooking contests across the state. Below is a look at some of the recipes that have taken home blue ribbons this year.

2018 NC State Fair Tar Heel Pork Challenge 

1st place: Grilled Pork Tenderloin Cubano
Bob Mermelstein of Cary

Dry Rub:

  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. oregano
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Make the dry rub: Combine all rub ingredients in a small bowl and reserve.


  • 1 lb. NC pork tenderloin
  • 1 Tbs. yellow mustard
  • 4 oz. sliced Swiss cheese
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • 2 dill pickles, thinly sliced and patted dry
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

Make the pork: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Roll cut the pork tenderloin and place fat-side down on a work surface. Cover with plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thickness. Remove plastic wrap and spread the mustard on the pork. Lay the ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles along the center of the pork and roll from the long side. Tie with kitchen twine and rub with olive oil. Coat tenderloin with reserved dry rub. Grill the tenderloin until the internal temperature reaches 145º, about 22 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Serves 4.



2nd place: Banh Mi Porkburgers
Yvonne Payton-Davis of Knightdale


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 green onions, finely diced, green and white parts separated
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs

Pickled Vegetables:

  • 2 cucumbers, sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot, sliced thin
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt

For the Sandwich:

  • 4 French bread rolls
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • Green onion tops
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, combine all the sliced pickling vegetables. In a separate bowl, combine water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Pour liquid over vegetables. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Combine pork, white parts of the green onion, teriyaki sauce, pepper and bread crumbs. Form the mixture into four patties.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook burgers for six minutes on each side, or until preferred doneness.

To make the sandwiches: split French rolls and spread both sides with butter. Toast under broiler. Spread each side with mayonnaise. Assemble burgers with meat, pickled vegetables, green onion tops and cilantro. You may also add jalapeno slices for extra spice.


3rd place: Island Paradise Pork Skewers
Bob Brescia of Cary


  • ½ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic minced
  • 1 tsp. course kosher or sea salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ketchup
  • 1 ripe banana, finely mashed
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 8 oz. Ginger Ale

Grilling sauce:

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • Red pepper flakes or other spicy pepper to taste

Mix together all the marinade ingredients, except for the Ginger Ale, and blend until smooth. Add ginger ale to marinade mixture.

Cut pork into 1 inch wide, ¼ inch thin strips

Place pork slices into a sealable, plastic bag and pour in marinade. Marinate pork in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or if possible overnight.

Remove pork from marinade and place meat on the water-soaked wood skewers.

Mix together the grilling sauce ingredients.

Cook over medium grill, turning every 2-3 minutes, while basting with grilling sauce. Total cook time can vary but try not to go beyond medium- 8 minutes total.