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The five best D.C. barbecue joints for pulled or chopped pork

By and large, local pitmasters prefer pulled pork over chopped, almost in defiance of the barbecue tradition just south of us in North Carolina. If you talk to enough pitmasters, you'll begin to understand why they like the pulled version: It doesn't hide defects. It provides a better platform for the crusty bits of meat known as "outside brown." It doesn't lose as much moisture as chopped pork can.

Despite this trend, my local favorite is a chopped pork plate from Bryan Voltaggio, the celebrated chef who takes a rather unorthodox approach. You might even call it cheating.

[Best BBQ 2016: Top 10 barbecue joints | Best brisket | Best ribs| Why pitmasters matter]

1. BVQ at Vanish. Let's get this out of the way: Voltaggio smokes his pork shoulders for only four hours before transferring them to a low-temperature oven to finish. He subscribes to the theory that meat stops taking on smoke after a few hours. (He also needs the smoker space for briskets.) Regardless of how you feel about the approach, the result is incontrovertible: chopped pork mixed with pan drippings and an apple cider vinegar-based sauce. Tart, peppery, smoky, moist. It's hard to top.

2. Epic Smokehouse. Pulled into thick, meaty pieces, the pork is awash in wood smoke. It's also nicely seasoned and studded with lusty pieces of outer bark. This pulled pork needs no added sauce.

3. Sloppy Mama's at Solly's. The chopped pork plate leaves practically no flavor unexplored. There is sweetness, spice, smoke, tang, even a faint hint of fruitiness. It's full-throated barbecue pork.

4. Texas Jack's. Pitmaster Matt Lang takes a leaner approach with his pork shoulders, which are lightly smoked and pulled into meaty strands. His plate asks you to appreciate the primacy of the pork - at least for one bite before you douse it in sauce.

5. Kangaroo Boxing Club. Pulled into satisfyingly thick strands, the pork scores well on all fronts. It's well-seasoned, lightly sauced, moist and smoky. It's the go-to dish at KBC.

More barbecue: 

• The $20 Diner's top 10 barbecue joints

• Why pitmasters matter

• Best brisket

• Best ribs