100 Techniques

Technique #66: Make Smoked Barbecue in Your Oven

Authentic barbecue flavors at home are within your reach.

Published Aug. 27, 2023.

This is Technique #66 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

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Making genuine smoked barbecue at home is certainly achievable with a smoker. But during the winter in many parts of the country, this just isn't feasible. (Plus, many of us aren't lucky enough to own this piece of equipment.)

There is a way to make deeply smoked pulled pork indoors, sans smoker.

We know, the phrase “indoor barbecue” is usually code for “cooked in a slow cooker with bottled barbecue sauce”—a method that can result in mushy meat with a uniformly soft texture and little smoke flavor.

But our technique achieves shreddable, smoky meat with a dark, richly seasoned bark, or crust. 

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Create Extra Steam

Barbecue temperatures generally hover in the vicinity of 250 to 300 degrees, easy enough to achieve in the oven. But there’s a crucial difference between genuine smoked barbecue and oven barbecue. In a smoker or on a grill, as moisture escapes from damp wood chips and steaming meat, it’s trapped underneath the lid, creating a moist environment. 

To create extra steam, some cooks place a pan of water beside the coals. An oven, by contrast, is ventilated to remove any moisture that builds up. Since moist air transfers heat more effectively than dry air, an oven is less efficient than either a smoker or a grill. Our solution? Raise the oven temperature slightly and cover the pork for part of the time to keep it moist; uncovering it for the remainder helps the meat develop its signature crust.

Indoor Pulled Chicken with Mustard BBQ Sauce
Indoor Pulled Chicken with Mustard BBQ Sauce

Substitute Wood Chips

To achieve barbecue’s trademark smoky flavor, wood chips aren’t a smart idea in an indoor oven (smoke alarm, anyone?). We use smoky Lapsang souchong tea to impart flavor to Oven-Barbecued Spareribs, but those ribs are exposed to smoke for just 30 minutes. After 41⁄2 hours of tea smoke, a pork butt tastes strongly of, well, tea. 

The most successful option turns out to be liquid smoke, an all-natural product. Since it’s very concentrated, just a small amount in the brine infuses plenty of smoky flavor throughout the meat. And including liquid smoke in the wet rub as well reinforces the true smoky flavor.


The Outdoor Cook

Go way beyond burgers and basic proteins to become your best outdoor cooking self. Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, flat-top griddle, open-fire setup, smoker, or pizza oven, you can revel in the outdoor cooking lifestyle. By learning to harness fire and smoke the ATK way, you’ll even be able to convert many of these recipes between different cooking methods.

Step by Step: How to Make Pulled Barbecue in Your Oven

If you’re looking to achieve that smoky barbecue flavor at home (without the help of a smoker), all it takes is a few clever substitutions and thoughtful techniques. Here's how to do it.

Step 1: Brine 

Brine pork roast in large container in refrigerator.

Step 2: Apply Rub 

Remove roast from brine, pat dry, and rub with smoky wet rub. Sprinkle with spice rub.

Step 3: Roast 

Set roast on wire rack in aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Cover with parchment paper, then tightly with foil. Roast as directed.

Step 4: Pour Liquid into Baking Sheet 

Remove from oven. Pour liquid in bottom of baking sheet into fat separator. Return meat to oven and roast, uncovered, until well browned and tender and pork registers 200 degrees.

Step 5: Rest and Shred 

Let pork roast rest while making sauce from defatted cooking liquid and barbecue sauce. Shred pork into bite-size pieces.

Step 6: Add Sauce 

Combine shredded pork with barbecue sauce.

Watch as Bryan Roof takes you through the process of making indoor pulled pork in this video.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Below are three of our favorites to put your newfound knowledge to the test, and enhance your BBQ dinners.


Indoor Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

We transform pork shoulder into smoky-tasting barbecue with a crusty exterior and tender interior without trading our indoor oven for an outdoor pit.
Get the Recipe

Lexington Vinegar Barbecue Sauce

Serve this tangy barbecue sauce alongside our Indoor Pulled Pork.
Get the Recipe

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Serve with our Sweet and Tangy Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs.
Get the Recipe

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