Indoor Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

Why This Recipe Works

In recipes, the phrase “indoor barbecue” is usually code for “braised in a Dutch oven with bottled barbecue sauce.” Unfortunately, this results in mushy, waterlogged meat and candy-sweet sauce. We wanted moist, tender, shreddable meat with deep smoke flavor all the way through, plus a dark, richly seasoned crust, often referred to as bark.

Be it indoor or outdoor, with barbecue a good amount of fat is necessary for moisture and flavor, so we chose to use boneless Boston butt because of its high level of marbling. To mimic the moist heat of a covered grill, we came up with a dual cooking method: covering the pork for part of the oven time to speed up cooking and keep it moist, then uncovering it for the remainder of the time to help the meat develop a crust.

To achieve smoky flavor without an actual barbecue pit, we turned to liquid smoke, a natural product derived from condensing the moist smoke of smoldering wood chips. We found that adding it to our brine infused it with smoky flavor without tasting unnatural. For even more smokiness, we employed a dry rub and a wet rub, which we also fortified with smoky flavorings. To serve alongside our pork, we developed three sauces inspired by the variety of barbecue regions and styles: a classic sweet and tangy sauce, a vinegar sauce, and a mustard sauce, all of which we flavored with some of the pork’s defatted cooking liquid.


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1 cup plus 2 teaspoons table salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 boneless pork butt (about 5 pounds), cut in half horizontally (see technique below)
¼ cup yellow mustard
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika (see note)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

1 ½ cups ketchup
¼ cup light or mild molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

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Serves 6 to 8

Sweet paprika may be substituted for smoked paprika. Covering the pork with parchment and then foil prevents the acidic mustard from eating holes in the foil. Serve the pork on hamburger rolls with pickle chips and thinly sliced onion. Lexington Vinegar Barbecue Sauce or South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce (see related recipes) can be substituted for the Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce. Alternatively, use 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce thinned with ½ cup of the defatted pork cooking liquid in step 5. The shredded and sauced pork can be cooled, tightly covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat it gently before serving.

1. FOR THE PORK: Dissolve 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons liquid smoke in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge pork in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. While pork brines, combine mustard and remaining 2 teaspoons liquid smoke in small bowl; set aside. Combine black pepper, paprika, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and cayenne in second small bowl; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub mustard mixture over entire surface of each piece of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with spice mixture. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with sheet of aluminum foil, sealing edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast pork for 3 hours.

4. Remove pork from oven; remove and discard foil and parchment. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet into fat separator and reserve for sauce. Return pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender, and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ hours. Transfer pork to serving dish, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes.

5. FOR THE SAUCE: While pork rests, pour 1/2 cup of defatted cooking liquid from fat separator into medium bowl; whisk in sauce ingredients.

6. TO SERVE: Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 cup sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.


Cutting Pork Butt in Half

Halving the pork increases its surface area, which creates more flavorful bark.

Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, press one hand flat against the top of the pork butt while cutting horizontally.


Adding Smoke Flavor (Without a Fire)


Adding liquid smoke to brine draws smoky flavor deep into meat.


Rubbing pork with more liquid smoke gives bark pronounced smoky flavor.


Adding smoked paprika to dry rub brings additional smokiness and helps bark develop its color.

Watch The Full Episode

Season 11, Ep. 11

We re-create delicious pulled pork—sans grill—then prepare our Easier Fried Chicken recipe, which achieves that signature super-crisp crust and juicy meat without requiring quarts of oil.