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 results 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.
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.
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 4½ 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.
1 Brine pork roast in large container in refrigerator.
2 Remove roast from brine, pat dry, and rub with smoky wet rub. Sprinkle with spice rub.
3 Set roast on wire rack in aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Cover with parchment paper, then tightly with foil. Roast as directed.
4 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.
5 Let pork roast rest while making sauce from defatted cooking liquid and barbecue sauce. Shred pork into bite-size pieces.
6 Combine shredded pork with barbecue sauce.
THE SCIENCE OF Liquid Smoke
Liquid smoke is made by channeling smoke from smoldering wood through a condenser, which cools the vapors, causing them to liquefy. The water-soluble flavor compounds in the smoke are captured, while the insoluble tars and resins are removed with filters, resulting in an all-natural smoke-flavored liquid.