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How To Cook BBQ Pulled Pork In The Oven

bbq pulled pork made in an oven on a white platter

I really enjoy smoking a pork shoulder for hours; smelling the smells, tending the fire, and of course that taste at the end. But not everyone has a smoker, so this blog is all about how to cook pulled pork in the oven.

With the homemade seasoning and a few other tricks, this pork butt will take on a smoky flavor and will be very close to traditional pit barbecue. In fact, the pulled pork sandwiches you’ll get from this pulled pork recipe will have all but the most discerning of BBQ enthusiasts convinced it came off a pit.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to check out my recipe for smoky beef ribs in the oven as well.

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Why is Pork Shoulder Called Boston Butt?

The pork shoulder is called a few different things. Pork butt, Boston butt, and sometimes just “butt.” What confuses people is that this cut of meat isn’t a hog’s butt at all, it’s the front shoulder.

uncooked Boston butt sitting on a wire cooling rack

To make a long story short, waaaaay back in the day these large chunks of meat were shipped from Boston all over the country. They were packaged in large wooden barrels, and those barrels were called “butts.”

So, the term Boston butt, or pork butt started being used to refer to the meat inside the barrel. Today, all these years later, pork shoulder is still referred to as a “butt.”

What is The Best Temperature To Cook Pork Butt?

Pork shoulder, or “butt” is a working muscle and contains a lot of connective tissue that needs to be broken down over time in order for it to get tender. Cooking for that long at too high of a temperature will result in a tough, dry cut of meat.

pork butt that has been partially pulled apart sitting on a platter

So, the ideal temperature to cook a pork shoulder is between 225° – 250°F. This low temperature will require the pork to be cooked for a long time, but tender juicy pork butt is a product of both time AND temperature.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Pulled Pork in the Oven?

When cooking pork at between 225° – 250°F you should plan for about 90 minutes of cook time per pound of pork. That’s not exact of course, but it’s a good ballpark range for planning purposes.

One great benefit for cooking bbq pulled pork in the oven is that if it’s done early, it will keep well in a warm oven for a couple hours. In fact, pork is best when you allow it to “rest” for an hour or so before pulling it.

pork that's been pulled apart sitting on a plate with green parsley

Should I Cover Pulled Pork in the Oven?

A little of both is the answer here. I recommend starting the pork uncovered, and allow it to cook for six hours this way. This allows the smoky seasoning to get into the meat and starts to develop this nice overall crust.

Then, after six hours uncovered, wrap the pork tightly in aluminum foil and let it continue to cook till it reaches 200° – 205° internal temperature.  Depending on the size of the pork, this will take another 2-3 hours as it speeds up the cooking time and helps to tenderize the meat.

What Is the Secret to Moist Pulled Pork?

There are a number of tricks to get extremely moist pulled pork. Anywhere from injecting the pork with liquid, to wet brining it for a couple of days before cooking it.

The easiest way to ensure moist pork though, is to cook it at a low temperature — start to finish. Don’t follow the advice so prevalent on the internet about starting a pork shoulder at a high temperature (350°F or more), then finishing it at a lower temperature.

It’s suggested this high to low technique helps with browning, etc. As you can see by this shoulder cooked start to finish at a low temperature, it will get plenty of browning.

oven roasted pork shoulder on a white platter

If you’re cooking a skin-on piece of meat, it makes sense to start at a high temperature in order to crisp the skin. But pork shoulder without skin doesn’t benefit from high temperatures. Don’t do it.

In fact, the high temperatures are detrimental to the pork. High cooking temperatures cause pork to contract. This contraction squeezes the juices out of it, making it dry.

Add to that, the brown sugar and paprika in most barbecue rubs will burn at high temperatures. So, in short, a slow roast is a key secret to moist pulled pork.

How To Get Smoke Flavor in the Oven?

The keys to getting that smoky pit style bbq flavor while using the oven is threefold. Proper use of liquid smoke, using smoked spices to make the rub, and an amazing homemade smoky barbecue sauce.

Starting with the preparation of the pork, use a mixture of liquid smoke and yellow mustard as your binder. The mustard won’t provide any flavor, but it will help the liquid smoke penetrate into the meat and build the crust.

Next, a simple homemade barbecue rub made with smoked spices. You can find smoked spices in most grocery stores, and on Amazon.

fulled seasoned pork butt on a wire rack

Finally, making a simple smoky BBQ sauce will help with getting your pork as close to pit barbecue as possible, without actually having a smoker.

How To Cook Smoky Pulled Pork in the Oven

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 8 hours | Serves: 10-12

Ingredients
Pork
1 6lb bone in pork shoulder
2 tbsp yellow mustard
3 tbsp liquid smoke, divided
3 cups hot water

Smoked Seasoning
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked sea salt 
1 tbsp smoked black pepper 
1 tbsp smoked paprika 
1 tbsp smoked garlic powder 

Smoky BBQ Sauce 
1½ cups ketchup 
½ cup molasses 
¼ cup honey 
¼ cup apple cider vinegar 
1 tbsp liquid smoke 
2 tsp smoked seasoning

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 235°F. While the oven is preheating, rinse the pork shoulder under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Then, mix together yellow mustard and one tablespoon of liquid smoke and evenly coat the entire pork shoulder.

Step 2: Mix the spices for the smoky seasoning in a shaker bottle, and liberally season all sides of the pork shoulder. Set the pork shoulder on a wire rack (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) inside of a raised edge baking pan. Add hot water and two tablespoons of liquid smoke to the bottom of the pan and place the pork in the oven. Roast for six hours.

Tip* The liquid in the pan will keep the cooking environment moist. Check the water level periodically to ensure it doesn’t all evaporate, add water as needed.

Step 3: Remove roast from the oven, and place on a triple layer of aluminum foil. Add one cup of the liquid from the bottom of the pan, and seal the aluminum foil as tightly as possible.

Step 4: Place the pork back into the baking pan, and return it to the oven. Increase temperature to 250°F and allow it to cook until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 205°F as indicated by a reliable quick read thermometer. About two more hours. 

roasted pork butt with a thermometer inserted

Step 5: While pork is cooking, mix all ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a large saucepan. Heat over medium low until the sauce thins and is warm through, set aside.

Step 6: Allow the pork to rest for at least 30 minutes to one hour. Then, pull the pork into desired sized pieces. Serve hot with the smoky BBQ sauce.

platter filled with bbq pulled pork from the oven
platter of bbq pulled pork

BBQ Pulled Pork In The Oven

4.13 from 63 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 1 6lb pork shoulder bone in
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 3 cups hot water

Smoky Seasoning

  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked sea salt
  • 1 tbsp smoked black pepper
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked garlic powder

Smoky BBQ Sauce

  • cups ketchup
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp smokey seasoning

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 235°F. While the oven is preheating, rinse the pork shoulder under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Then, mix together yellow mustard and one tablespoon of liquid smoke and evenly coat the entire pork shoulder.
  • Mix the spices for the smoky seasoning in a shaker bottle, and liberally season all sides of the pork shoulder. Set the pork shoulder on a wire rack (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) inside of a raised edge baking pan. Add hot water and liquid smoke to the bottom of the pan and place the pork in the oven. Roast for six hours
  • Remove roast from the oven, and place on a triple layer of aluminum foil. Add one cup of the liquid from the bottom of the pan, and seal the aluminum foil as tightly as possible.
  • Place the pork back into the baking pan, and return it to the oven. Increase temperature to 250°F and allow it to cook until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 205°F as indicated by a reliable quick read thermometer. About two more hours.
  • While pork is cooking, mix all ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a large saucepan. Heat over medium low until the sauce thins and is warm through, set aside
  • Allow the pork to rest for at least 30 minutes to one hour. Then, pull the pork into desired sized pieces. Serve hot with the smoky BBQ sauce.

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6 thoughts on “How To Cook BBQ Pulled Pork In The Oven”

    1. Hi Debbie – The smoked seasoning referenced in the BBQ sauce is listed in the ingredients, just above the sauce ingredients. I hope you enjoy it!

      -M

  1. I made too large of a roast almost 24 hours of oven time at 235. Haven’t tried it looks very very dry. It was skin on. Not complaining but looking for advice.

    1. Hi Karla, thanks for trying this out. I’m confused by “skin on” Did you by chance use a picnic roast? Also, it looks like you roasted at 235° for the whole time? Did you wrap it in foil and increase the oven temperature? Just looking to gather more information so I can help get you on the right track.

      -M

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