Pulled pork can be made out of a variety of different cuts of pork. If you’ve never smoked pork loin to make pulled pork, we’re here to help.
In this article, we will cover smoking pork loin instead of pork butt for pulled pork. Let’s go.
Are Pork Loin And Pork Tenderloin The Same?
Despite the fact that pork loin and pork tenderloin have similar names, they are not the same cut. That being said, they do share some similarities.
These include the fact that both cuts of pork are high in fat, and can be purchased boneless or bone-in.
Other than this, the two cuts of meat will need to be treated differently as they both require specific cooking methods to celebrate the meat.
Should You Brine Pork Loin?
Pork loin can be difficult to prepare at the best of times, but especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing.
While you might think that you can skip the brining process, it will make your life significantly easier when it comes to making your pulled pork nice and tender.
Brining is an essential step that helps to season the meat while tenderizing the pork loin at the same time.
When you leave your pork in the brine, you not only flavor it, but also increase its moisture content.
How To Prepare Pork Loin For Smoking
Preparing pork loin for smoking might feel overwhelming if you’ve never used this cut of meat before.
But, rest assured, it’s not an overly complicated process.
While pork loin is typically quite a lean cut of meat, you might have to trim it back with a large knife.
If you turn the pork loin over, you might see that the underside of the pork has a thick layer of fat.
Fat is great for keeping the meat juicy and tender as it renders in the smoking, and is also ideal for adding flavor to your pulled pork.
That being said, if the layer of fat is too thick then it can be a challenge for the smoke inside your smoker to work its magic and penetrate the pork during the smoking process.
While you won’t want to get rid of all of the fat cap as it’s essential to the moisture of the meat, you will want to use a sharp knife to trim away some of that excess fat.
Now your meat is ready for the brining process. So, how do you make a brine for pork loin?
How To Make Brine For Pork Loin
Making a brine for your pork loin is super simple once you know how.
- 7 cups of cold water, 1 cup of boiling hot water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ½ cup kosher or coarse salt
Step One – Combine The Boiling Hot Water With Sugar & Salt
To begin, you will need to combine 1 cup of boiling hot water and add the sugar and salt.
The reason that the boiling water is necessary is to ensure that the ingredients dissolve, so be sure to stir the mixture until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
Step Two – Add The Remaining Water
Next, you will need to add the remaining 7 cups of very cold water and stir to combine. At this point, your brine is ready for your pork loin.
Step Three – Add The Pork To The Brine
Next, you will need to fully submerge the pork loin in the brine mixture.
Step Four – Add The Container To The Refrigerator
Now you can add your container to the refrigerator for 4 to 16 hours, ensuring that it is covered with the container’s lid of aluminum foil.
Step Five – Remove The Pork Loin From The Brine
Once the pork loin has had the opportunity to sit in the brine, remove it and pat it dry with paper towels.
After this, you can proceed with the recipe.
The Importance Of Pork Rub
Perfecting a good pork rub is essential for nearly every smoked meat recipe.
The great thing about pork rubs that they’re super easy to whip up at home with just a few ingredients for your very own DIY rub.
For a simple dry rub that you make at home, all you need is:
- 1/2 cup of smoked paprika
- 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of salt
- 1/4 cup of garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons of black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 2 tablespoons of onion powder
- 2 tablespoons of chipotle chili pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
Step One – Combine All The Ingredients
In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Step Two – Pour The Spice Rub Into A Container
Next, you will need to pour the spice rub into an airtight container.
Storing it this way will ensure that your spice rub remains fresh for when you next want to smoke a joint of pork.
Step Three – Use The Spice Rub
Now your spice rub is ready, you can use it as and when you need it by covering the pork roast on all sides with the rub.
Note: This makes around 2 cups of rub that you can either store and use at a later date, or you can reduce the measurements to make less if you’d prefer that.
Is Pork Loin Difficult To Cook?
Yes, pork loin is notoriously difficult to get right.
This comes down to the fact that it’s a pretty tough cut of meat, and is really easy to dry out if you’re not careful of the cooking times.
Bearing this in mind, it’s absolutely essential that you follow the cooking instructions of a pork loin recipe down to the letter, and make sure that you have a reliable meat thermometer on hand to know when to remove the pork from the smoker.
Whilst preparing the meat in the right way with a brine can help the meat to retain its moisture, this will only go so far.
As a result, you will need to be aware of cooking times and be on hand to check the pork as and when it is required to ensure that you don’t overcook your pork loin.
Knowing your smoker is also an important part of smoking, which only comes over a significant period of using it.
While smoking pork loin to make pulled pork might be a challenge to perfect the first time around, as you gain more experience with cooking pork loin, the process will slowly become easier.
How Do You Know When Pork Loin Is Done?
Using a meat thermometer is the most reliable method of determining whether your pork loin is done, because there aren’t any trustworthy visual indicators of doneness as there are for chicken and beef.
You will need to ensure that your pork loin is cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove it from the smoker.
At this temperature, the pork is safe to eat.
While it’s safe to eat pork loin when it has reached this temperature, this doesn’t mean that this temperature is the right one when it comes to making pulled pork.
That being said, as we cover later on in this article, you will want your pork to reach at least 205 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove it from the smoker.
What Wood Should You Use For Pulled Pork?
It’s also important to consider what type of wood chips you’d like to smoke pork loin with.
When it comes to pork, try to avoid using stronger woods such as hickory, as this can have a bigger impact on the flavor than you might initially realize.
Instead, it’s best to use woods such as applewood, as this will compliment the pork nicely.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with different woods, though.
Trying out different types of wood will help you to determine the flavor combinations that you enjoy with the meat that you’re smoking.
So, have some fun with it, and see what you like best! This is all part of the process.
What Temperature Should You Smoke Pulled Pork At?
Before you put your pork onto the smoker, you will first need to preheat your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
While it’s safe for you to eat pork once it has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, you don’t want to remove it from the smoker yet.
This comes down to the fact that the meat won’t yet be ready to shred if it’s removed from the smoker at this temperature, and you’ll likely be left with pork that is entirely the wrong texture.
Smoked pork loin needs to reach an internal temperature of 205°F for you to be able to shred it successfully and achieve beautiful pulled pork.
At this temperature, the meat should begin to fall apart and will be deliciously tender.
Checking the temperature of your pork is essential, as it’s incredibly difficult to determine whether it’s done just by the look of it.
Bearing this in mind, you’ll need to keep your temperature probe on hand and make a note each time you check the temperature in conjunction with the overall cooking time.
So, there you have smoking pork loin for pulled pork.
We hope this article has been helpful and you feel more confident smoking pork loin for pulled pork.
Enjoy experimenting with different flavors for your brine as well as your spice rub to make a tonne of delicious pulled pork recipes.
Good luck smoking pork loin for pulled pork!