Popular due to their size and price, pork loins are great for all occasions. They are also delicious.
Cooking these joints is actually fairly easy to master so don’t be put off if you’ve never smoked anything before.
The main thing you want to avoid is overcooking it, as you’ll end up with a tough and dry piece of pork.
The mild flavors of the pork loin mean you can add a variety of sauces and rubs to ensure you have the perfect meal.
It also means you’ll never get bored of it! Pork loin is leaner and also full of protein making it much healthier than red meats such as beef.
If you’re a smoking novice or want to brush up on your skills, we’ve broken down how to produce the perfectly smoked pork loin for your table to make your experience as easy as possible.
This information does relate to cooking pork loin on a pellet smoker; results may vary if you use a slow-cooker or other cooking instrument.
Pork Loin Vs. Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin and pork loin aren’t the same cut of meat despite what it may sound like.
Their both lean meats but the tenderloin is a long and narrow cut of meat without any bones taken from the backbone of the animal.
The loin on the other hand is flatter, wider and fatter also found at the back of the animal.
Due to their higher fat content, they’re much more tender and moist.
Using the loin works perfectly if you’re cooking for a large gathering as there is plenty of meat and it’s cheap to buy.
Due to the differences in size, shape and thickness, it’s best not to use them interchangeably as they will cook differently.
For example, you may end up overcooking a tenderloin if you’re following a recipe for a pork loin as they are thinner and smaller.
You’ll also want to keep the slightly higher fat content of the pork loin if you’re smoking it.
Choosing The Right Cut Of Meat
Look for a piece of meat that is pinkish-red in color with some marbling on the top as this indicates it’s fresh.
Also, look out for a joint with a thick layer of fat and white lines running through the meat, as it adds flavor and keeps it nice and juicy when cooking.
You will find that free-range, organic pork will have the thickest layer of fat.
Obviously, it’s up to you if you want to leave the fat on, but we’d suggest leaving it on in the oven to add to the flavor of the dish.
How Much Do I Need?
When feeding a large crowd it can be daunting to try and get portion sizes right.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t cook like they’re feeding the five thousand when it comes to a party?
The average loin you pick up at the grocery store will weigh around 4-5 pounds which can easily feed 8-10 people.
If you have any leftovers, you can always make a great sandwich the next day.
Why You Should Use A Smoker
As pork loin is a lean cut of meat, it doesn’t need to be slow-roasted all day like a pork butt.
You can oven roast or smoke on a pellet grill for a delicious smokey flavor with lots of moisture.
Although it doesn’t take as long as slow-cooking, you still need to invest a bit of time to get it right.
Wood pellets release more flavor compared to smoking chunks making them preferable when smoking a pork loin.
Choosing the right wood pellets can be tricky as there’s an overwhelming amount of choice, but you want to make sure you get it right.
Hickory pellets are the most widely used when smoking pork as they produce a really strong smokey flavor.
Some find these a little much for light meats.
For a milder flavor try using oak or apple for a more subtle fruity and nutty undertone to the loin.
A handy trick to try is actually mixing a little of the stronger pellets in with the main, milder pellets to create a little extra spiciness.
Milder flavors don’t overpower the natural taste of the pork.
Applewood is commonly used with pork as the sweetness of the apple complements the pork nicely.
Again, this is largely down to personal preference and availability when buying the pellets.
What Temperature Should You Cook A Pork Loin
Getting the temperature right is an essential part of cooking pork loin correctly.
Lean cuts of meat such as this should be cooked at a more gentle temperature of around 145℉ to make sure it’s safe to eat.
This is the advised temperature from the USDA, ignoring this could have an impact on your health.
Using a leave-in meat thermometer ensures you don’t overcook the loin.
Use the low and slow method of cooking when it comes to the loin, smoking it at about 225-250℉.
You can easily hit the target temperature of 145℉ this way.
As you’re aiming for a lower internal temperature it’s more gentle on the loin so less carryover cooking is experienced, reducing the chances of overcooking it.
Always check with the manual of your individual smoker before cooking as they react differently to certain woods and the amount of airflow.
What To Put On Your Pork Loin
Sprinkling a little salt and pepper onto the loin can do the job, but most of us need a little more of a kick than that.
Adding a dry rub, marinade or sauce to your dish is the perfect way to do this and can easily be changed according to your preferences.
There is a huge variety of dry rubs you can purchase online or at the grocery store specifically made for smoking pork, but you can just as easily make your own at home if you prefer.
You can create a mixture of sweet and spicy using oils, herbs and fruits.
Easy homemade recipes can be found online if you’re unsure about the measurements.
Letting the rub soak into the skin of the pork is really important to lock in the flavor, you can wrap this in plastic kitchen wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
Adding this mixture to the loin will also caramelize the skin making it lovely and crispy.
Marinades are similar to dry rubs in the sense that they are added to the meat so they can soak up the flavors and make it extra tasty.
However, marinades have a thick sauce-like texture. Shop-bought marinades are cheap and easy to use.
Or you can make them from oils, sauces citrus fruits, herbs and spices found in your kitchen cupboard.
If you’ve never heard of brining before it refers to the process of submerging meat into a mixture of salt and water helping to season the meat inside and out.
It’s especially good for leaner cuts of meat like pork loin as helps to avoid them from drying out during cooking.
To do this you can use a dish or a Ziploc bag which makes for a quick clean-up.
As meat is a muscle, the more you cook it the more the proteins inside will toughen and dry out.
The salty brine denatures the loin’s proteins and allows the cells to retain moisture as they heat up.
Brine can also increase the tenderness of the loin by causing muscle fibres to unravel and swell.
This process takes about 6-12 hours to get the full effect of the brine.
If you want to brine your loin you can also add the dry rub ingredients to the container you’re brining in to cut out an extra process.
Dry brining is another method which involves coating meat in a mixture of salt, sugar and seasonings just without the water.
The salt infuses with the meat’s natural juices to create an intense flavor.
How To Smoke A Pork Loin
Smoking meat is a relatively easy process that requires patience rather than skill.
That being said, there are a few things you need to make sure of to avoid disappointing results.
Placing a foil drip pan under the grates of your grill or the loin itself catches the fat and helps with the clean-up effort.
To prepare the pork loin, score the fat on the surface of the joint with a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern.
At this point, you can trim off any thick layers of fat as large or hard chunks of fat are difficult to chew and less enjoyable.
Cutting off connective tissue like silver skin is also beneficial here. Then you’ll need to season the loin.
Using a paper towel, pat the joint dry to soak up any juices to make sure the dry rub sticks to it and creates a really crispy outside layer.
If you bought your joint from a butcher then it will probably already be dry.
Leave the pork to sit out until it reaches room temperature if it’s been in the fridge to avoid it taking on any other aromas or odours from other food.
Cover your loin in oil or sauce to allow for the dry rub ingredients to stick to the surface.
Using your hands, with gloves on if you prefer, rub all over the surface and make sure to get into the scoring cuts too.
Wrap the loin (on a plate or dish) in plastic wrap and leave to infuse with the rub for around half an hour at room temperature.
If you’re making this far in advance, you can leave this to marinate overnight in the refrigerator for extra taste.
When you’re satisfied that the pork loin has had enough time to infuse with the dry rub and really hold on to all that flavor, it’s time to fire up the grill.
Adding your chosen pellets, heat up the grill to around 165℉, keeping the lid closed leave this for 15-20 minutes to get nice and warm.
Now you’re finally ready to place the pork on the grill. Place it fat side up for best results and close the lid.
You can leave this for roughly 3 hours to get a nice even smokey flavor through the joint of meat.
Insert the meat thermometer at this stage to make check how much longer you need to cook it.
It probably won’t have reached the ideal temperature yet, so crank up the heat to around 300-350℉ and continue to smoke for another 20-30 minutes or as soon as it reaches the all-important 145℉.
Many experts have different opinions when it comes to resting pork.
We suggest a resting time of 15-30 minutes to allow all the juices from the pork to redistribute to create an even flavor.
Remember that the temperature will continue to rise a little after when resting so be careful not to touch it.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin
Focusing on the temperature is much more important than the time it takes to cook.
Each cut of meat will differ in terms of thickness, the way you’re cooking it and external factors such as the weather.
Generally speaking, it should take around 2-3 hours for the loin to reach 145°℉ using a smoker.
This is the temperature that indicates to you the meat is safe to eat. Making sure you have good quality meat thermometer is vital.
Once you’ve pulled the loin, the temperature will continue to rise as it rests by about 5-10℉ so there’s no need to worry if you prefer it a little more done, it will naturally keep cooking for a little while.
What To Serve With Smoked Pork Loin
The possibilities are endless when it comes to what to serve alongside your tender juicy pork loin.
As it’s so versatile, you can pretty much serve what you want.
The type of event or dietary requirements are probably the only influencing factors here.
Mashed potato, macaroni cheese, roasted potatoes or cornbread work well alongside this dish.
If you’re at a big family BBQ you may want to go for a lighter easier route with coleslaw, some salads and mac and cheese.
If you’re having an indoor dinner on a cold wintry afternoon you may want to pair the loin with some roasted Brussel sprouts, cabbage and potatoes of your choosing.
For something a little lighter, use leftovers in sandwiches, wraps and pasta salads to avoid waste and to make the most of that smokey goodness.
The pork loin won’t be quite the same texture as pulled pork but it still works well in a sandwich with some BBQ sauce.
Smoked Pork Loin Recipe
If you need some inspiration to get started, we’ve included a recipe here.
For reference, the recipe cooks the meat on a Traeger pellet grill but you can use any type of smoker or even a coal grill.
You’ll need a rub, some sugar, honey, apple juice and simple herbs and spices to cook the pork loin.
Obviously, these are interchangeable so use whatever you have in the kitchen at the time.
Pork loins are great for smoking as they produce a succulent, tender piece of meat that is full of flavor.
Smoking a pork loin is super easy and produces great results that everyone will enjoy.
Choosing the right wood pellets, seasonings and cut of meat is crucial when smoking. Temperature over timing is key when smoking meat.
Getting the internal temperature of the pork loin to 145℉ is crucial, so don’t worry if it takes a little longer.
This will all depend on your own smoker.
We hope we’ve covered all the bases when it comes to smoking a pork loin and hope you produce some fantastic results.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do You Smoke A Pork Loin Per Pound?
About half an hour.
Estimates vary but as a rough guide, we would suggest smoking the meat for 30 minutes per pound at around 225℉.
Please note that results may vary depending on the specific piece of meat and smoker you are using.
How Do You Smoke A Pork Loin Without It Drying Out?
Keep the moisture in during the preparation and cooking.
The best way to avoid the pork loin from drying out is to cook it low and slow making sure the temperature of the meat reaches 145℉.
You can also prepare the meat in a brine solution overnight and most importantly avoid overcooking it.
Buying a reliable meat thermometer is a great way to avoid this.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Pork Loin?
Smoking a pork loin usually takes between 3-4 hours.
It is important to remember that you’ll need to allow time for marinating, resting and preparing the meat before you cook it.
For best results, prepare and season your meat the day before and refrigerate overnight to lock in the maximum amount of flavor.
Again this is dependent on the piece of meat and specific smoker used.
Is A Pork Loin Good For Smoking?
Yes, pork loins are excellent meats to smoke.
Although pork loin is a lean cut of meat, it has a little more fat and is larger than the tenderloin which makes it perfect for smoking.
It’s also a great cut of meat to practice your smoking skills on as it goes through a very simple process giving you a delicious meal without having to spend all day watching over the smoker.