Smoked Pork Loin
The secret to a delicious smoked pork loin is all about using a dynamite dry rub and the right temperature.
There’s a lot to love about smoking a pork loin. It’s a versatile cut that can be seasoned hundreds of different ways, smokes relatively quickly, and looks fantastic on the plate.
This recipe for smoked pork loin has everything you’ll need to get the roast to turn out just right, including tips for getting the pork to turn out tender and juicy, a dynamite dry rub for pork, time and temperature info, along with some great side dishes to serve your guests.
In this Piece
What is a Pork Loin
A pork loin comes from the area along either side of the backbone. A whole loin is a large, lean cut often broken down into smaller roasts, chops, or steaks and can come bone-in or boneless. Some of the more common roasts are sirloin, blade, and center cut. This recipe will work for any pork roast that comes from the loin. It was developed using boneless roasts, bone-in roasts will take slightly longer to cook.
There are some significant differences between a pork loin roast and a pork tenderloin. The tenderloin comes from the muscle that runs along the spine, is usually a couple of inches in diameter, and is known for its tenderness.
We have an excellent Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe with fresh herbs, and for cooks who are interested in stretching themselves, a Chili Rubbed Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin that pops as it melts in your mouth.
The reason pork loins and tenderloins shouldn’t be substituted for each other is that they are very different in size and shape. Roasts from the loin tend to be around 5 inches wide and are more compact than tenderloins which resemble long tubes of porky deliciousness. The different shapes and sizes mean that cooking times for each will vary dramatically from one to the other.
A tip when choosing which cuts of pork to use is that pork loin roasts and pork tenderloins are lean cuts that are best served sliced thick or thin. They also look great on a platter when you’re serving a nice dinner.
Pork butt and pork shoulders are roasts that excel at being shredded, chopped, or pulled and are wonderful served as sandwiches slathered with BBQ sauce, in rice bowls, or on tortillas as the base for delicious tacos. This Pulled Pork recipe is perfect for sandwiches and parties.
How to Smoke a Pork Loin Roast
There are a few things that make pork loins ideal for smoking. The first is that they are a fairly inexpensive cut that is available at most grocery stores and butcher shops. A whole loin can be cut into a variety of sizes; we generally see them as half loins around 4 lbs and whole loins around 8 lbs.
This smoked pork loin roast recipe is easy to adapt to whatever size you have on hand. A good rule of thumb is a half-pound per guest if the roast is being served for dinner and a third-of-a-pound if it is being served at a party.
To get the smoked pork loin to turn out nice and juicy smoke the roast at 225℉ (107℃) for 2 ½ to 3 hours until the internal temperature reaches 145℉ (63℃).
The key to getting the roast to come out just right is to cook it until its internal temperature reaches 145℉ (63℃), then take the roast off and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes tented under foil. This will let the roast reabsorb its juices while keeping it warm. The USDA Recommends cooking chops, roasts, loins, and tenderloin to an internal temp of 145℉ (63℃) followed by a three-minute rest (Pork Check-Off).
When it comes to smoking roasts it’s important to cook them to a specific internal temperature, rather than for a specific amount of time. There are so many factors (e.g. weather, type of smoker, the shape of cut) that the amount of time it takes to smoke something will vary from person to person and smoker to smoker.
For smoked pork loins we plan on 30 to 40 minutes per pound of smoking time and use a wireless thermometer to keep tabs on how it’s doing while we go about our day.
This recipe will work with any type of gas, electric, charcoal, or pellet smoker. It will also work with a gas or charcoal grill if it’s cooked using indirect heat.
If your smoker doesn’t have a built-in water pan, we recommend setting a disposable aluminum foil pan filled with water under the roast. Water pans help to keep the meat moist and balance the temperature inside the smoker.
Best Types of Wood for Smoking Pork
There are a lot of good choices when it comes to choosing what type of wood chips to use in your smoker. When it comes to pork we generally use hickory and mesquite when we’re smoking larger more rustic cuts like ribs, shoulders, and butts where we like a more smoky flavor.
When it comes to leaner cuts like loins, tenderloins, and chops we often use fruitwood such as apple, maple, or pecan with the final choice coming down to what we’re serving as side dishes.
For example, we’ll use apple wood if we’re serving an Apple Crisp for dessert or maple if we’re serving Grilled Butternut Squash with Honey Maple Glaze as a side dish. Using the flavors in the other dishes or cocktails being served helps bring a meal together. Connecting the flavors in this way is an easy way to elevate an entire meal.
A Dynamite Smoked Pork Loin Rub
To make our roast as tasty as possible we created a special smoked pork loin rub and use a technique we call the poke and soak to flavor the whole roast.
A good dry rub should have elements that highlight an ingredient’s natural flavors while conveying the cook’s intentions. This rub has a touch of sweetness to compliment the pork and a bit of a bite to make it memorable.
The brown sugar in the rub complements the pork’s natural sweetness while helping to add color. The onion and garlic powders take on the role that aromatics play when a dish is being started on the stove.
What makes this rub so good is the smokiness from the smoked paprika and the well-rounded flavors that a good mustard powder adds to the roast. This spice rub is also delicious on pork chops and other cuts that are being cooked on the grill or in a smoker.
To help flavor the whole roast, we use a technique we call the poke and soak where we use the tip of a sharp knife to poke small holes into the roast before pouring a small amount of whisky and apple cider vinegar over the meat.
The apple cider vinegar and whiskey work with the spice rub adding a tart note and a little bite to create a flavorful roast that stands out. Adding the vinegar and whiskey mixture before applying the rub helps to flavor the meat and gives the rub something to stick to.
Using this technique means there’s no reason to cut a diagonal or crosshatch pattern into the roast before applying the spice rub. A diagonal pattern can be a great way to get flavor into a roast that is going to be pulled or chopped but can be problematic for ones that are going to be sliced. The crosshatch pattern tends to make the slices messy and creates waste.
Smoking the roast this way and using this dry rub will allow the outside to develop a nice crust. Slicing it width-wise makes sure that every slice includes a bite of the flavorful crust.
The reason we don’t recommend brining a roast before smoking is that they come out so tender and juicy when they’re cooked between 225℉ (107℃) to 250℉ (121℃) that brining adds a lot of extra time and bother without improving texture and flavor.
Tips for Smoking Pork Roasts
Here are a few tips for smoking a pork loin:
- Cooking the loin fat side up helps keep the roast juicy and adds flavor. It also makes it easier, since the roast doesn’t need to be flipped while it’s cooking.
- We recommend using a smoker temperature of anywhere from 225℉ (107℃) to 250℉ (121℃). If you’re in a hurry, it’s ok to go as high as 275℉ (135℃), just remember the higher the temperature, the drier the roast.
- The loin should not be wrapped in foil during the cooking process.
- The roast should have a small reddish smoke ring around the outside that becomes visible when the it is sliced. Some people mistake the smoke ring for it being undercooked.
The roast is best served sliced thin and makes excellent leftovers. It can be reheated on the grill or in the oven. It should only be reheated in the microwave if you’ve pretty much given up on everything.
The grill works well if the piece of pork being reheated hasn’t been sliced yet; just place it on a grill over medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes turning it halfway through.
To reheat the pork in the oven, place it in a covered baking dish for 15 to 20 minutes in a 350℉ (177℃) oven. Using an oven is the best way to reheat the loin if it’s already been sliced.
What to Serve with a Smoked Pork Loin
The flavor profile for the roast is subtle but full-bodied with a moderate amount of smoke flavor. The roast tastes very different than a dish like our Smoked Baby Back Ribs, which are the epitome of great barbecue with big, bold flavors and sticky fingers.
This type of smoked meat dish works as well for a nice dinner party as it does for a backyard barbecue.
If it’s being served as the main course for a dinner party or family meal serve it with some stone-ground mustard and pair it with Creamed Corn or a scrumptious Herb Risotto along with a round or two of Classic Old Fashioneds and Apple Bread Pudding for dessert.
If you prefer your roast topped with a bit of gravy, try this simple recipe. It’s also delicious on sandwiches and sliced thin, and served cold as finger food for parties.
A tip for livening up the flavors in the pork is to sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over the top of the slices right before serving.
- 4 lb pork loin roast
- 1 oz apple cider vinegar
- 1 oz whiskey
Smoked Pork Loin Rub
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp pepper
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- Make the dry rub by mixing the brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper with the mustard and onion powders.1 tbsp brown sugar, 2 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp pepper, ½ tsp mustard powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder
- Combine the apple cider vinegar and whiskey in a small glass.1 oz apple cider vinegar, 1 oz whiskey
- Trim off any excess fat or silver skin. Using the sharp end of a knife, poke a series of small holes in the outside of the roast.4 lb pork loin roast
- Rub the roast down with the apple cider vinegar and whiskey mixture.
- Coat the roast with the spice rub, making sure to get it everywhere.
- Smoke the pork loin roast for 2 ½ to 3 hours at 225℉ (107℃).
- The roast should smoke until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the roast reaches 145℉ (63℃).8
- Rest the roast covered with foil for 15 minutes before slicing it thin.