Smoked Pork LoinThe secret to a delicious smoked pork loin is all about using a dynamite spice 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 amazing 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 spice rub, time and temperature info along with some great side dishes to serve your guests.
Get to Know Pork Loin
A pork loin comes from the area along either side of the backbone. A whole loin is a large, lean cut that is 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 roast that comes from the loin; it was developed using boneless roasts, bone-in roasts will take longer to cook.
There are some big differences between a pork loin roast and 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 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.
How to Smoke a Pork Loin
There are a few things that make pork loins ideal for cooking in a smoker. 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 around 8 lbs.
This 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.
To get the smoked pork loin to turn out nice and juicy smoke the roast at 225℉ for 2 ½ to 3 hours until the internal temperature reaches 145℉.
The key to getting the roast to come out just right is to cook it until its internal temperature just reaches 145℉ then taking the roast off and letting it rest for 10 to 15 minutes tented under foil. This will let the roast reabsorb its juices while keeping it warm.
We generally use hickory when we’re smoking pork. Hickory is good for adding smokiness, without overpowering the meat. This is also a great cut to smoke with apple or black cherry, which will add some additional fruit notes.
Using a wireless thermometer is a simple way to make the smoking process easier. We like to use Thermopro’s wireless thermometer to keep tabs on whatever we’re smoking while we’re hanging out with friends.
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℉ to 250℉ that brining seems like a lot of extra time and bother.
To help add flavor, 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 roast. Doing this before applying the spice rub helps to flavor the meat and gives the rub something to stick to.
A few tips for smoking a pork loin are:
- Cooking the loin fat side up will help keep the roast juicy and add flavor.
- We recommend smoking it using a temperature of anywhere from 225℉ to 250℉. If you’re in a hurry it’s ok to go as high as 275℉, just remember the higher the temperature the drier the roast.
- The loin should not be wrapped in foil during the cooking process.
- It should have a small reddish smoke ring around the outside that becomes visible when the roast 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 given up on pretty much 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 half-way through.
To reheat the pork in the oven, place it in a 350℉ oven in a covered baking dish for 15 to 20 minutes. Using an oven is the best way to reheat the loin if it’s already been sliced.
A Dynamite Spice Rub
To make our roast as tasty as possible we created a special rub. The rub has a touch of sweetness to compliment the pork and a bit of a bite to make it memorable.
A good spice rub should have elements that highlight an ingredient’s natural flavors while conveying the cook’s intentions. The brown sugar in this 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 add to the roast. The apple cider vinegar and whiskey work with the spice rub adding a tart note and a little bite to create a roast that stands out.
What to Serve with a Smoked Pork
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 that are the epitome of great barbecue with big bold flavors and sticky fingers. This is the type of smoked meat dish that is at home for a nice dinner party as it is at a backyard barbecue.
If you’re serving it as the main course for a dinner party pair it with a nice herb risotto, and grilled butternut squash, with a round or two of classic old fashioneds and a mountain berry crisp for dessert.
If you’re having a big barbecue serve it with some Smokhouse Potato Salad and garlicky refrigerator pickles. It’s also delicious on sandwiches and sliced thin and served cold as finger food for parties.
A tip to liven 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 spice rub by mixing the brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper with the mustard and onion powders.
- Combine the apple cider vinegar and whiskey in a small glass.
- Using the sharp end of a knife, poke a series of small holes in the outside of the 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℉.
- The roast should smoke until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the roast reaches 145℉.
- Rest the roast covered with foil for 15 minutes before slicing it thin.
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