Smoking Made Easy: Pork Tenderloin
Pork is one of the most delicious and versatile meats to cook with. Great on its own, all it would take is a few simple modifications in cooking method or seasoning used to transform it into something completely new and just as sumptuous. This would include, of course, smoking it. We’ve already covered grilling methods, but today let’s focus on something new.
When it comes to smoking pork, it's all about the cut. Different cuts of meat can benefit from different spices and different cooking times and techniques. Today, we'll be taking a look at how to make the perfect smoked pork tenderloin and what you'll need to cook it. What techniques will you need to learn? What kind of spices work best? Let's dive in and find out.
What You'll Need For This Recipe
In order to get started on a smoked pork tenderloin, you'll need to grab a few things to get started.
For the best smoking experience, choose a wood that compliments the flavors and tenderness of your meat. In this case, hickory is a nice wood to use when smoking a pork tenderloin. You might also add some fruit woods like apple or cherry to enhance the flavor even further and provide some extra variety, too.
Cooking the Meat
When all your materials are assembled, you can finally begin work on the tenderloin.
Step 1: Prep the Pork Tenderloin
To begin, take a sharp knife and carefully trim your pork tenderloin (or loins if you plan to make more than one) of any excess fat or silverskin. Only trim the fat hanging off the loin and avoid cutting off more than you need to. Be cautious not to remove any of the meat, as well.
Once trimmed, rub your tenderloin generously with a spice rub mixture and wrap it securely in plastic wrap to store in the fridge overnight, letting the flavors develop until you're ready to cook. The spice rub you choose to use can vary, as there are many recipes and store bought varieties that will do the job. The only rule of thumb is that you'll need about 3 tablespoons worth of rub for every pork tenderloin you intend to cook. If you'd like to try making one on your own, use this recipe and adjust the seasoning to your liking as you go:
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons garlic powder
- 4 teaspoons onion powder
- 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
Step 2: Prep the Smoker
A half hour before you plan to cook your pork, begin prepping your smoker. Additionally, remember to set out your tenderloin around the same time to let it warm up prior to being smoked, as well as soak any wood chips you might be using in hot water.
Fill your smoker up with chunk charcoal and light it, closing the lid to let it heat up. You're aiming for a temperature of about 225 degrees Fahrenheit, so ensure you monitor the air intake and coal level as you go to reach the optimum heat level. About ten minutes before cooking begins, fill the water tank of your smoker, add in your wood, and place on any more charcoal you might need before adding the grill grate and closing the lid, letting smoke and steam build up prior to placing the meat on the heat.
Step 3: Cook the Meat
With the smoker preheated, you can finally start cooking. Lay your meat down onto the grates and close the lid. Try to maintain as consistent a cooking environment as possible, meaning you'll have to monitor the charcoal, wood, and water levels continuously, as well as adjust air intake as needed. Total cook time, depending on the size of your tenderloin, will be about 3 hours.
Every half hour, open the lid and spray the meat down with apple juice or apple cider to help enhance the flavor and keep the outside moist. Additionally, turn the pork over about halfway through the cooking process to help it smoke evenly on all sides. Finally, in the last half hour of cooking, brush on a layer of your favorite barbecue sauce to the outside to give it a deliciously caramelized outer crust.
Step 4: Rest the Meat
Your pork tenderloin will be done when it registers a temperature of 135 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. Take it off the heat and tent it loosely with aluminum foil for half an hour. During the resting process, the meat can relax and becomes more tender, as well as more flavorful as it reabsorbs some lost juices. It will also rise in temperature about 10 degrees, making for a perfect 145 degree tenderloin.
Step 5: Serve the Tenderloin
Once your meat has had the chance to rest, all that's left to do is to eat it. Serve up your perfectly smoked pork tenderloin alongside some extra barbecue sauce. The way you eat it depends on your tastes, with thick cuts as a main dish or thin slices for sandwiches being two popular options. Whatever you pick, though, it'll surely taste good.
Now you have all the instruction needed to make a perfect smoked pork tenderloin whenever you like. With a good spice rub, a fine cut of meat, and a little patience, you too can cook a delicious meal your friends and neighbors will be talking about for years to come.
If you liked this recipe, share it with a friend. Have any tips on smoking a pork tenderloin or barbecuing? Why not leave a comment?
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin the Same Thing?
No, pork loin and pork tenderloin are cut from different parts of the pig. The loin is a larger cut located the animal’s back and can be cut into pork chop steaks. The tenderloin is located along the backbone and is smaller and usually roasted whole.
Can You Shred a Pork Tenderloin?
Pork tenderloin is a very lean cut of pork, so it doesn’t need to cook as long as a pork shoulder in order to be shreddable. If you cook it in a very moist cooking environment, it can be shreddable. When smoked or grilled, it will usually be better sliced.
What Temperature Should You Cook a Pork Tenderloin?
Because pork tenderloin has very little fat, it is unforgiving if you overcook it. It is easy to become dry and bland tasting. Because of this, you should cook your pork tenderloin to 135 degrees F. It will raise 10 degrees as it rests, turning into a perfect medium rare.
How Do You Smoke a Pork Tenderloin?
You can smoke a pork tenderloin as easily as you can grill it or roast it. After rubbing it with barbecue spices and allowing it to rest, cook it on a 200 to 225 degree F smoker for about 3 hours. This should be enough time for it to reach the correct internal temperature.
Do You Have to Remove the Silverskin from Pork Tenderloin?
Yes, it is very important to remove the silverskin. This is a thin layer of connective tissue that will not break down during cooking. If it is not removed, your pork will be very chewy and tough in places. If you do not feel comfortable removing the silverskin yourself, you can ask the butcher for assistance.