Spiced And Smoked Pork Loin Recipe
Loin is a cut of pork derived from along the "dorsal," or along the pig's back, right above the rib cage region if the carcass is oriented like a pig stands. Tenderloin is a "brother cut" that appears in the same area as loin; as the presence of "loin" in both cuts' names ought to clue you in on. When it comes to preparing pork loin, you can season it in a variety of ways.
- Rub it with dry spices using a simple pork rub.
- Marinate it with a variety of savory and spicy liquids, leaving the loin to soak them in for hours or even overnight.
- Cure it, resulting in Canadian bacon, known outside of the United States of America as "back bacon."
Both the loin and tenderloin are lean muscles along the center of the back, meaning they do not get nearly as much exercise as the meat of other cuts; a butt or shoulder roast is going to have significantly more musculature to deal with. Because the smoked whole pork loin recipes in this article intend to highlight the inherent flavor of pork, we will be using the loin over the tenderloin as loin is a larger, less costly cut than tenderloin. While loin has a bit more fat than tenderloin, that just means the finished dish will be juicier and at less of a risk of drying out from accidental overcooking.
On Preparing Smoked Pork Loin
While nothing is stopping you from taking a raw piece of pork loin and tossing it onto the grill, you really should take the opportunity to season your loin. Provided below is a sample recipe for a pork loin bbq rub that you can take some inspiration from.
Basic Spice Rub
- Sugar, brown, 1/2 cup
- Sugar, white, 1 cup
- Paprika, 1 cup
- Powder, garlic, 1/4 cup
- Salt, coarse, 1/4 cup (we recommend kosher)
- Powder, chili, 2 tbsp
- Pepper, cayenne, 2 tsp
- Pepper, black, 4 tsp
- Oregano, dried or Italian seasoning, 2 tsp
- Cumin, 2 tsp
- Powder, mustard, 1 tbsp
- Mustard, yellow, to taste
All you need to do to create the rub is to combine all of those ingredients into a bowl until the color evens out. If you would rather get a bit more liquid in your seasoning technique, you can not go wrong with a good marinade. A good marinade relies on three main components:
- An acid or enzyme. Something that can tenderize the meat.
- Fats. Something to distribute seasonings and help the meat retain moisture.
- One or more seasonings. Seasonings includes herbs, aromatics and anything else whose primary job is to impart flavor upon the meat that it is marinating.
One last method of enhancing the flavor of pork loin is to brine it. Brining is a way of giving taste and tenderness to meat through the science of osmosis. You leave the meat to soak in a volume of water that has had salt and sugar added to it, wait several hours to a few days and then rinse the solution off the meat. After drying the meat of its excess moisture, you are left with a piece of meat that is ready to be further seasoned but is perfectly adequate if grilled as is. The ideal ratio for brining pork loin is to take a gallon of water and add half a cup each of sugar and salt. After the pork loin spends at least a few hours in the brine, you need only rinse off the sugary-salty sediment and then dry the cut to yield a grill-ready piece of pork.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Smoking Pork Loin
Presented below are two sample recipes; the reason why there are two recipes is so you can get a better idea of the basics to smoked pork loin.
- Whole pork loin, boneless, 4-6 lbs
- Powder, Chinese five spice, 1 tbsp
- Salt, sea, 2 tsp
- Pepper, black, 1 tsp
- Powder, garlic, 1/2 tsp
- Optional: Nutmeg, 1/4 tsp
- Oil, grapeseed or safflower, 2 tbsp
- Juice, apple, unsweetened
- Wood chips, oak or apple
- Handle all of the prep work for your pork loin, rinsing and drying it if you chose to brine it, trimming away any excessive amounts of fat, and applying your seasonings or rub.
- Leave your preferred variety of wood chips to soak anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour.
- Place your charcoal at the base of the smoker and ignite it as your smoker's directions explain.
- Add the moistened wood chips to the smoker when your charcoal has turned ashy whit and the thermometer indicates a temperature of 225˚F.
- Add a bowl of water to the smoker components. Combine the unsweetened apple juice and water and pour the mix until the water level in the water bowl rises by 1 inch. Place your grill rack on the smoker.
- Add your loin, placing it on the grill with the fatty side facing up. Because You want the grill sitting right above the water bowl, you may have to bisect the loin to get a proper fit.
- Close the lid of the smoker and allow it to cook the meat until you bring it to an internal temperature of 155˚F. When the grill is anywhere between 225˚F-250˚F, this should take anywhere from 90 to 150 minutes. Make sure to check on the wood chips and coals after an hour elapses in order to refill the wood and possibly the coals.
- Remove from the smoker and serve.
Recipe #2: Summer Spice Dry-Rubbed Pork Loin
- Pork loin, 4-5 lbs
- The dry rub
- Water, cold, 6 cups
- Juice, apple, 2 cups
- Sugar, brown, 1/2 cup
- Salt, sea, 1/4 cup
- Peppercorns, black, 2 tbsp
- Thyme, 2 sprigs
- Cloves, garlic, chopped
- Mix everything but the meat and rub together in a bowl until the salt and sugar dissolve. This will serve as a brine.
- Place the loin in a plastic or glass vessel that is capable of holding the entire loin and the brine made in the previous step and pour the brine over the meat. Continue to fill the vessel with brine until the pork loin has become completely immersed.
- Refrigerate the brining loin for one to two days.
- Pat the loin dry with paper towels then liberally apply the rub over the entire loin. While it is best to use your hands in order to thoroughly get the rub into every crack and crevice, feel free to break out a set of gloves to keep your fingers clean.
- Optional: Leave the rub on for 2-8 hours prior to grilling to increase the rub's effect.
- Grill the loin over indirect heat at 250˚F for around 3 hours, depending on the particular thickness of your loin. You will know you are done cooking when the meat reaches an internal temperature of 140˚F.Note: While the American government states that pork is considered safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 140˚F, Canadian health standards recommend that pork is safe once it reaches an internal temperature of 160˚F. While both temperatures may yield a piece of pork that is slightly pink in the middle, this is far less risky than preparing such a recipe some 20-30 years ago. Simply cook the pork loin until it reaches the temperature you feel safest with but not a degree over 160! You run a risk of drying out the pork loin and killing the flavor at temperatures above 160˚F.
- Serve as you wish.
Pork loin is a delicious cut of meat that lends itself to a lot of creativity in the kitchen and on the grill. While this article has presented a pair of recipes for cooking pork loin, you can see that the bulk of this creativity comes in during the pork loin's seasoning process. While you should have no problem judging, seasoning and cooking a quality pork loin now, do try and consider also serving a proper side to complement the entree and turn it into a proper meal; garlic mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables are good staple side dishes for a pork dish like smoked loin.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to smoke a pork loin?
Pork loin doesn’t take nearly as long to smoke as a larger cut, like pork shoulder. It also doesn’t have any connective tissue that needs to break down, so it should only take about 2-1/2 to three hours for it to reach the proper internal temperature of 145 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how much pink you like inside the pork loin.
What is the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin?
Some recipes allow you to interchange pork loin and pork tenderloin, but this isn’t one of those recipes. The pork loin is a wide, thick subprimal cut that comes from just underneath the pork ribs. You will see it sold whole (usually boneless) and it will have a nice fat cap layer on top. The pork tenderloin is long and narrow, and it has almost no fat at all. The pork tenderloin will take much less time to smoke than the pork loin.
Do you smoke pork loin fat side up or fat side down?
We recommend smoking a pork loin with the fat layer on top. It wouldn't be wrong to smoke it fat-side down, but we like the fat on top for one important reason. As the pork loin cooks, the fat will render down and drip onto the meat. That will baste both the meat inside as well as the meat on the sides. It protects the meat from drying out when it cooks.
What temperature do you smoke pork loin?
Our favorite smoking temperature for pork loin is between 225 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This gives the loin plenty of time to absorb the smoky flavor. Hotter temperatures, like 350 degrees, will cook the loin faster and render out more of the fat on the fat cap, but they won’t turn out smoky and as delicious.
Is pink pork safe to eat?
The National Pork Board recommends a safe cooking temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for pork. This does leave a slightly pink tinge to the pork, which some people find unsavory. If you don’t like seeing pink in your pork, you can continue cooking it for an additional 10 degrees to 155 degrees. But, according to US health authorities, it is okay to eat pink pork if it reaches those proper temperatures.