A hog is a beautiful thing for any smoking and grilling enthusiast. This is an animal that can literally be purposed from nose to tail. The pork loin portion is a mildly flavored, fairly lean, and softly textured cut of the pig. It deserves to be smoked.
The pork loin is not to be confused with the tenderloin. These are two very different cuts that come from the lean muscle that is near the center of the back of the pig. It is a muscle that doesn’t really work that hard. While the meat is lean, it is still quite tender, unlike the shoulder or butt roasts. I personally think the loin has more of a pork flavor than the tenderloin because it has a little extra fat.
Preparing a smoked pork loin isn’t tricky. You just need to decide whether you want to end up with thin, moist slices or pulled pork style meat. I prefer this cut sliced thinly and oozing with juiciness. Let’s look at the different cook times, temperatures, and the end results you will achieve.
Pro tip #1: Slow cooked pork shoulder is better suited for pulled pork. It is meaty and fatty and shreds nicely.
- Pork loin smoked at 225°F to an internal temperature of at 145°F for slicing will take 2 hours. It will take 5 hours to reach 200°F for pulled pork.
- Loin smoked at 275°F will be ready to slice and serve at 145°F internal temperature in 1 hour and 40 minutes. It will be at the pulled pork stage in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
- If you are in a hurry, smoke the loin at 325°F for 1 hour and 30 minutes for slicing and 2 hours and 40 minutes for shredding.
The recipe outlined here is for sliced, moist pork loin that you can serve warm out of the smoker with side dishes, such as sautéed spinach, cauliflower purée, and smoked apples. It is really awesome cooked in a Traeger pellet grill. leftover Traeger smoked pork roast can be piled on toasted crusty rolls with a tangy slaw and barbecue sauce.
This tender cut of pork does not really need to be brined or submerged in a smoked pork loin marinade. It will do very well with a generous smoked pork loin rub of herbs and spices. A nice finishing sauce is also recommended but optional.
Smoked Pork Loin: a Step-by-Step Guide
This recipe is made with a rub that is savory, sweet, and spicy. We recommend using a Traeger Pellet Grill with apple or oak pellets. This recipe will take only a few minutes to prepare. You will need to rest the loin before and after smoking it. Cook time is approximately 2-1/2 hours. A 5 pound pork loin will easily feed 6 people and give you some leftovers for sandwiches.
Pro tip #2: Apple wood smoke is a perfect match for pork and oak is also nice because oak trees produce the acorns that free range pigs love to graze on.
Equipment and Tools:
- Paper towels
- Cutting board
- Sharp knife
- Sheet pan
- Medium bowl
- Traeger Pellet Grill
- Oak or apple wood pellets
- Aluminum foil
- 4 to 6 pound whole boneless pork loin
- 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
- 1/4 cup turbinado or brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground celery seeds
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder or ground cinnamon
Step 1: Rinse the pork loin in cool water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Trim any silver skin and excess fat from the loin, leaving at least a 1/4″ of fat cap on for moisture and flavor. Place the pork loin on a sheet pan.
Step 2: In a mixing bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar, pepper, celery seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, and five spice powder. Coat the entire loin with olive oil. Rub the meat all over with the spice mixture. Set the loin aside and allow it to come to room temperature for approximately 40 minutes.
Step 3: Fill the hopper of the Traeger grill with enough wood pellets to last up to 3 hours. Turn the smoker on with the top open until a flame is visible, approximately 5 minutes. Close the top of the grill and set the temperature to 225˚F. Preheat the grill for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Step 4: Place the seasoned pork loin, fat side facing up, on the grill rack inside the smoker. Insert the probe thermometer into the thickest end of the pork. Close the top and set a timer for 2 hours. Check the temperature of the meat at 2 hours. You are looking for an internal temperature of 145˚F. Continue smoking until the desired temperature is achieved, checking every 15 to 30 minutes.
Pro tip #4: Depending on the size of your smoker, you may have to put more pellets in the hopper. So check for smoke approximately every hour.
Step 5: When the pork is at the desired temperature, remove it to a clean cutting board and cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Allow the meat to rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Step 6: Slice the loin thinly and place on a platter for serving. Serve with a side of sauce (see recipe below).
- 1 cup tomato ketchup
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Step 1: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together all the ingredients. Bring to a boil and continue whisking until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is warmed through.
Step 2: Place the sauce in a gravy boat or small pitcher. Serve on the side with your pork.
Smoked pork loin is relatively easy to prepare and only takes a couple of hours to cook. It is delicious when smoked with a sweet and savory dry rub. If you want the pork to be pulled for sandwiches, you can smoke it for 5 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of between 195 to 200°F.
If you aren’t using a pellet grill to smoke pork loin, that isn’t a deal breaker. This recipe will work with an electric or propane smoker. You will need liquid for the water bowl and wood chips for the tray. Just set up and preheat the smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pro tip #4: A good choice of liquid for smoking pork is 1/2 water and 1/2 unsweetened apple juice.
Leftover smoked pork loin can be sliced paper thin and piled high on a crusty roll with sauce drizzled over the meat. Add some coleslaw for a bit of freshness and crunch.