If you need to feed a crowd but you’re a little strapped for cash, there is no better food to cook than a pork loin. A whole boneless pork loin can be had at nearly any grocer’s meat counter for a pittance when compared to beef cuts. And if you cook it to the correct temperature, it’s absolutely delicious. Here we’ll talk about how to cook a pork loin in your smoker (based on the technique from Susie Bulloch’s Hey Grill Hey ) so that you end up with ultra-flavorful meat.
Pork cooking temp review
Of course, we’ve written about pork temperatures before, but in case you haven’t read that piece or have forgotten what it says, here’s the rundown.
The pig is a wondrous animal with a multitude of tasty meats on it. But they don’t all get cooked to the same temperature. Fresh ham and shoulder, for instance, as well as jowl, belly, and ribs all need to be cooked to a collagen-melting temperature in the neighborhood of 203°F (95°C), otherwise they will be unpalatably tough.
Pork loin, though…
Pork loin temps
Pork loin (and other lean, tender cuts of pork) should be cooked to a lower, gentler temperature of 145°F (63°C). It used to be the case that pork was always cooked until it was dry and chewy, for reasons of trichinosis. Those reasons are no longer a problem (unless you’re eating actually wild wild boar), so the temperature recommendations by the USDA now sit at a level that is much more pleasing for human consumption.
The loin (not to be confused with the tenderloin, though they are both lean and tender) represents the same cut of meat on the hog as the rib roast does on a cow. Think how badly you don’t want to overcook a prime rib—apply the same caution to a pork loin! Using a leave-in probe thermometer like the ChefAlarm® to track the internal temperature of your pork loin is critical to cooking it right.
The USDA says to pull pork loin at 145°F (63°C), and if you have any history of weakened immune systems, you should heed that strictly. That being said, your meat will be more tender and juicy a few degrees lower. It’s a risk you have to decide if you want to take. I cannot vouch for its safety, but I often pull my pork at 140°F (60°C).
Smoking pork loin: thermal advantages
Smoke your pork loin at about 225–250°F (107–121°C). The lower, slower temps at play in a smoker make hitting your target of 145°F (53°C) easy—the meat temperature isn’t racing up as fast as it can go, so it’s easier to hit the sweet spot. And, because your temperatures are more gentle and your gradients are smaller, your pork loin will also experience less carryover cooking.
Easiest smoking recipe
Honestly, if you feel unsure about smoking some meat—maybe this is a new hobby for you? maybe you got rusty during the winter?—a pork loin is a great way to get into things. There is no complex stall to work through, it doesn’t take 12 hours of tending a fire, it’s just a simple rub and then into the smoker. If you have a pellet smoker, it is especially easy and will produce great results for a fast and easy party or a first go-round for the smoking season.
Simple smoked pork loin
With thanks to Hey Grill Hey.
- 1 whole boneless pork loin
- 4–6 Tbsp pork BBQ rub
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F (121°C).
- Score whatever fat-cap your loin may have with a sharp knife. Avoid slicing into the meat. (Most loins from grocery stores have precious little external fat, but score what you can.)
- Apply the rub to the loin, being sure to get it down into the scored fat.
- Insert the probe from a ChefAlarm into the center of the loin. Set the high-temp alarm to 145°F (63°C).
- Smoke the loin until the alarm sounds. It should take about 2–2.5 hours.
- Verify the temperature with an instant-read thermometer like the Thermapen® Mk4.
- Allow the loin to rest for 5 minutes for the proteins to relax.
- Slice thinly and serve!
There is no easier dish to smoke, and the payoff-to-effort ratio on smoked pork loin is fantastic. Whether you serve the loin with some roasted potatoes, grilled tomatoes, or layered in a Cubano sandwich, the juiciness of this pork loin, with a light smoke ring and a subtle but definite smoke flavor will be sure to impress. Just cook it slowly and hit your critical temp by monitoring the cook as you go!
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