Pork loin, also known as pork loin roast, is a good cut of meat for low and slow cooking.
One important thing we want to clear up right away: Pork loin is a different cut of meat than pork tenderloin. Both are boneless cuts that are somewhat lean, but there are a few key differences.
Pork tenderloin is long, narrow, usually sold in cuts of 1 pound or less, and slightly leaner than pork loin. Pork loin is a thicker cut, usually sold in cuts of 2 to 4 pounds, and (sometimes) with the bone in.
Pork loin has a little more fat than pork tenderloin, and because it's larger, it will take longer to cook. Because of these two factors, pork loin is a better choice for smoking.
Smoking a pork loin is a very simple process which makes it a good choice if you're new to smoking, or if you just want to make something extremely delicious without putting a ton of effort in.
Remove your fully-defrosted pork from the package and lay it on a large chopping board. Using a long, sharp knife, remove any thick layers of fat, or hard connective tissue such as silver skin.
It's okay to have a little bit of fat and connective tissue -- it will help protect the loin from drying out during cooking. But large or hard chunks of fat will be difficult to chew.
Pork doesn't have a lot of flavor on its own. You can add flavor before cooking with a dry rub or marinade, by stuffing the pork loin, or even injecting it with flavor. You can also combine these methods.
As a lean meat, pork loin is an ideal cut for subtle flavors like fresh herbs, lemon, and flavored oils; flavors that may be overpowered if you used them on fattier cuts like pulled pork or a ribeye steak.
But pork can also be a vehicle for strong, spicy, and sweet flavors. There's not really anything that doesn't go with pork, as long as it's a flavor you like. It's the perfect cut of meat for experimenting with bold or unique seasonings.
Dry rubs are a mix of herbs and spices, usually containing salt and at least one spicy element. For pork loin we recommend our Traeger Rub or Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub. You can also make a rub from scratch as in this Ancho-Rubbed Pork Loin recipe. Rub the seasoning on both sides of the pork loin, and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb into the meat.
Brining a pork loin overnight will both tenderize and flavor the meat. Brines are made by adding salt and other aromatics to water. See our Citrus Brined Pork Roast recipe for an example.
Marinades are similar to brines -- a liquid mixture used to tenderize and flavor the meat. Typically, marinades have a base of oil or liquid other than water. Our Sweet and Spicy Pork Roast recipe uses coconut milk as a base for the marinade.
Like other large hunks of meat, pork loin can be injected with liquid to add flavor and help the meat from drying out during cooking. Our Bacon Draped Injected Pork Loin Roast recipe calls for an injection mixture of apple sauce, salt, Worcestershire sauce, and water.
Another way to add flavor to a pork loin is stuffing it with herbs, aromatics, and textural elements like nuts. This requires butterflying the pork loin roast, a method that transforms the roast into a flat piece of meat. The stuffing is spread out, and the loin is rolled up and tied, then cooked. See our Bacon Stuffed Pork Loin recipe for instructions.
The process of smoking pork loin is pretty simple. Put it on a grill set at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 3 to 4 hours. Then, turn the heat up to 350 degrees, and smoke for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or when the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145 degrees.
But we know that people have a ton of questions, so let's answer a few.
The best way to smoke pork loin without drying is by turning the heat up after the initial absorption of smoke. This will help the pork loin cook faster, before it can dry out.
We don't wrap pork loin in foil when smoking because the foil prevents the smoke from flavoring the meat.
Larger cuts of meat like pork butt are sometimes wrapped in foil to help speed the cooking process. But it shouldn't last long with pork loin which is a smaller cut. And increasing the heat late in the cooking process, as we recommend, should push past the stall.
You do not need to flip pork loin when smoking -- if you have even heat throughout the smoking area as you will if smoking on a Traeger.
If your grill or smoker is not a Traeger, it may have hot spots, so you may need to move the meat around to prevent some parts from overcooking.
Smoke pork loin with the fat side up. The fat will render and help keep the meat from drying out.
Smoking pork loin can take between 2 and 4 hours. The length of time it will take to cook depends on the size of the roast, and other factors. A stuffed pork roast, for instance, may take longer to smoke. A thicker loin may take longer than a thinner one. We strongly recommend using the probe on your Traeger grill (or another probe thermometer) to keep tabs on the temperature. According to award-winning BBQ Champion Chad Ward, you do not want to let the internal temperature of the pork pass 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the USDA, the safe serving temperature for pork loin is an internal temperature of 145 degrees, followed by a rest of three minutes. Our BBQ expert Chad Ward also recommends cooking the pork to 145 degrees followed by a slightly longer rest of 20 minutes.
Decide on your pork loin side dishes based on the flavors you use in your rub, marinade, or stuffing. One very common accompaniment to pork is cabbage. Consider our Traeger Smoked Coleslaw, or for a heartier side, Beer Braised Cabbage with Bacon. If you've created a particularly spicy roast pork, our Grilled Mango Coleslaw provides a burst of citrus and sweetness that will make for a nice contrast.
These recipes demonstrate the many ways to make pork loin.
Cook time: 3 hours
1 pork loin
Cook time: 1 hour
3 pounds pork loin, butterflied
Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup craisins
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
6 pieces asparagus, ends trimmed
6 slices bacon, sliced
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook time: 2 hours
1 (2- to 2½-pound) pork loin roast
Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub
1 pound sauerkraut
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark beer
2 tablespoons butter
2 whole bay leaves
Cook time: 3 hours
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup water
1 (3-pound) center cut pork loin
Traeger Pork & Poultry Rub
10 slices bacon
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