Delicious smoked pork loin is a low-cost, big-flavor roast that pairs with so many things. When you give it the special treatment with a dry brine and low and slow applewood smoke, and this inexpensive cut has a high payoff with lots of flavor and tender results.
Pork loin is a relatively low-fat cut, so it needs to be treated delicately with low heat and plenty of salt for flavor and to keep it juicy. And choose the right wood for smoking to get the balance just right.
The Difference Between Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin
While pork loin and pork tenderloin sound super similar and even look the same from a distance, they're actually quite different. They come from different parts of the animal and there's a difference in the size, texture and fat content to each.
Pork loins are much larger than tenderloins and are often either used for roasts or cut down into smaller portions as pork chops. They are a great way to feed hungry crowds and are quite inexpensive. Pork tenderloins are much smaller, and cook very quickly because the smaller size thickness, and lower optimal finished temperature. Tenderloins are super lean and are the most tender part of the animal and is also great cooked on the grill or sous vide.
Both cuts are much smaller and have less fat than pork butts or pork shoulders.
What You'll Need
A few simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry are all you'll need.
Jump to the full recipe card for specific quantities.
- Boneless Pork Loin Roast - The size of your roast doesn't really matter since we're cooking by temperature and not by time. Loins can range anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds. It depends on how they were cut and if the fat cap is left on or not. Whatever you have will work great for this recipe. Heritage breed pork is going to be the best (it's a premium but you can taste the difference). When buying, figure about 8 ounces per person.
Fat cap on or off? Either will work. If the fat cap is left on, great! You can choose to trim it off if you prefer or leave it on and score the fat with a crosshatch pattern using a very sharp knife. Just go through the fat and not the flesh of the pork. Scoring it will help the fat render and allow more flavorful smoke and the dry rub to penetrate the meat.
- Kosher Salt - I prefer Diamond Crystal brand.
- Dry Rub - A simple dry rub with brown sugar, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika and dark chili powder is all you need. You can customize it, using whatever you have in your pantry. **Note that if your dry rub already contains salt, you will want to reduce or eliminate how much salt you add separately.
- Wood for Smoking - Apple and pork are amazing together, but feel free to choose your own. Use chunks for a charcoal smoker, chips for an electric smoker and pellets for a pellet smoker.
- A Smoker - Any type will work. I used my Weber SmokeFire EX4 pellet smoker for this one.
- Remote Thermometer Alarm - I love the Thermoworks Smoke so I can monitor the temperature of the meat and the smoker remotely and get notified when it reaches the temp I set.
- Sharp Knife for slicing the cooked roast and for trimming or scoring the fat.
How to Smoke Pork Loin
Let's go step-by-step for how to make the juiciest and most flavorful smoked pork loin. Whether you are using a Traeger or similar pellet smoker, a charcoal smoker like a Big Green Egg or even an electric smoker, the method and technique is the same.
- Prep and Season (1 to 2 days in advance): Trim off excess fat and remove any silver skin from the loin. If the fat cap is on it, great! Score it with a ¼" crosshatch pattern on the fat side and it will get melty delicious. Drizzle on some canola oil and season with Kosher salt (a dry brine) and a sweet dry rub. Cover and refrigerate.
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator to temper for 30 minutes prior to cooking. Insert a remote probe thermometer into the side of the roast to remotely monitor the internal temp and know exactly when it's done without having to open the lid.
- Set up your smoker to cook with indirect heat and preheat to 225° F.
- Smoke the pork loin until the internal temperature reaches 135°F, which will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees for a diminished target temperature of 145° F for a medium cook.
- Transfer to a cutting board and rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Tip: I like to only slice off what will be served immediately to keep the rest as juicy as possible.
Times and Temps
The internal target temp for smoked pork loin is 145° F (63° C), which means we need to remove it from the smoker 5 to 10 degrees prior to it reaching that temperature. In a 225° F smoker, figure about 30 minutes per pound cooking time, but that will depend on the size of your roast and its starting temperature.
Always cook to temperature rather than by time.
Top Tips for Success
- Season early with a dry brine of kosher salt and a spice rub. Use 1 teaspoon Diamond kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon Morton kosher salt) per pound of pork. Seasoning at least a day in advance, and up to 2 will make a big difference in the final dish.
- Cook low and slow using indirect heat for even cooking, and to keep it juicy and tender.
- Don't overcook it! Pork loin is a relatively lean cut that gets dry and tough as soon as it overcooks. It's best to cook to a medium temperature of 145° F, pulling it out of the smoker 5 to 10 degrees before that target temp as there will be some carryover cooking.
- Use a sweet fruit wood like apple or cherry wood for the smoke.
- Don't skip the all-important rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute after it's cooked so they don't run out.
- Slice against the grain with a long sharp knife for the most tender bites.
Make It Bacon-Wrapped and Glazed
As great as it is brined, dry rubbed and smoked, it can get even more bacony delicious when you bacon-wrap it and slather it with a maple-bourbon glaze. You can follow this pork tenderloin recipe, just use your pork loin.
How to Store It
Allow the meat to cool, then tightly wrap with plastic wrap or place in a food storage container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Vacuum seal and freeze for up to 6 months.
Leftover smoked pork loin can be eaten cold on sandwiches or slowly heated up in the oven covered with foil.
Smoke a pork loin at 225° F for approximately 30 minutes per pound, or about 1 ½ hours total for a 3-pound roast (longer for a larger roast) until the internal temperature reaches 145° F. Remove the roast 5° F prior to your target temperature, as it will continue to rise as it rests.
Use a meat thermometer to verify doneness and cook to temperature and not by time for best results.
Sweet woods like apple, cherry, maple, pecan, hickory or a combination of a few are best for pork. Learn more about the best woods for smoking.
Think low and slow. Dry brine at least a day in advance. Don't overcook it. Let it rest. Combine all those and you will have the juiciest pork loin that doesn't dry out.
What to Serve It With
- German Potato Salad with Bacon
- Smoked Baked Beans
- Creamy Coleslaw
- Creamy Mashed Potatoes
- Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
- Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
More Delicious Smoked Pork Recipes
Smoked Pork Loin Recipe
- 2 to 4 lb boneless center cut pork loin roast
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Kosher salt per pound of pork (see note)
- ¼ cup sweet dry rub
Prep the Pork Loin (up to 2 days in advance)
- Trim off excess fat and any silver skin. If the fat cap is on the loin, you can leave it on and score in a ¼" crosshatch pattern.
- Drizzle on the oil and apply the salt and dry rub. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days if possible.
Smoke the Pork Loin
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator to temper 30 minutes before cooking. Insert a remote probe thermometer.
- Set up your smoker for indirect heat cooking and preheat to 225° F with apple wood for smoke (see alternative woods in notes).
- Place the pork loin in the smoker and smoke until an internal temp reaches 135°F to allow for carryover cooking, which will result in a finished temperature of 140 to 145° F for medium. Plan on approximately 1 ½ to 3 hours, depending on the size of the roast.
- Remove from the smoker and rest on a cutting board for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing against the grain. Enjoy!
- Season the pork at least 1 day and up to 2 days in advance for best results.
- If your pork is "enhanced," this means salt has been added and you will want to reduce the amount of salt you use.
- Use 1 teaspoon Diamond kosher salt (or ¾ teaspoon Morton kosher salt) per pound of pork loin. *note that if your dry rub contains salt, you will want to reduce the amount of salt you use.
- Best woods for smoking pork: Apple is my favorite, but you can also use cherry, maple, pecan, hickory or any combination of them.