Monday, May 14, 2012

Smoked Pork Tenderloin (or a four-step process to converting your vegetarian friends into unapologetic meat-lovers)

I usually approach new recipes for ye olde smoker with an ounce of caution, in part because I have so many good ones in rotation already. But when I came across this unique one for smoked pork loin in Extreme Barbeque a couple of months ago, I'll admit my interest was piqued. 

Here's the thing: I typically don't stray too far from lower-end, fatty cuts of meat when it comes to smoking. I've tried leaner cuts a couple of times (baby back ribs and a rack of lamb) and the results were pretty lackluster. not sure if it's something about the amount of fat, but in general the pricier the cut of meat the less tasty it seems to turn out. Plus, there's sort of an unspoken ethos among smokers that is all about elevating humbler "lower" cuts of meat into kick-ass creations.  So starting with a blue-ribbon piece of meat seems like a massive cheat.

In this case I made an exception, in part because this recipe looked challenging - and in part because there was a great deal on pork loin at my local grocery store. Warning: this recipe is pretty challenging. It involves a fairly time-consuming four-step process that will probably scare most novices away. But it's worth the work.

I have given this recipe a spin twice this year (thrice if you count some pork chops I used) and it has been met with success and high-fives all around. The first time I smoked five pork loins, and if my curious, hungry neighbours can be considered good judges, this one immediately earned a spot on my summer rotation. One pal -- a committed vegetarian -- said it was the single best thing he had eaten in 20 years.

Before you start make sure you give yourself 24 hours. That's the time frame you'll need to complete the brining, rubbing, smoking and glazing that this recipe entails. Sounds time-consuming, I know, but as with all good smoked food most of the time is the meat just sitting in a fridge, brining/curing. That's definitely the case with this recipe.

Step One: Brine-baby-brine.

Immerse your pork loins in a large bowl of cold water that includes equal parts brown sugar and kosher salt or sea salt. Add extra seasoning as desired (here, I've tossed in an onion, a few garlic cloves, some peppercorns and a few bay leaves. celery is good too.) Pop the bowl in your fridge overnight.




Step Two: There's the rub.

Take the meat out of the brine and pat dry. It'll look like this: 


Then apply a dry rub that consists two tbsps each of: black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and chili powder. If you don't like it spicy reduce the amount of chili powder and replace it with some sugar (white or brown). They should now look like this:








Step Three: Smoke 'em.

I put these in for about 2.5 hours at a general temp of about 200 F. I opted for some cherry and some apple wood for the smoke.







Step Four: Glazing over.

I usually avoid glazes or bastes, but this one is an integral part of the final product with fruity flavours that set off the spice of the rub and the saltiness of the brine really well. Just heat up 1/2 cup fruit jelly (white grape, peach or apple will do) in a pot with an equal amount of BBQ sauce (or ketchup, really), two tbsps of cider vinegar and the juice from 1/2 a lemon.

When the cooking time is about up, slather this mix over the pork -- three to for times each side should do.





Here's the final product fresh out of the cooker. (The rock glass of whiskey is optional -- though comes highly recommended.)



And here it is, sliced and ready to serve.


I can't speak highly enough about this recipe. It's great the first night as a main course, and makes for a great sandwich the next day -- especially if you get a little fancy. But more on that in another post. I think the secret here is the brining, which gives the pork a sweet, sugary tenderness unlike any other.

If you try this out, let me know what you thought in the comments below.

39 comments:

  1. Hey Brad, great resource and can't wait to try the pork loin recipe.

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  2. Thank you, Thank you , Thank you. I made 15 very happy people over the memorial weekend. I am very new to smoking and this step by step was very easy to follow and has made me a hero with the extended family. I even got a "Not Bad" from my crappy, never happy with anything, old Dad. Did I say Thank you?

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    1. Thanks Newbe! Happy to bridge the generational gaps through glorious smoked meat! FYI: I tried this same recipe for a pork roast (boneless) and it was equally spectacular.

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    2. Made this today . . . big hit !!! selling sandwiches at my bar !!! My rubs a little different and my brine is a little different but not much. made 2 ten pound loins today and doing 2 more tomorrow. this recipe is going into my regular rotation !!! THANKS

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    3. Awesome Daron! Great to hear! Now, where's your bar?? Free publicity m'man!

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    4. Its the Wind Up Lounge in Traer, Iowa :)

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  3. It looks like your pork loin is much thinner than the one I have. Do you split it in half?

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    1. There is a difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin.

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  4. Nope. This is just the size they came in. Cheers.

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  5. Bought my first smoker this week, just a cheap barrel one. This was my first attempt at smoking meat. Followed your directions exactly other than cooking time, mine was huge and took 6 hours to get to 165.. I can't thank you enough, absolutely amazing. 26 years old and have been missing out my whole life! ! Thank you again!

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  6. Good to hear it went well for you. In my experience, the extra time it takes to smoke something is always worth it. Try making bacon next: it's easy and oh so good! http://woodchipsandsmokerings.blogspot.ca/2012/06/making-bacon.html

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  7. Hi Brad, You keep referring to what you are using as the loin. What you have in your picture is clearly the tenderloin, which is a different cut of meat altogether.

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    1. MIchel, I know it's a tenderloin: that's what the title of the post says. I'm just referring to it as a loin colloquially.

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    2. Michel, if you would have read the whole article you would have seen the title. I call tenderloins loins all the time. I never will understand why people always think they have to correct someone else all the time. Must be an insecurity issue.

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  8. Brad,
    Sorry if this is a stupid question but in the brining step your instructions say, "equal parts brown sugar and kosher salt or sea salt". I'm confused on how much to use.

    The recipe looks great can't wait to try it.

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    1. Good point! I eyeball the sugar, but rare;y put more than 1 cup of each. It won;t make much of a difference.

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    2. This recipe was amazing. We used apple twigs for smoke and a combination of bumbleberry jam ( raspberry and wild berries ) combined with a maple barbecue sauce. If there isn't , there should be an expression for a flavor orgasm. We will repeat this many times.

      If there is a word or an expression please let us know,

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    3. A mouth-gasm? A taste-gasm? Glad you dug it -- one of my faves for sure!

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  9. Brad,
    I will be smoking this in a little while so I don't know if you will have enough time to respond before I do the cooking.
    Question 1 To what internal temperature do you cook the meet to?
    Question 2 Do you turn the meat over at all during the smoking process or just leave it on one side?
    Question 3 Do you ever wrap your meat (as in aluminum foil) as part of the finishing process?
    Bill
    Thank you,

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    1. Sorry for the late reply Bill. I cook it to approx. 150; i rarely flip the meat; on occasion I wrap it, but usually i'm to impatient and want to eat! Let me know how it worked out for you!

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  10. Thanks for this recipe...the family absolutely loved it! I used apple wood instead of cherry, but followed your recipe exactly otherwise. This is definately going into the rotation.

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    1. Apple is great for pork as well: any fruit wood will do. Glad you liked it! Next up: smoked sausage!

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  11. Hi Brad,
    I'll be trying out this recipe tomorrow. Curious though, what are the orange things in your brine bowl? Orange wedges?
    This will be the first ever smoke for me. I just bought and cured a smoker last weekend. Super excited!!
    -A

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    1. I am excited for you! I think what you're looking at is onion skin. I leave it on in the belief (misguided?) that it improves the flavour. Good luck! Fingers crossed for you!

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  12. I know what you mean about cheap meat, I love it. Haven't tried this but sounds great. I do have one you may enjoy. A Sam's club tenderloin, I usually have to cut down to fit in my smoker; trim the fat; slather and molasses and brown sugar, set aside for a minute; my local butcher sales extra thick pepper bacon, I make a basket style weave with it; it takes some patients but worth it, then set the loin in, roll it it and smoke it! You could add a little cayenne with brown sugar to add some kick. The spice of the pepper and sweet of brown sugar molasses are great! Give it a try if you take the notion. Best part is no over-night wait. Can't wait yo try the brine it sounds really good too. I have been smoking a while, but have never tried the brining thing.

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  13. Shepdawg, I assume you're talking about pork tenderloin here? AS my grandfather always used to say "Bacon makes everything better." You are so right grandpa -- so so right. I'll giver it a try -- thx!

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  14. Breakglass@hotmail.comSeptember 29, 2013 at 5:57 PM

    Brad, this is Brad,
    I am so glad you said you smoke your pork up to 150 degrees! All I see is 165 and I'm sorry that is over cooking it. I tried the 165 and ended up with a dried up log. I go 145 to 150 and it is perfect. I am curious if you have tried smoked mac and cheese? I use a Masterbuilt electric digital control.

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    1. Hey Bard - Brad here.
      Yeah -- i agree with you on the temperature front. 165 is too high. I chalk it up to scaredy-cat food folks who want to ensure all bacteria is eliminated at the cost of taste. Boo i say!
      Do you have any pics of the Mac + Cheese? I've never heard of suck a thing....send some my way and i'll post them. Cheers!!!!!!

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  15. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.A fantastic presentation. Very open and informative.You have beautifully presented your thought in this blog post. Smoker Cooking is Worth the Wait!

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  16. Thanks so much sanam! I love the feedback I've received from this post, and regret not posting more often -- a busy toddler will do that to you i guess. I have tried out a bunch of new recipes, including making my own sausage (which was messy, but worth it). I'll try and get back to more regular posts in August, once my summer work travel schedule slows down! Cheers!!!!!!!

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  17. Substituted Coca-Cola instead of the water/sugar and mixed with equal part salt ( 2 cans Coke = 80 gram salt) for brine. Pretty good.

    Just noticed you smoke your meat on the lower rack. I always put drip pan there and put meat up higher. I am afraid of high temps and fast cooking. Any input?

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    1. Sounds interesting. I do both, to be honest. Not sure why i did it on the lower rack here -- maybe I was using the top rack? In my opinion, i don;t think it makes any difference -- i think the temperature evens out above the water pan to be honest.
      Thanks for the comment!

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  18. Hi Brad, smoked my pork loin yesterday, what a success. Flavors were great, the moistest pork loin I have ever cooked. I will be making this recipe may more times. Thanks for sharing. Ron

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  19. That pork looks amazing! I don't know about you, but when I make something like this I am always tempted to eat the whole thing in one sitting. Does this meat end up with any cruncy/burnt parts around the edges when it is finished? Some people hate the cruchy/burnt parts, but that is one of my favorite bits of the meat. I suppose that is because it is an area where a lot of the fat ends up cooking off, leaving it tasting extra flavorful.


    http://www.cookingfirewood.com/

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    1. It's all good to me Davis! CRunchy or succulent; i'll eat it all!

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  20. Hey Brad, Newbie to smoking.
    Your recipe was the first to try. I had a small problem tho. I followed everything to a T. Rub come out great. Brine for about ten hours, smoker set at 200 and cooked for 2.5 hours with the glaze you had mentioned. took out and temp the meat with a 164 deg reading. I cut it open and it was a solid pink all the way through. It was NOT a bloody pink of course at 164 deg. Would it have been the brine pulling the smoke in to saturate the meat. It was a boneless pork tenderloin. I also opted for Hickory.

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  21. Hey.
    As long as it's not bloody, and the temp is above 155, pink is okay. That's just a result of the brining (which adds extra salt and juices) and the smoking, which cooks the meat very slowly. A similar thing happens with poultry; it gets very tender and pink -- which puts a lot of people off. But it's okay!

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  22. these smoked porked tandooris is delicious and it is very good for health. it should be made in smoker to maintain its original taste.

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  23. i love smoked food, it is healthy and i am also vegetarian.

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