Smoking a Pork Loin for Pulled Pork (It’s Just As Tasty as Pork Butt)

We all LOVE pulled pork! It’s perfect in a burger or tacos or even just on its own! It is so juicy that you barely need to add any sauce!

Now if you want to make it yourself (you should it’s bloody easy!) you might be wondering what is the best cut of pork to make pulled pork?

Most people will tell you to use pork shoulder or pork butt.

But those aren’t the only options out there for making excellent pulled pork.

If you want to make a small batch of pulled pork with a simpler process, we highly recommend going for pork loins.

We’ll go over how to prepare pork loins as well as how to smoke them to make the perfect pulled pork in this article

Isn’t Pork Loin the Same as Pork Tenderloin?

The first thing that you’ll probably need to make a note of is that pork loin is different from the pork tenderloin cut.

While their names are similar and they’re often mistaken as being the same cut of meat — they are not.

With that being said, they do share some of the same properties. For example, they are both high in fat. However, apart from that, they are not the same and they need to be cooked in different ways. 

Both of these cuts of pork require different cooking times and temperatures, so you mustn’t mix the two up.

While we won’t go into great detail about pork tenderloin, it’s important to note that pork loins are greater in length and they are also a lot flatter. Pork loin can also be purchased boneless or with bones. 

If you do purchase pork loins with the bone still in, then they’re excellent for a pork roast and you can even cut them up and they’ll turn into mini pork chops

How to Prepare Pork Loin for Smoking

You may need to trim the loin. Although pork loins is usually pretty lean.
    
If you flip the piece of pork over, you’ll notice that the underside it may have a thick layer of fat.

While this fat adds flavor to meat and keeps the meat moist and juicy while it’s cooking.
    
Although, if the layer of fat is too thick then it’s quite difficult for the smoke to penetrate the meat properly during the cook. 
    
This is why we recommend that you use a sharp knife to just trim away some of that excess fat. You don’t want to get rid of the entire fat cap, because it helps add moisture and flavor, but you’ll want to thin out that layer of fat.

Should You Brine the Meat?

To brine something is to submerge it into a saltwater solution. The goal is to season the meat while tenderizing it at the same time.

 As a result, when you leave your pork in the brine, you not only flavor it, but also increase its moisture content.
    
If you’re planning to add a finishing sauce or BBQ sauce to your pulled pork after shredding it, then you don’t need to bother with the brining process as that will add flavor and moisture

Flavor — The Importance of a Good BBQ Rub and Your Wood Choice

While you can skip the brine, you should never underestimate the importance of a good rub.

A dry rub is pretty much essential for every smoked meat recipe. And the great thing about them is that while you can certainly buy a bottle at your local shops, it’s usually easier to just whip up your DIY dry rub.

Here’s a really good dry rub recipe that we highly recommend you try out for yourself. All you’ll need is:

  • Brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Tablespoon Onion powder
  • Teaspoon Garlic powder
  • Teaspoon cayenne pepper or tablespoon chili powder

Simply combine all of the dry ingredients and store them in a large mason jar. DIY dry rubs are great because they are easy to make and can be kept for one to two years!

But it doesn’t matter what type of dry rub you use, as long as it contains salt, sugar, and some sort of spice. After you’ve decided on your choice of rub, use your hands to generously cover the exterior of your cuts of meat.

What Wood Should You Use For Pulled Pork?

Next, you’ll have to consider what type of wood chips you’d like to smoke your loin with. 

Since we’re working with pork, try not to use stronger woods like hickory as will become the dominant Flavor. We recommend using applewood for pulled pork.

Smoking meats with different types of wood chips can drastically affect the meat’s overall flavor.

 So feel free to experiment with all of the different kinds of wood available to find out which one works best for the meat you’re using.

What Temperature Should You Smoke At?

You must master the art of temperature control when smoking your pork loin.

While you’re busy prepping your cut of meat, you should also preheat your smoker or charcoal grill at 225°F.

Of course, this temperature is just a guide for you to follow. If your cut of pork is larger or smaller then please adjust the temperature of your cooking appliance accordingly.

Now, the usual consensus is that pork loin should be taken off the heat once its internal meat temperature measures 145°F. However, you do not want to follow this rule if you’re looking to serve up the best-pulled pork.

Sure, this is the ideal temperature that you should strive for when cooking pork loin. But you, unfortunately, will not be able to shred the meat properly if it’s only cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Smoked pork loin needs to reach an internal temperature of 205°F for you to be able to shred it perfectly. This is because the meat begins to fall apart at this temperature.

Smoking a Pork Loin for Pulled Pork

Want to use smoked pork loin for your pulled pork? We will show you how with this recipe
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 10 mins
Course: main, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Barbecue, bbq, grill
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 489kcal
Author: Charlie
Cost: 13

Equipment

  • Smoker

Ingredients

  • Pork Loin 3-5 lbs

Dry Rub

  • Brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Smoked paprika
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Tablespoon Onion powder
  • Teaspoon Garlic powder
  • Teaspoon cayenne pepper or tablespoon chili powder

Instructions

  • Once you've covered the meat in a dry rub, just leave it to marinate for around half an hour.
  • Wait until the internal temperature of your smoker reaches 275 degrees Fahrenheit before placing the marinated meat into smoke.
  • Let the cut of meat cook or smoke for around one and a half hours or until its internal meat temperature reads around 145 degrees Fahrenheit on your meat thermometer.
  • Take the meat off of the heat.
  • Quickly combine some apple juice with a bit of BBQ sauce.
  • Place the par-cooked pork loin onto a sheet of aluminum foil and pour the liquid concoction over the meat.
  • Wrap everything up tightly to ensure zero spillage.
  • Place the wrapped-up meat back into the smoker and let it cook some more until the internal meat temperature of the pork loin measures 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Take it off the heat, and allow the meat to rest for around half an hour.
  • Unwrap the meat and shred it with a pair of forks.
  • Pour some BBQ sauce or any other finishing sauce over the pulled pork and it's ready to serve and enjoy!

And that’s all there is to make pulled pork out of pork loin!

It’s not only simple to make, but the results are wonderful and extremely flavourful.

You don’t need to rely on a cut of pork shoulder or pork butt to make a scrumptious serving of pulled pork.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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