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Pork tenderloin: smoke?

I picked up a 2.8-lb pork tenderloin earlier tonight while I was grabbing some things at the store. I haven't made one of these in a while, but I figured it might be fun to play with.

From the recipes I've run across in the Intrawebs, it seems customary to marinate/grill, cook in the oven, or pound thin and pan fry. I haven't come across anything about smoking though.

I'm thinking about smoking it with indirect heat at around 250-300ish degrees until it gets an internal temperature of ~150 degrees. Grabbed some applewood chips and lump charcoal for this purpose. Probably slap on a typical BBQ dry rub (without salt if I brine) ahead of time...

It's a pretty lean piece of meat, so I'm thinking it might be prudent to brine it if I smoke it to keep it from getting dry. However, I've seen a few comments that while brining works great on pork loins, it's best not to brine a tenderloin. What I didn't see is any justification or anecdotes for not brining a tenderloin... just stating that it's a bad idea.

So... anyone have any wisdom to share regarding the brining and smoking of pork tenderloin?

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  1. I wouldn't smoke it. It is way too lean even with brining. Pork tenderloin benefits from quick cooking methods.

    1. Cook it over a wood fire in a kettle. You'll get a little smoke.

      1. i smoked one for a brief period to infuse smoky flavor, then finished it over a hotter fire... that turned out nicely. smoking it all the way through, though--could be a touch dry.

        1. I think you should just grill it over high heat with the applewood chips on the charcoal. It won't take more than a few minutes cooking time but it should get a decent amount of smoke flavor.

          1. I have smoked pork tenderloins with fine results.
            Go for a brine, a pat-dry, a hearty rub, then a hot smoke over indirect heat (just as you said) and enjoy. ESNY isn't wrong, though- smoking will make th outside of the meat a bit leathery, but the inside will be nice and tender- just slice it thin with a sharp knife.

            The only thing that raises my eyebrows is your "2.8# pork tenderloin" I've never seen one larger than a gargantuan- overly saline injected 1.75# specimen... usually they're .75-1.25#- are you talkng about a 2-pack?

            1. I've semi-smoked tenderloins with a glaze on the grill. Use a semi-indirect method, with some wood chips. Took about 35 minutes to reach 155 degrees. You'll get about 1/2 inches of that smokey pink color.

              The last time, it was a 2 pack as lunchbox suggests, so I tied it up tight and it turned out nice and moist.

              1. is it tenderloin or just pork loin? there's a difference - the tenderloin is usually only about 2-3 inches in diameter at its largest, while a loin is 50-100% larger.

                In either case, the most important thing to do regardless of method is not cook it beyond just barely done (~150 as you state). If you smoke it, you won't get a nice sear on the outside, which is nice. However, you can turn up the heat at the end to get a bit of a sear. Or, you can sear at the beginning then slow smoke until it reaches temp. Or, as others have suggested, smoke roast it. Smoke it, but at around 350. In any case, you'll get a good and smokey result so long as you use smoke wood and don't over cook.

                good luck.

                1. If you brine and smoke, it may end up kind of 'hammy'. I prefer to cook pork tenderloins hot and fast.

                  1. Checking the label a bit closer, I realized I'd bought one of those water/salt/sodium phosphate injected tenderloins. As for the goods, the package says tenderloin, and it weighs 2.77 pounds. But yes, it is larger than some I have seen... the cryo-vac'd pre-seasoned ones were about half the size of this one. The pork loins at the store were much larger than this one.

                    Since this thing already has a bunch of salt and water in it, I'm going to skip the brining... guess I just need to pay closer attention to what I'm buying next time.

                    Anyways... I'm leaning toward getting the temperature in the smoker up to 350ish and maybe searing before I throw it on the smoker. If it doesn't work out well, I guess I'll have learned a lesson.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

                      good call. don't brine enhanced pork.

                      good luck and let us know how it turns out.

                      1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

                        If you plan to use a rub on it, I would reduce the salt or leave it out entirely. Personally, I like to smoke and then sear at the end. It's probably totally superstition, but I feel like the meat absorbs more smoke flavor that way.

                      2. i smoke tenderloins all the time, just make sure you use a quick brine (i use 5 cups H2O, 6tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp salt) and a hot smoke, about 350. applewood is good, but so is pecan with oak.

                        another good method is to butterfly it, cut pockets in each side and stuff it with a rosemary/garlic/salt/pepper mixture ground up in the food processor. then tie it back up and smoke it - the stuffing is a nice counterpoint to the smoke.

                        i've never cooked one of the "enhanced" loins, so can't help you there.

                        1. i'm pretty sure when you open that pacakge you will find that you have a couple of tenderloins...they range about 3/4 lb-1 1/2 lb, so unless you got the biggest pig on the planet, there are probably a couple in there. (cooking time will be shorter for 2 1 1/3is tenerloins than for one 2+ piece--that's my point.)

                          1. It's long overdue, but for anyone in the future reading this thread, I think you should know, that slow smoking pork tenderloin produces WONDERFUL pulled-pork! I've been doing it for the past 2 years, with excellent results. I don't brine, I keep the temperature between 215 and 225, smoke for 3 to 6 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 190. Usually though, I just pull it out after it looks right and after the right amount of time, crispy and black on the outside, usually around 4 or 5 hours. Let it sit for an hour or so, though I have a hard time with this part!, and the use two forks to shred it. Add your sauce (I use Cowtown from Oklahoma Joe's in KC, thinned with some of my mop sauce which is vinegar based). Enjoy!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Caron Thief

                              Are you sure you are using pork tenderloin for pulled pork? Tenderloin at 190 degrees is like shoe leather. It never breaks down and gets tender like pork shoulder does. And if you are using pork tenderloin, I highly recommend giving it a try using shoulder. You'll be amazed at the difference.

                              1. re: adamclyde

                                a pork tenderloin doesn't have enough fatty tissue to make a decent pulled pork. The best cut is Boston Butt. There can not be a fat cap with tenderloin. We smoke ours with indirect heat on a charcoal grill with 1/2 charcoal and 1/2 hickory chips (soaked of course) and let it cook for two hours or so then transfer to a low heat oven with a foil top until the meat is fall off the fork tender.

                            2. My wife and I have been using a marinade based on 1 part malt vinegar, 1 part soy sauce, two parts water, and garlic powder to taste. We usually let it sit overnight.

                              I tried this on a pork tenderloin last night and the results were perfection. The chips were pre-soaked cherry wood. The BBQ was about 250-325F with indirect heat. I smoked to 160F internal temperature and got exactly the result I was looking for. Tender, lean meat, a slight tang from the malt vinegar, and a healthy taste of smoke...

                              I served it with a cinnamon-infused mead. Scrumptious.