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Pulled Pork - can I use tenderloin instead of shoulder?

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Well the title pretty much says it all. My mother phoned me and asked if I would make pulled pork on their new barbecue for a small family gathering this coming weekend. Normally I make this with shoulder (aka butt) but she told me that she went to Costco and got a "huge" pork tenderloin for me to use.

Normally I would either smoke the roast for 8 hours or roast it in the oven for about 6. I use a dry rub, no brine, and "baste" with apple juice in a spray bottle.

Having only ever made pulled pork with the butt, I don't even know if this is possible. Can I just use my same recipe and swap the cuts? Would you make any significant changes to the procedure to avoid the tenderloin drying out?

If it won't work (or won't work well) I'll need to go out and buy some pork shoulder, which is plenty cheap anyways.

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  1. not a good idea...its too lean and will be exceedingly dry. The tenderloin is best to just put on the grill for 30 mins, depending on size and eating it like filet mignon.... don't try to make pulled pork with it, it needs fat to be good

    3 Replies
    1. re: momoftwo

      And if your mom's "tenderloin" is a huge one from Costco, it's not tenderloin at all - it's just boneless loin, which is insanely lean and not particularly tender. I get those because they sell there for under $2/lb; I mostly cut schnitzels from them, plus maybe a roast that I'll lard heavily and brine as well, just to make it edible. All the sauce in the world isn't gonna make pulled pork out of this critter.

      1. re: Will Owen

        I've found boneless loin to be incredibly tender, brine or no brine. I never cook it past 135 though.

        1. re: Will Owen

          That's what I initially thought but Costco bundles 4 tenderloins together in one pack so maybe she thinks it is just one huge one. I agree about those pork loins--takes a lot of doctoring to make it moist.

      2. Sure ... but you're gonna need LOTS of BBQ sauce.

        1. Get some pork shoulder instead. The pork loin, which is what I also think the cut is, won't work well and that makes it not worth the effort.

          1. Agree with everyone else. Tenderloin is probably one of the worst cut for barbecue because it is extremely lean.

            1. Hmmm... maybe if you go with a molecular gastronomy theme for your pulled pork. How about powdered pulled pork? ;)

              In all seriousness, I agree with everyone else here. Tenderloin is going to be way too dry to benefit from a good smoking.

              1. No, no you cannot... however that doesn't mean you can't smoke the pork loin.

                I would cold smoke the pork loin for about an hour and then cook it with an orange/chipotle glaze.

                Reduced orange juice, chipotle with adobo, garlic, shallots, ginger- fantastic!

                2 Replies
                1. re: jameshig

                  Definitely can't do pulled pork with a loin. But, jameshig is right...they CAN be smoked and can be very moist. I like to let a pork loin sit overnight with a dry rub of your choice. Indirect heat at 350 degrees or so until reaches correct temp. Apple wood chips are good, also basting the loin with hot pepper jelly for the last hour is great too.

                  1. re: joshyjosh49

                    It is probably better sliced and served with the sauce. I wouldn't try 'pulling' it.

                    While shoulder is better for pulled pork, it a whole hog is smoked and pulled, the loin will be part of the whole mix.

                2. Agree with the others, but I'm going to try to advise on how this might work. I know people who do "pulled pork" with a tenderloin in a slow cooker. But she wants to use her new grill. So, perhaps if you got that grill up pretty high and seared the loin, then cut it up and threw it in the oven coverd with your bbq sauce until it fell apart, you would get the flavor of the grill but still make use of the loin.

                  1. Thanks all for confirming my suspicions!

                    I'm going out tomorrow to get some proper shoulder and make it the way I'm comfortable. I will follow the advise of one poster though and (on a different occassion) try smoking that pork loin roast.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Zedeff

                      Rub that loin copiously with salt and sugar and keep for 4-5 days in the fridge before smoking and you'll have nitrate-free Canadian bacon.

                    2. If it's not too late, 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

                        loin or tenderloin? two very different cuts...same beast.

                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                          tenderloin, never have tried with whole loin

                      2. My friend often makes tenderloin pulled pork in the slow cooker. Other than it obviously lacking all the fat and gelatin that shoulder has, it actually pulls very well and makes for a decent pulled pork when smothered in sauce.

                        1. I used 2 tenderloins in my crock pot...slow cooked on low for 7 hours with a mixture of sweet baby rays BBQ, brown sugar, cider vinegar, red pepper flakes & garlic powder. Pulled beautifully & SO tender. Much better than using shoulder or butt. No having to separate the fat because there is none.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Sandee

                            By the time my pork shoulders are done, they pretty much separate themselves. And I want that connective tissue (and even a little bit of the fat).