Smoked pork tenderloin is a practice in duality: a flavorful crust on top of melt-in-your-mouth, juicy pork! Our walkthrough demystifies the whole smoking process – We promise it’s easier than it looks. And mastering the best practices for smoking pork tenderloin guarantees moist, succulent meat that will absolutely impress your dinner guests!
This post is sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Although I was compensated, supporting family farms in Iowa and throughout the United States is important to me. And, as you can tell from the recipes here on the blog, my family loves pork!
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Reasons to Make Smoked Pork Tenderloin
- Moist, juicy meat – no marinade needed!
The dry rub and slow smoking method both work to tenderize and keep the meat juicy.
- A high protein, lean meal that tastes fantastic.
Pork tenderloin is packed with protein, making it the ideal dinner entree choice to serve your family.
- Easy to make on any type of smoker or even your grill.
Smoking pork tenderloin is incredibly easy. You just need time for the meat to rest and then the smoker (or grill) does all the work for you!
For an outdoor barbecue or picnic, we recommend a simple but super flavorful side like Tuscan bean salad or cowboy salad. Both have mayo-free dressing, so you don’t need to worry about anything spoiling in the sun.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Pork Tenderloins – A good cut of pork tenderloin is lean, but will have some fat, and a pinkish-red color. Anything grayish is a no-go! The average cut weighs around a pound. Almost without exception, tenderloins are sold in packages of two.
- Kosher Salt and Coarsely Ground Black Pepper – We’re using seasonings with a larger footprint to form a really nice crust on the smoked pork tenderloin. Other good salt options include sea salt and pink Himalayan salt.
- Smoked Paprika and Cayenne Pepper – We like these spices because they have a subtle and flavorful heat – it isn’t all about being spicy! Chili powder is a good substitute for a little more heat.
Is Pork Tenderloin the Same as Pork Loin?
Although the names sound similar, these are two completely different cuts of meat. Tenderloin is a long, lean (yet tender), boneless cut from the backbone of the hog. Loin, on the other hand, is in fact cut from the loin muscle. It’s a large, flat cut that is often cooked as a roast or cut into steaks. It tends to be less expensive.
Tenderloins are always boneless, whereas pork loin can be either bone-in or boneless. Because it is a fattier cut, a loin roast may require a bit more prep on your end. We use boneless pork loin to make Dutch oven carnitas.
Did you know?
One third of the pork raised in the United States is grown in Iowa. This means when we buy pork from our local grocery store, we are supporting family farms in Iowa and through the United States.
How to Smoke Pork Tenderloin
- Set the smoker to the right temperature.
Don’t forget to preheat the smoker to 225°F. This can take up to 15 minutes, so plan each step of your prep accordingly.
- Keep a close eye on the internal temperature so you know when it’s done.
The smoked pork tenderloin temp should be 145ºF at the center of the thickest part of the meat. That is the safe internal temperature for smoked pork.
Pork Tenderloin Smoking Time
It takes between 2.5 – 3 hours to smoke pork tenderloin at 225°F. But every smoker and every cut of meat varies, so use an instant-read digital thermometer.
This will help you track the temperature to guarantee that you’re not overcooking your dinner.
- Maximize moisture by letting it rest and slicing it properly.
It’s crucial that you let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes before you slice. 10 to 15 minutes is even better! That gives the fibers of the meat a chance to relax and soak in all of the juices.
Rushing to slice into it will let all of the flavor and juices leak out, leaving you with dry, tough, smoked pork tenderloin.
- Slice against the grain for serving.
Look for the natural lines running through the meat – this is the grain. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice across those lines, not with them.
Best Wood or Pellet Flavors for Smoking Pork
We almost always use fruit wood when we smoke pork. Our favorite choices are apple, cherry, and peach.
Pecan is also an excellent smoking wood if you want a strong smoky flavor. It has a stronger impact than one of the fruit woods, but it isn’t overwhelmingly “woody.” And plain oak is good in almost every circumstance.
Smoking Pork Tenderloin FAQ
Don’t have a pellet grill or smoker? You can still make smoked meats with any regular grill by attaching a smoke tube. This nifty add-on allows any grill, gas or charcoal, to act as a smoker. It’s really handy!
One of the biggest challenges faced by first-time meat smokers is understanding how to smoke a pork tenderloin without drying it out.
Applying a dry rub (as we do in our recipe) helps to lock in moisture while creating a delicious, flavorful crust. It’s a great step toward guaranteeing tender smoked pork tenderloin!
Additionally, smoking pork tenderloin at a low temperature will prevent it from drying out while soaking in the smoky aroma.
Either temperature is fine. We smoke pork at 225°F. This way, the meat can slowly come to temperature. This low and slow method helps ensure the juiciest meat possible!
Storing and Reheating
One common misconception about smoked meats is that they keep longer in the fridge — this is not the case. Like any cooked pork product, smoked pork tenderloin can only be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Reheat any leftovers in the oven at a low temperature until warmed through to 145ºF. We recommend brushing broth or sauce to help add moisture to the meat as it reheats.
If you aren’t in the mood for smoking your meal, but you’re craving pork tenderloin, make a simple Instant Pot pork tenderloin with potatoes instead! Or, check out all of our pork recipes for other easy and delicious dinner ideas!
Smoked Pork Tenderloin
- smoker - or pellet grill
- 2 pounds pork tenderloins about 1 pound each
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper
- In a medium bowl, whisk together seasonings for dry rub: paprika, sugar, black pepper, Kosher salt, and cayenne pepper.
- Place each of the pork tenderloins on a sheet of plastic wrap. Rub the seasonings evenly on the pork. Roll into a log shape to seal and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
- Preheat the smoker or Traeger to 225℉. Grease your grates to prevent the meat from sticking.
- Insert a digital temperature probe into the center of the largest tenderloin and place them directly on the grill grates. Close the lid, and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145℉, about 2 1/2-3 hours.
- Remove the tenderloins from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!