Step-by-step instructions on how to smoke pork tenderloin. Soaked in a citrus brine and coated in the most flavorful BBQ spice rub, this is a “no-hassle” smoker recipe the whole family will love!
Tender and delicious, this is the most flavorful smoked pork tenderloin recipe that everyone will love! You know my love for creating smoker recipes, like my Applewood Smoked Chicken and my Smoked BBQ Ribs, and now I have a pork tenderloin recipe for you.
Juicy, tender pork is a family favorite dinner and since we’re still in the BBQ season, a smoked pork tenderloin recipe is what you need. From the citrus brine to the spice rub, you’re going to love everything this smoked meat has to offer!
Video: Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Check out this super quick video for a step-by-step visual on how to make the best tenderloin on your smoker.
What’s the Difference Between Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin?
There actually is a difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin. Don’t worry, I just recently realized it, too. Pork Loin is “the other white meat”. It’s super low in fat and indeed turns white when it’s cooked. Pork loin is typically a large piece of meat, kinda like a roast, and it comes from the back of the pig. It can be bone in or bone out. Pork Tenderloin is more of a filet and just like the name implies, it is the most tender cut of pork you can get. Tenderloins are smaller and tend to be a darker color than the pork loin. Even when this cut of meat is fully cooked, it has a slight pink hue, especially when you’re dealing with smoked pork tenderloin.
Pork Tenderloin Brine
To brine or not to brine…that is the question. Here’s the secret. Brining a piece of meat absorbs the liquid to make the meat juicer and more tender. Do you have to brine your meat? No. And sometimes I don’t, but most of the time I do. It’s kinda like wine. Every wine contains different types of flavors. If you have the pallette, you can taste the oak or plum or chocolate in a wine. Same thing with brines. I make my brines based on what flavors I want to pull out of every bite of meat. For pork tenderloin, I like to use a citrus brine because of the acidity in the orange and lemon. Here’s what my brine consists of:
- apple cider vinegar
- 1 orange – sliced
- 1 lemon – sliced
- bay leaves
To brine, place the pork tenderloin in a large 13×9 dish. Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Then, pour the brine mixture over the pork. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours. If you have the time, brine for 10-12 hours.
Pork Tenderloin Rub
After the brining process, I rub the pork tenderloin down with a spice rub. Here’s the spice rub ingredients I use:
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- Bad Byron’s Butt Rub
- Smoked Paprika
- ground black pepper
- brown sugar
Really saturate that rub into the pork and ensure all sides are covered. The tenderloins are still going to be wet from the brine so the spice rub will stick to the meat nicely. There’s no need to let the tenderloins marinate in the rub. As soon as the smoker is ready to go, throw them in.
Preparing the Smoker
There’s a couple of things you should do before you start smoking your pork tenderloin.
- I like to wrap my water bowl with aluminum foil before I add the water. By doing this you’re saving yourself a lot of mess. Less cleanup is always better! I also add about a Tablespoon of Liquid Smoke to my water to help contribute to the smoky flavor.
- Have you thought about using wood chips or chunks? I prefer using wood chunks when I smoke because it’s been my experience they produce more smoke for a longer period of time. And I always soak my chunks. For pork, I use a mixture of apple and cherry chunks because pork is such a mild meat. And definately smoke the wood chips/chunks for at least 2-3 hours before you place them in the smoker so they don’t burn.
- I wrap my wood chunks in aluminum foil and poke holes in it with a knife. To me, the smoke pouch helps smoke release better which provides more flavor.
- Preheat the smoker before placing the meat in. It takes about 30 minutes to warm up my smoker to 225 degrees.
How to Smoke a Pork Tenderloin
- I got a really good deal on 2 pork tenderloins so I decided to smoke them both. Once the smoker is at 225 degrees fahrenheit, place them in the smoker. Close the door and smoke them slow and low for about an hour.
- After an hour, open the smoker door and baste on your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides of the meat. This is the point in the smoking process where I insert the digital thermometer and start monitoring the internal temperature.
How Long To Smoke Pork Tenderloin
There is so much controversy around what temperature is safe for eating pork. The USDA recommends that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a 3 minute rest. Here’s my personal take on the subject. When I make pork for my family, I cook it to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If you choose to take it off the smoker/grill at 145 degrees, that’s totally fine but keep in mind that even after a 3 minute rest, there will still be a little pink in the center.
Once done, remove from the smoker and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Grab your meat carving knife and slice. Serve immediately.
What Goes with Smoked Pork Tenderloin?
If I’m taking the time to prep the smoker and smoke meat, I always smoke several side dishes, as well. This Smoked Macaroni and Cheese pairs amazingly well, and so do these Garlic and Herb Smoked Potatoes.
Tips for the Best Results
- When you smoke any meat, smoke slow and low. You don’t have to, but when you do the flavor is so much more enhanced and the meat is super tender.
- I use this electric smoker. It runs on a propane tank and is super crazy easy and convenient.
- Skip the BBQ sauce process if you want to stick strictly with the rub. The flavor is fabulous strictly with the rub, but I love BBQ sauce so I wanted to take this recipe to the next level.
- It took me about 3-4 hours to smoke the pork tenderloins, but rely on the internal temperature gauge and not the smoking time.
- This smoked pork tenderloin will last in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- If you’re looking for how to reheat smoked pork, I get out my cast iron skillet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Pork tenderloin is such a forgiving piece of meat…it’s really hard to mess it up. It’s perfect for any holiday, a weekend BBQ, or for when you meal prep. I love throwing leftover in a bowl of rice and beans topped with cheese and lettuce. It’s also fabulous in a quesadilla. It’s such a versatile dish and it’s absolutely a recipe worth repeating!
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Smoked Pork Tenderloin
- Electric Smoker
Spice Rub Ingredients
How to Brine Pork Tenderloin
- To brine, place the pork tenderloin in a large 13x9 dish. Pour all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
- Pour the brine mixture over the pork. Cover with saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours. If you have the time, brine for 10-12 hours.
- Saturate that rub into the pork and ensure all sides are covered.
- Prep your smoker according to the article directions above. Once your smoker is preheated to 225 degrees Fahrenheit, place the tenderloins in the smoker, close the door and smoke slow and low for about an hour.
- After an hour, open the smoker door and baste with BBQ sauce on both sides of the meat. This is the point in the smoking process where I insert the digital thermometer and start monitoring the internal temperature.
- Once done, remove from the smoker and let rest for 3-5 minutes. When I make pork for my family, I cook it to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. If you choose to take it off the smoker at 145 degrees, that's totally fine but keep in mind that even after a 3 minute rest, there will still be a little pink in the center.
- Serve immediately.