How to Smoke Pork Tenderloin on a Charcoal Grill

By Ben Isham-Smith

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Pork tenderloin is a beautifully simple meat to smoke for weeknight dinners. It’s lean, tender, and soaks up smoky flavors like a dream. Best of all, it can be cooked in just one hour on your charcoal grill!

smoked pork tenderloin

Whether you just want something quick and easy for a weeknight dinner, or a beginner-friendly barbecue recipe to dip your toes into smoked meat, this pork tenderloin is a great place to start.

Tenderloin is by far the most tender pork cut and is widely available at most butcher shops or meat counters. And because it’s so lean, good quality tenderloin has a deep porky flavor that’ll hit that pork craving right away.

And when this naturally delicious meat is smoked low and slow on your charcoal grill, its flavors are taken to a whole new level. It takes on smoke beautifully, and goes perfectly with any sweet rub and BBQ sauce you prepare it with.

smoked pork tenderloin

Charcoal Grill Smoking Setup

Smoking on a charcoal grill requires a bit of setup to ensure you get the perfect smoke and consistent cooking temperature for your pork tenderloin. Here’s how to set up your charcoal grill for smoking pork tenderloin.

1. Create Two Zones

Arrange your grill for 2-zone cooking. This means one side of the grill will have the charcoal (direct heat), while the other side will be where the pork sits (indirect heat).

2. Use Lump Charcoal

I prefer to use lumpwood charcoal over briquettes, even for short smokes like this one. Lump burns cleaner and at a consistent temperature, which is especially important when smoking in small charcoal grills. Because we’ll only be smoking for 60-90 minutes, you should only need a handful of coals.

3. Light Your Charcoal

Put away the lighter fluid – the best way to light your coals is by using a charcoal chimney. Once the coals have ashed over, tip them into the direct side of your grill.

4. Add Wood Chunks

Add a couple of applewood chunks to the coals. Go chunks over chips: Chips are great for electric smokers and grilling, but tend to burn too hot and fast for charcoal smoking.

5. Use a Water Pan

Fill an aluminum tray with water and place it on your grill grates. If your grill has dual grates, place it underneath where the meat will be. This water pan will help keep our smoke temperature consistent as well as help the tenderloin keep moist and develop a nice smoke ring. Also, if it’s underneath the meat, it’ll catch any fatty drippings as it cooks.

6. Use a Grill Thermometer

Obviously the best way to keep across both your grill’s ambient temperature and your pork tenderloin’s internal temperature is by using a good grill thermometer. I recommend using a dual probe thermometer to keep across both simultaneously.

To measure the grill’s ambient cooking temperature, place one probe in the indirect zone of the grill, where your pork will be. Having direct contact with the grates will interfere with your probe’s reading, so I recommend using a probe clip (like these on Amazon) to keep it in place.

7. Set Vents to Open

As the grill warms up, close the lid and set all the vents wide open. Once it’s warmed up, half-close the vents to limit the airflow through the grill chamber (and therefore the temperature). This can take a bit of trial and error, but soon you should land on a consistent cooking temperature of 225°F (107°C).

smoked pork tenderloin

How to Trim Pork Tenderloin for Smoking

Trimming away the excess fat and silverskin on pork tenderloin helps it stand the best chance of taking on as much wood and smoke flavor as possible. While most butchers will have done most of the work for you, a little extra trimming can make all the difference.

  1. Find the Silverskin: Find the shiny membrane that covers part of the tenderloin. This needs to be removed as it can be tough and chewy when cooked, and stop smoke flavor from getting into the pork.
  2. Remove the Silverkin: Slide a sharp knife under one end of the silverkin. Then, use a dry paper towel to grip it and pull it away. Sometimes this can be done in one motion; other times it takes a few attempts to remove it. However, if some small pieces remain, that’s okay.
  3. Trim Excess Fat: Use the knife to trim off any large, thick pieces of fat. We don’t want it all removed, but focus on any large pieces that are in the way.
  4. Dry the Tenderloin: Use paper towels to pat the pork dry. This will help the BBQ drub adhere better to the meat.

Dry Rub

Almost any sweet BBQ rub will work well here, so if you have a favorite store-bought rub, go for it. However, I like to make my own pork rub as it tends to have the exact blend of sweet and spice that I’m after (plus, a little less sodium definitely can’t hurt!). The full ingredients are in our recipe below.

Whatever rub you choose, make sure you apply it generously across the entire tenderloin surface (on all sides!) and rub it into any folds along the pork. For the best results, do this just as your charcoal grill starts to warm up in order to give the pork tenderloin 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature and soak in as much of the rub’s flavors as possible.

smoked pork tenderloin

BBQ Sauce

A quick note on the BBQ sauce for this recipe. Many people have their own go-to BBQ sauce they like to use, so I haven’t listed a specific brand in the recipe. As long as it’s sweet and not too hot, it’ll work great.

If you need some suggestions, either Rufus Teague’s or Stubb’s BBQ sauces are a great place to start. I’m also a big fan of Chimac’s Korean hot sauce (not as hot as it sounds – I promise).

smoked pork tenderloin
smoked pork tenderloin

Smoked Pork Tenderloin [Charcoal Grill]

5 from 1 vote
Pork tenderloin is a beautifully simple meat to smoke for weeknight dinners. It’s lean, tender, and soaks up smoky flavors like a dream. Best of all, it can be cooked in just one hour on your charcoal grill!
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, BBQ
Servings: 2

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce

Pork Dry Rub

  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp dried onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Fire up your charcoal grill to 225°F (107°C). Make sure it is set up for 2-zone indirect cooking, with the coals sat to one side.
  • Place 1-2 chunks of apple smoking wood on the coals as it warms up. Set up a grill thermometer on the indirect side to gauge ambient cooking temperature.
  • While your grill warms up, trim the pork tenderloin. Remove any silverskin or excess fat. Rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, combine dry rub ingredients. Use a fork to remove or crush any lumps that form.
  • Apply dry rub across the pork surface, covering all sides. Work the rub into any folds or crevices on the pork’s surface.
  • Place the pork tenderloin on your grill’s grates on the indirect side. Close the lid. Smoke until the pork tenderloin's internal temperature is 135-140°F (57-60°C), approximately 45-60 minutes.
  • With a basting brush, lightly baste the pork tenderloin in BBQ sauce. Cover all sides evenly.
  • Place pork tenderloin back on grill grates. Smoke until internal temperature hits 145°F (63°C).
  • Remove pork tenderloin from smoker and place on chopping board. Slice into ½-inch thick medallions and serve immediately.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.


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