Smoked pork tenderloin cooked over applewood and ready in just one hour. This easy barbecue smoked pork cut is incredibly tender and boasts a deep flavor that’s unlike any other pork cut.
Smoked pork tenderloin is an impressive dish that is surprisingly easy to cook. It’s delicious when served sliced or pulled, making it a versatile option for any occasion.
It’s an incredibly tender pork cut and, best of all, one pound of pork tenderloin only needs about one hour to cook. This makes it a great option for weeknight dinner or for when you need a smoker recipe quick and ready.
From meat preparation to smoking woods, discover how to smoke pork tenderloin from scratch today.
What is Pork Tenderloin?
Pork tenderloin is a small boneless cut of meat that comes from the top of the hog’s back, near the pork loin. It’s a lean pork cut with a tender and deep flavor, and is becoming more popular because of its low cost and how easy it is to cook.
Smoking pork tenderloin can give this cut of meat a more exciting and robust texture than cooking it in a conventional oven. And, because each tenderloin typically weighs just one pound, it’s quick and easy to cook on your smoker or grill.
Pork Tenderloin vs. Pork Loin
Pork tenderloin and pork loin are both cuts of meat from the pig’s back. However, the loin is the large back section, while the tenderloin is a small boneless cut.
Pork loin is significantly larger and wider than tenderloin and has substantially more fat on the top. Loin can also be purchased bone-in or boneless, unlike tenderloin, which is always boneless.
In terms of taste, pork loin has a mild flavor, whereas tenderloin is flavorful but far leaner with less fat and connective tissue running through it.
Always check if your recipe calls for pork tenderloin or loin. These two cuts of meat are cooked differently and cannot always be substituted for one another.
How to Buy Pork Tenderloin
Look for the following to select the best pork tenderloin:
- Bright pink coloring with white marbling
- Mild or slightly sweet smell
- No wet pink spots
- Free of pungent, sour, or ammonia-like odor
You can buy quality pork tenderloin at grocery stores, butcher shops, online food stores, or wholesale stores.
Prepare your pork tenderloin carefully to ensure that it is tender and flavorful when it leaves the smoker.
Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat, but it can still have some chunks of fat along the outside that should be discarded before cooking. You can usually pull this off easily or cut it off with your knife.
A thin layer of silverskin will be present along one side of the tenderloin. Use your knife to cut this off to make your meat easier to slice after smoking it.
If you want to add extra flavor and make sure your pork is moist and juicy, you can brine it before smoking. Pork tenderloin has a tendency to dry out, but brining can help you avoid this.
Use water, salt, and whichever flavorful add-ins you’d like to create your brine. Popular add-ins include spices, herbs, sugar, or apple juice. Be sure to add enough salt (1 tablespoon for every cup of water) to make the meat extra tender.
Brine your tenderloin for one to two hours before smoking it. Take care to ensure your brine completely covers the pork. You will likely need around five or six cups to do so.
Using a good dry rub blend is the best way to elevate the natural flavors of smoked pork tenderloin with some added sweetness and a dash of heat. You can easily buy premade seasoning online, but we prefer to make our own dry rub.
For this recipe, we’re using our classic pork rub recipe. It combines smoked paprika, chili powder, and cumin for a balance of sweetness and spice that complements pork perfectly. Full ingredients are in the recipe below.
Best Smoking Wood
Applewood is typically best for smoking tenderloin because apple and pork flavors pair so well together. You can complement these flavors by using apple slices in your brine or marinade.
If you aren’t a fan of applewood, you can also use cherry, oak, maple, or hickory to smoke your pork tenderloin.
Times & Temperatures
It will take approximately one hour to smoke your pork, so plan accordingly to set time aside for cooking. This does not include the time it will take for you to prep the meat for smoking.
If you have thicker pork tenderloin, the cooking time may vary slightly. You do not want to slice or cut your tenderloin before smoking, so adjust the cooking time based on the cut of meat instead of trying to cut it down for a shorter time frame.
Your pork tenderloin is finished smoking when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove the pork from the grill as soon as it reaches this temperature to avoid overcooking and becoming dry.
Some prefer to remove the pork from the grill when it reaches 135 degrees and then allow it to continue cooking the last 10 degrees while it rests. This can be an excellent strategy if you are worried about overcooking.
Follow these quick tips for your smoked pork tenderloin.
- Let your smoked pork tenderloin rest for at least ten minutes before slicing and serving. If you have time to let the meat rest longer, it will allow the pork to better retain its juices after you begin cutting.
- Reheat pork tenderloin on the stove in a covered pan, in an oven, in a slow cooker, or by putting it back in the smoker. The key to successfully reheating smoked pork tenderloin is retaining its moisture, so keep it wrapped or covered while heating up.
- Not sure what to do with leftovers? Slowly reheat it before shredding it to make homemade enchiladas or taquitos, or serve it as a filling for pot pie. See our guide to our favorite leftover pork tenderloin recipes to discover more ideas.