Here's my method for smoked pork tenderloin and we are using that same Brinkmann horizontal smoker that I used last time for the steaks only, this time, I am going to show you a cool way to start the fire.
Many folks will tell you that you have to be careful with pork tenderloin to keep it from drying out and they would be correct. Others will tell you to wrap it in bacon to keep it moist while it cooks and that's not a bad idea either but is it necessary to prevent it from drying out? In this experiment I am smoking four separate pork tenderloins with only (2) of them wrapped in bacon.
The remaining two tenderloins are seasoned but are not wrapped in bacon and once they are finished cooking, we will see what the differences are (if any).
What to Purchase
Instead of buying these from the butcher as usual, I purchased pre-packaged pork tenderloins which came two to a pack. I bough two packages which netted me four tenderloins total.
I also purchased a whole pork loin to smoke at the same time but I don't want to focus on that in this particular newsletter.
How to Prepare
I have always wrapped pork tenderloins in bacon and many folks will tell you that you have to do this in order for it to not end up drying out in the smoker however, since I had four of these, I decided to put that way of thinking to the test by wrapping a couple of them in bacon and leaving a couple of them unwrapped. Here is what you'll need to replicate my experiment or part of it.
Sweet and Spicy Fruit Topping
1 TBS of Jeff's Rub recipe
2 TBS of Pineapple/mango (PurelyFruit) preserves
Mix the rub with the fruit preserves until well blended and the rub is melted. Microwave on high for about 15 seconds or until slightly warm for easier spreading.
How to Wrap in Bacon
lay out 4-5 pieces of bacon flat on a baking sheet or on a piece of wax or parchment paper with about 1 inch between the slices. Lay the tenderloin perpendicular across the bacon slices and pull the bacon up on both sides so that it drapes over the tenderloin and back underneath again.
I apologize for not getting pictures of this process.. it was in the plans but apparently I got distracted;-)
Covered on top with the sweet and spicy preserves and set aside
Covered on top with sweet and spicy preserves, wrapped in bacon
Coated with a light coat of yellow mustard to help the rub to stick then sprinkled with my rub recipe until the meat was completely covered on top, bottom and sides.
Coated with a light coat of yellow mustard and then my rub recipe, wrapped in bacon
At this point, I laid all four tenderloins into a Bradley rack for easy transport to and from the smoker and went out to get the smoker ready.
Preparing the Smoker
A couple of weeks ago while smoking steaks, I used lump charcoal in the Brinkmann horizontal and it worked really well but this time I wanted to demonstrate how to use all wood with no charcoal. This is easy to do if you have the right equipment.
I broke out my propane weed burner and after cutting up some wood to the right size for this smoker, I lit the weed burner and got the wood to burning in the firebox.
The best way to do this is to just put 2-3 pieces of dry, seasoned wood in the firebox then hold the flame from the weed burner on the wood for about 10 minutes. It may not take that long but the idea is to create a nice bed of coals before placing the meat in the smoker.
Open all vents completely while getting the fire started to make sure that plenty of air is able to get to the firebox. This will help the wood to catch fire and stay caught while forming a bed of coals.
This can take up to an hour or even longer to create a bed of coals and to regulate the smoker to a proper smoking temperature. It may even be wise to get the smoker going before doing the preparation work on the meat. While the wood is burning down to coals, you will have time to go back in and get the meat ready.
Once you have a bed of coals and you are ready to limit the air to the firebox in order to control the temperature, close the firebox vent to about 1/4 open then close the chimney about half way.
I did notice that my ash cleanout door was a little warped at the bottom and leaks air like crazy so I had to create a quick jig to fix the problem.
I used a piece of metal bar which was not long enough to go from the ground to the bottom of the door. I got creative and used a piece of pecan to make up the difference. Works like a charm by pushing in on the bottom edge of the door and sealing off the air leak.
Please note that this smoker can be made much better with some modification and perhaps I can plan a newsletter in the future to illustrate a few mods that you can do to help but until then, I recommend staying close to the smoker.
Roll the smoker to a shady area of your yard, find a lawn chair and something cold to drink and camp out right there while the food is cooking.
Smoking the Pork Tenderloins
Since we put the tenderloins on a Bradley rack, it will be very simple to move them from the cabinet to the smoker and then back again when they are finished without every having to take them on or off. You can get a set of these on Amazon even if you do not own the Bradley smoker.
I used a digital probe meat thermometer manufactured by Taylor to monitor the temperature at the thickest part of the meat while it cooked.
Maintain the smoker around 225-240 degrees if possible.
It took 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach 150 degrees at which point I removed the meat from smoker and set it on the kitchen counter to rest for a few minutes before slicing.
The USDA has recently changed the safe temperature for pork products however, I have always had great results from cooking tender cuts of pork to 150 and letting it rest so I figure why change what isn't broken.
Serving the Pork Tenderloin
This particular cut of meat is super tender and usually turns out very moist if it is not overcooked. It works well as an appetizer, as a breakfast entree, or as part of a main meal.
I love to put thick slices on a homemade biscuit
Here is the biscuit recipe that we always use around here.. it came from a Shawnee flour bag years ago and is now taped to the inside of one of our cabinet doors for quick and easy reference.
The Results of the Experiment
I have to say that I was banking on the bacon wrapped tenderloins to be the best in terms of juiciness but honestly, once I cut into the tenderloins they were all very juicy with or without the bacon.
If we are just talking flavor, the spicy preserves made with my rub recipe added the most flavor.
The one with rub/mustard and no bacon had a better bark if that is what you are after. I thought the slightly crispy bark when well with the buttery, tender meat on the inside.
My favorite overall was the pork tenderloin with spicy preserves and no bacon simply because it had the best flavor, the best smoke penetration and it tasted better on the biscuit in my opinion.