As I was preparing for this weeks newsletter, I knew that I wanted to show something that would work great on holiday's like Easter, Mother's day or any day where family and friends are getting together.
Smoked pork loin became the obvious choice and after cooking it and tasting the tenderness and juiciness this particular method produced, I knew that this would be an easy winner in many households this coming Sunday or almost any other special day for that matter.
Not only is smoked pork loin a great choice in terms of flavor, it is also lean and healthy right up there with the white meat of chicken and I know that will also be something a lot of people will appreciate.
Below are the general amounts needed to make this herb rub. Note: if you must use previously chopped or dried herbs, it will end up being around 2-3 TBS of thyme and 1 tsp of rosemary to give you an idea of the ratio. Rosemary is very strong and only a little is needed in comparison to the thyme.
- About a cup of fresh thyme sprigs (hard to measure things like this.. just a good handful)
- 1-½ sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 heaping tablespoons of Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)
- ½ cup of olive oil (you may opt to use more if it's not liquid enough)
Place all ingredients into a food processor for best results or you can chop herbs and garlic by hand and mix with the oil and rub until well combined.
Garlic cloves did not make it into the picture.. they were shy 😉
Remove as much of the fat from the outside of the meat as possible including the silver skin with a sharp knife.
I like to cut off the tapered end to square it up (if applicable)
You don't have to but it does make it look nicer in my opinion.
Make diagonal cuts on all sides about ¼ inch deep to give the rub and herbs extra surface area to stick to.
The pork loin is now ready for the seasoning process.
Brush on some olive oil to help the rub to stick.
Apply a good coat of my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) all over the pork loin (top, bottom, sides and ends)
Place about half of the herb rub on the top side of the pork loin and rub it all over the top and sides of the meat.
Flip the pork loin over and put the other half of the herb rub on the bottom side and more on the sides and ends wherever needed.
Place the rubbed pork loin into a bowl with a lid (I like to use the Ziploc® bowls that you use a few times then throw away but your choice here).
Put the bowl with the pork loin into the fridge for about 4-6 hours or overnight is even better.
A few minutes before you are ready to smoke the meat, take the pork loin out of the fridge and place it on a pan with a rack to make it easy to transport out to the smoker.
Tying up the pork loin is a very good idea in that it makes the pork loin round instead of oblong and this will help it to cook more evenly. It also makes the roast look better in my opinion.
I simply cut 7-8 strings and tied a basic knot on each one.
I recommend tying a string around the meat about every inch or so all the way along the pork loin half.
If you look closely at the picture below, you can see how I did it.
I used a mix of apple and cherry for smoke and you can use any smoker known to man or even a grill as long as you can maintain around 225°F for about 3-4 hours and provide some smoke to the heated environment.
Get the smoker preheated to 225°F and once it is holding steady, you are ready to smoke.
Place the pork loin directly on the grate or use a Bradley rack.
Let it smoke cook for about 3.5 – 4 hours or until it reaches 145°F in the center of the meat using a durable, high-quality digital probe meat thermometer such as the ThermoWorks Smoke. When it reaches 145°F, remove it immediately from the heat, it is done.
If you have a water pan in your smoker, be sure to use it. It does a lot of good things for the smoking environment and should be used whenever possible.
I recommend adding smoke for at least 2 hours but it also completely fine and even recommended to add well-vented, light smoke for the entire time it is cooking. I do this most of the time and I love the well pronounced smoke flavors that I get in my charcoal, electric, and gas smokers by using this method.
Just a note: If you are using a pellet smoker, (I really enjoy using my Camp Chef Woodwind for this recipe!), consider using the “Lo Smoke” setting for about an hour before turning the knob to “Hi Smoke” or “225” if you prefer. Pellet smokers produce more smoke at lower temperatures and your best flavor will come from running it as low as possible for an hour or so before turning it up a bit. Cooking it low at first may add an extra half hour or so to this recipe but it's worth it.
The pork loin will cool down quickly so with it only being 145°F in the center when it is finished, there is not a good reason to let it sit and rest for more than just 3-5 minutes. Remove the cooking twine if you tied it up, slice into ½ inch slices and serve immediately.
Watch the Temperature of the Pork Loin
If you don't remember anything else, remember this: the most important thing you can do to make sure that this pork loin comes out juicy and tender is to use a trusted, tested meat thermometer and when it reaches 145°F in the center, it is done. Remove it from the smoker immediately.
In years past, we were taught to cook pork to a much higher temperature and this resulted in something that just wasn't as palatable as it could have been. The USDA has now informed us that 145°F is completely safe for pork and it has been music to my ears and my stomach ever since.
Maintain as close to 225°F in your smoker as possible and DON'T trust that factory thermometer.. it is most likely not accurate.
If you have a digital probe meat thermometer, (you should try your best to get one if you don't), push the probe through a potato horizontally and lay the potato on the grate right next to the pork loin or whatever meat you are cooking. This will give you an accurate reading of what the meat is experiencing. Some thermometers come with a clip that holds it just above the grate.. these are very handy as well.
Note: The potato is just a device to hold the thermometer probe up off the grate but you can eat the potato when you are finished if you want to.
I recommend the “Smoke” by Thermoworks for a “leave-in-the-smoker” thermometer and the Thermapen for checking the temperature of the meat on the spot (it reads in about 2 seconds and I never cook without it anymore.
Yep.. He Said it!
Even if you DON'T have a smoker YET, this entire method will work great in the home oven using the same preparation and temperature recommendations. Having said that, this recipe is SO much better done with smoke and that is a fact.
You owe it to yourself to get a smoker, even if it is a cheap one or a second hand one found at a yard sale and learn how to use it.
You will soon find yourself using the oven less and less.
Why is the Meat Pink?
If you cook the pork correctly and call it done at 145°F in the center, it will probably be a little pink as you can see in the picture below.
For this reason, you may have folks ask you why the meat is pink and, if they are really out of touch with reality, they may even insinuate that the meat is not properly done.
All you can do is try to educate them and hope they accept the facts as they are today and not as they were in yesteryears.
Perfectly done whole (unground) pork will be a little pink and should be juicy, tender and tasty. If it's dry and tastes like a hockey puck, it's most likely overcooked.