Smoked Pork Tenderloin

Smoked Pork Tenderloin

This cut of pork comes from close to the mid-to-lower spinal area of the pig.  Most of the muscles on a pig are used for movement.  The tenderloin is what is used for posture and considered the tenderest part of the pig.  The reason is that muscle is not used as much as the other muscles.

It is common when buying pork tenderloin that it comes in a pack of two.  Pork tenderloin generally weighs between three-fourth to one and a half pounds.   When you take it out of the package make sure that you rinse it off and pat dry.

Remove the Silver Skin

When you take the pork tenderloin out of the package, you will see this shiny layer on some area of the pork.  It is called “silver skin.”  It means to hold the muscle together while in the pig.  You want to remove it because it will affect the ability of the meat to absorb the seasoning and the bite of the tenderloin.

  • The best knife to use for removing the silver skin is a boning knife.  Near the tip, the blade has a little curve, so this makes it easier to poke it under the silver skin.
  • Push it through until the knife comes out the opposite side
  • Start pushing the sharp side forward, using a back-and-forth gentle sawing motion until you can remove the silver skin.
  • It should take only a few minutes to remove all the silver skin.

In addition to removing the silver skin, you should also trim off any excess fat.

Preparing the Pork Tenderloin for Serving

Sliced Smoked Pork Tenderloin

After removing the silver skin, it is time to season the pork tenderloin. Make sure that you do not season it too heavily.  Just put enough on it to get the flavor you want.  Before you take the pork tenderloin to the smoker, make sure that the smoker has been pre-heated to at least 225° F. 

With the tenderloin being so small, it does not take long to cook.  It only takes about forty-five minutes.  At thirty minutes, open the smoker and apply some BBQ sauce if you want.  To make sure that it is done, use a meat thermometer.  Insert it in the thickest part in the middle of the tenderloin.

The internal temperature should be 145° F.  This will give your pork tenderloin a medium finish and keep the meat juicy.  If you cook it to 165° F, as most have been taught to cook it too, the meat can be dry.  The USDA recommends a minimum of 145° F.

Take the pork tenderloin off the grill, and let it rest ten minutes on a cutting board before you slice it.  When you allow it to relax, it lets the juice build inside the meat. When the tenderloin is resting, it should be wrapped in aluminum foil.

After resting, slice into one-half to one-inch slices.  As you slice it, you should see a nice smoke ring inside.

Basic Dry Rub

  • 3 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons onion salt
  • 4 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika

Basic Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • ¼ cup of cola (brand name or generic does not matter)
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup of soy sauce

When preparing your pork tenderloin for the smoker, you can use the above marinade or rub.  If you want to use the rub, you can use your fingers to rub it in.  Make sure that you cover the entire pork tenderloin, including the sides. To help the rub penetrate the pork, you should lightly score it.  This means just making slight cut marks on the meat. 

You can use a pastry brush to cover the tenderloin with the marinade.  You can also put the tenderloin into a plastic zip-lock bag, with the marinade and move it around inside the bag to coat it.  To use a zip lock bag you will probably have to cut the tenderloin in half. 

Let the marinade or rub sit on the tenderloin to give it time to get inside the pork.  Wrap the pork tenderloin in plastic wrap to keep the rub on.  Refrigerate both until you are ready to smoke it.  The rub can sit on the tenderloin for 15 minutes or a few hours.  It can sit in the marinade overnight but just a couple of hours is sufficient.

Do not let the marinade sit on the tenderloin for more than two to three hours if you use a marinade with citrus in it.  Do not reuse any leftover marinade.  Throw it away because if reused, it can contaminate other foods.

When using wood chips for your smoker, make sure that you have soaked them at least thirty minutes in water.  Make sure that you do not use sapwood, like pine, for your smoker.  They can be toxic and ruin the taste of the meat.  Add the wood chips when the smoker reaches 250° F.  Smoke the pork tenderloin over indirect heat.

To give your pork tenderloin a unique taste, wrap it in raw bacon before you put it in the smoker.  The bacon will help to keep the tenderloin moist.  To render the bacon, smoke the tenderloin at 275° F.  With bacon-wrapped tenderloin, let the internal temperature get between 155° to 160° F to make sure the bacon is rendered and a little crispy.

You can brush BBQ sauce on it if you want or leave it plain.  Following these directions will give you juicy, flavorful pork tenderloin.

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