Did you know that you can smoke a pork loin to make a big pile of pulled pork?
Pulled pork is usually made by smoking a pork butt or shoulder but you can do the same thing with a loin. Pulled pork from the loin will be a lot leaner (which is either a good or bad thing depending upon your preferences) and will be ready to eat a heck of a lot faster than pulled pork from a butt.
Let’s take a look at how to tackle this cut of pork on your smoker!
Preparing the Pork Loin for the Smoker
I started with a 9 pound loin, left the fat cap intact and seasoned it with one of my favorite pork rubs (recipe below). Loins can be pretty bland so it helps to have a flavorful dry rub.
Dry Rub for Pulled Pork Loin
Here is a recipe that I like a lot.
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup black pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon granulated onion
- 1 tablespoon celery salt
- 2 teaspoons chipotle powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Brines, Marinades and Injections
If I was cooking the loin to a lower final temperature for sliced pork then I would absolutely use a brine or injection to pump the meat with moisture and flavor.
However, we are going to shred this meat and add plenty of sauce/liquids after it has cooked. The meat will soak up the flavors and moisture at this stage so using a brine or injection at the start is not needed.
Smoking the Pork Loin
I smoked this loin on my Z Grills pellet grill. The smoker was set to 225F and was burning hickory pellets.
The meat was cold when it went on the pit and started at with an internal temperature of 41F.
The loin reached the slicing temperature of 145F in two hours. I wanted to cook this loin for pulled pork so once it reached 145F I wrapped it in two layers of aluminum foil with 1 cup of apple juice mixed with Sweet Baby Rays (1:1) and put it back on the pit at 225F.
It took another three hours for the loin to reach an internal temperature of 202F for a total cook time of five hours.
Be VERY careful when you take the loin off of your pit. The foil is hot, filled with scalding juices and is awkward to handle due to the size.
My biggest learning from this cook is that I don’t want to smoke a whole 9-12 pound loin again. Cooking an entire loin in one piece is incredibly awkward and potentially painful.
If you have a 10 pound loin then my recommendation is to cut it in half before it goes on the pit. The total cook time should not change significantly as it is the thickness of the meat, not the weight, that determines the cooking time.
Serving the Pulled Pork
The loin shredded easily and made some great sandwiches after getting tossed with some sauce.
You do not want to use regular barbecue sauce for this pork. We need our sauce to deliver flavor and moisture so I like to thin the sauce out a bit.
Here is a great finishing sauce that I enjoy.
Finishing Sauce for Pulled Pork
I toss the pork with this sauce after it has been shredded. This is enough sauce for about four pounds of pulled pork. You can dial back on the red pepper flakes or omit entirely depending upon how your crew feels about heat.
- 1/2 cup of a sweet barbecue sauce like Sweet Baby Rays
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Smoked Pork Loin Pulled Pork
- 1/2 cup turbinado sugar For the Dry Rub
- 1/2 cup kosher salt For the Dry Rub
- 1/4 cup black pepper For the Dry Rub
- 1 tbsp granulated garlic For the Dry Rub
- 1 tbsp granulated onion For the Dry Rub
- 1 tbsp celery salt For the Dry Rub
- 2 tsp chipotle powder For the Dry Rub
- 1 tsp cinnamon For the Dry Rub
- pork loin cut into 4-5 pound sections
- 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce split into two 1/2 cup portions
- 1 cup apple juice split into two 1/2 cup portions
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- Combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well.
- Season the pork loin on all sides with the dry rub.
- Smoke the pork loin at 225F with hickory to an internal temperature of 145F (~2 hours)
- Tightly wrap the loin in aluminum foil with 1/2 cup apple juice and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce.
- Continue cooking at 225F until an internal temperature of 205F is reached.
- Carefully remove the loin from the smoker and shred the meat with forks.
- Combine the remaining apple juice, bbq sauce, cider vinegar and red pepper flakes and use to sauce the pulled pork.