Smoky, sweet, and spice, everything totally nice about this smoked pork tenderloin recipe. Tender meat, smoked to perfect, makes a perfect protein for any meal. It will be a recipe you want to use again and again.
The mild flavor of pork tenderloin is tasty on its own, but it can easily take on other flavors via a marinade, rub, or sauce. Unfortunately, if you get the flavors too strong, the meat gets overwhelmed. Finding the right balance of flavors with the smoking process has been an ongoing challenge for me.
As I was growing up, every once in a while, my mother would buy a pork tenderloin as a special treat. She would cover it with a bit of salt and pepper, then roast it in the oven. It had a nice flavor, but it wasn’t anything special.
When I started experimenting with the smoker, I wanted to try my hand at a pork tenderloin. I started with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, like my mother had used in the oven for so many years. Smoking the meat definitely enhanced the meat’s flavor, but it needed something more.
I thought sweet and spicy would be the target. Sugar was the easy choice to add sweetness, but how to add spice? There are plenty of spicy options such as cayenne pepper or chipolte seasoning. After a couple of tries, however, I settled on red pepper flakes. A straightforward heat that didn’t overwhelm the meat.
I made one other change recently. I started using crushed peppercorns instead of ground black pepper. The peppercorns give a stronger peppery taste that matches the sweet spiciness already in play.
What Makes A Good Pork Tenderloin Recipe
The tenderloin is a lean, boneless cut that comes from the loin, an area of the pig that goes from the shoulder down to the hip. They are sold whole and usually come in around 1 to 1.5 pounds each.
This cut of meat cannot be switched out for pork loin or pork butt in a recipe. This is due to size differences as well as meat to fat ratio. Because the tenderloin is so lean, it should not be cooked as long as other cuts of pork.
If cooking over direct heat, tenderloins should be cooked over high heat for a short time. A few examples include roasting it in the oven, searing it on the of the grill, or cut up in a stir-fry. Smoking, however, is a slow method that works quite well with tenderloin. The results are tender, tasty, and stupendously moist.
Any recipe you use will benefit from using a high-quality tenderloin. You want a pinkish-red color to the meat, with a bit of marbling for flavor. Avoid meat that has lost the pinkish color or that has dark areas in the fat. Both are signs the meat is no longer fresh.
Smoked Pork Tenderloin
- 2 pieces Pork tenderloin (2-3 lbs each)
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Peppercorns (crushed)
- 2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- Preheat the smoker to 225F, using apple wood
- Coat each tenderloin with olive oil.
- Combine the crushed peppercorns, sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
- Rub the spice mix across each piece of meat, ensuring generous coating.
- Place pork tenderloins in the smoker.
- Smoke for 2 to 3 hours. Check to make sure internal temperature reaches 145F before taking it out.
- Rest the tenderloins for 15 minutes before slicing to serve.