Before you fire up the smoker, you should have a rough estimate of how long the meat will take to cook. Otherwise, how will you know when to start testing the internal temperature?
In our guide, we’ll provide templates on how long to smoke pork loin at 275, 200, and 220 degrees. Which smoker temperature you use is up to you, but we’ll also talk about which of these is preferable, and why.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin at 275, 200, & 220
Pork loin cooks at a rate of about 40-45 minutes per pound at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. We prefer to set the smoker temperature to 220 or 225 whenever possible, in which case the meat should take 30 minutes per pound to cook to 145 degrees. At 275, expect the pork loin to cook for roughly 20 minutes per pound.
A Primer on Pork Loin
The loin section of the hog stretches along the back of the animal, from just behind the shoulder to the rear leg. If you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll know that the meat is lean and tender, with a mild flavor that pairs well with sauces and marinades.
Since the meat is leaner than barbecue staples like the Boston butt and the picnic shoulder, it will dry out if it’s overcooked. That’s why it’s crucial to keep a close eye on the smoker temperature—and the internal temp of the meat itself—during cooking.
Are Pork Loin and Pork Tenderloin The Same Thing?
No, and that’s a mistake you don’t want to make. Although both of these cuts have their strong points, they’re not interchangeable, especially if you’re planning on smoking the meat.
Pork loin typically weighs between 2 to 5 pounds. When it’s sold boneless, it’s usually barrel-shaped, although the bone-in roasts may have a more irregular appearance. There may be a fat cap running along the top, which can be trimmed off before cooking.
The pork tenderloin has a narrow, cylindrical shape. While there’s not much fat on the meat, there’s usually a silverskin attached to one side. It weighs about one pound when sold whole, but butchers will sometimes carve it into medallions, which grill up quickly.
Pork tenderloin is noticeably more tender to the bite than pork loin, and it will dry out in a hurry if you’re not careful. While you can smoke pork tenderloin and achieve decent results, pork loin is a better choice for the smoker because you can cook it longer, giving it a stronger dose of smoke flavor.
What’s The Best Internal Temperature For Smoked Pork Loin?
We would suggest taking the meat off the smoker when the internal temperature registers 145 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. If you leave it on the heat much longer, the pork will start to dry out and toughen up.
You may have heard that pork needs to cook to 160 degrees in order to kill off any hazardous bacteria. While that used to be the recommended internal temp for pork, the USDA has since revised those guidelines. It’s perfectly safe to consume pork that’s cooked to 145 degrees, and the meat will be juicier as a result.
Don’t forget to let the cooked pork rest for 10-15 minutes after taking it off the smoker. At this point, it will be cool enough to handle, and the juices will have redistributed throughout the meat.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin at 275
If the smoker temperature is set to 275 degrees, the pork loin should cook through at a rate of about 20 minutes per pound. That means a 5-pound pork loin will reach the ideal temperature in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
275 degrees is a good setting to use when you’re in a hurry. If you’ve purchased a couple of small pork loins and want to smoke them side by side, you’ll have a decent supply of meat in even less time.
Note that if you’re planning on smoking several smaller loin roasts, they should be about the same size to allow for even cooking. If one of them reaches the target temp long before the others, wrap it in foil and keep it warm in a faux Cambro until serving time.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin at 200
Is it safe to smoke pork at 200 degrees? Yes, but it can be tricky. Here’s why.
Meat needs to stay at temperatures below 40 degrees or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If it stays in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 for longer than 4 hours, there’s a good chance it’s been contaminated.
In that 40-to-140 degree window, bacteria multiply at a rapid rate. That’s why you should keep raw meat refrigerated at 39 degrees or below, and promptly refrigerate any leftovers as soon as the meat has had a chance to cool.
If the smoker temperature swings too far below the set 200-degree threshold, you run the risk of leaving the meat in the danger zone for too long. For large cuts like pork shoulder, this poses a real hazard.
Fortunately, since pork loin is a smaller and leaner cut, the internal temperature should climb past 140 degrees fairly quickly. You shouldn’t have any problem setting the smoker to 200 degrees, but you may be in for a long wait if you do.
Plan on smoking pork loin for 40-45 minutes per pound at 200 degrees. When you factor in the preheating and resting times, that means it could be nearly 5 hours before you get your 5-pound pork loin roast on the table. It may be even longer if your smoker temperature runs on the low side.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin at 220
Now that we’ve established the cooking rates for 275 and 200 degrees, let’s aim toward the middle.
220 is a great temperature to use when smoking pork loin. It’s high enough to keep the meat from straying toward the danger zone, yet still low enough to allow plenty of smoke flavor to penetrate the pork.
Our general recommendation is to set the smoker to 225 degrees; however, 220 is close enough to deliver the same results. At these temperatures, a cooking time of 30 minutes per pound is typical.
When smoking a 5-pound pork loin at 220 degrees, start testing the internal temperature at around the 2-hour mark. The meat should reach the optimum temperature within the next 30 to 45 minutes.
Can You Shred Pork Loin?
If you want to cook your pork loin until it reaches the fall-apart stage, you’ll need to leave it on the smoker until the internal temp registers 200 degrees. Even if you’ve set the temperature to 275 degrees, this could take as long as 3.5 hours. At 220, the pork should reach the “pulled stage” in about 5 hours.
Although delicious in its own right, pork loin isn’t the ideal cut for pulled pork. There isn’t enough fat on the meat to give it the right texture, so the finished product is too dry. You can try coating it in barbecue sauce, but that’s no substitute for all the lovely rendered fat you would get from pork butt.
We would recommend smoking pork loin to 145 degrees and carving the meat into thin slices. This is the best way to enjoy the characteristics of this particular cut. If you want to make pulled pork, invest in a pork butt or shoulder the next time you’re shopping.
The Bottom Line
The higher the smoker temperature, the sooner the pork loin will be ready. Of course, longer smoking times create a deeper flavor profile, so that’s something else to consider. Whenever possible, set the smoker to 220-225 degrees when pork loin is on the menu.
275 is acceptable if you’re in a hurry, but keep a close eye on the pork’s internal temp if you choose to take this route. When you’re dealing with a lean cut like pork loin, the last thing you want is to overcook it.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!