Barbecue and pork are a match made in heaven. From baby back ribs to succulent pork shoulder, the mild flavor serves as the ideal template for the smoky goodness of the grill.
In this guide, we’ll talk about how long to smoke pork loin per pound without drying out the meat.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin Per Pound
The best way to smoke pork loin is to set the smoker temperature to 225 degrees and cook the pork for about 30 minutes per pound. Using this formula, a 3-pound pork roast should be done in an hour and a half, while a 5-pounder needs a 2.5-hour window.
About Pork Loin
Unlike some barbecue staples, such as pork butt, the loin is a lean cut of meat taken from the spinal region of the hog. That means it requires a cooking technique that might differ from what you’re used to.
A typical pork loin roast ranges from 2 to 5 pounds. Butchers often carve it into slices and sell them as pork loin chops. Because it’s relatively large when sold whole, the cut may be referred to as a pork loin roast.
It’s possible to buy bone-in pork loin, in which case the roast may be labeled as a center cut rib roast. The boneless version of this cut would be a center cut pork loin roast, or simply a center cut pork roast.
A pork loin roast requires a longer cooking time than pork chops, or even a whole pork tenderloin (see below). If you have the time to devote to it, however, this is an excellent choice when you’re planning on serving a crowd.
Pork Loin vs. Pork Tenderloin
Don’t make the mistake of buying pork tenderloin instead of pork loin. Although both are delicious, they’re different cuts of meat that call for different techniques.
The pork tenderloin is a long, narrow cut that’s usually thicker on one end than the other, depending on how it was butchered. A whitish silverskin can be found running along one side. This silverskin is usually removed before cooking.
Pork tenderloin cooks quickly—at a rate of about 25 minutes per pound when the oven or smoker is set to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also grill it over high heat. As the name suggests, the meat is especially lean and tender, but it doesn’t have a great deal of flavor on its own.
Pork loin, on the other hand, is a thicker roast with a uniform barrel shape. Due to its larger size, it benefits from long, slow cooking applications. It also costs less per pound than the tenderloin.
How To Choose A Pork Loin Roast
Select a pork loin roast with a healthy pink color. Some darker reddish areas may be present, as well as patches of the intramuscular fat known as marbling.
Avoid any cuts that look suspiciously pale. If there are dark blotches on the fat, or any gray or green patches on the meat itself, choose another roast.
How To Store Pork Loin
For best results, cook the meat the same day you buy it. If this isn’t a possibility, the roast should keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
It’s also permissible to freeze the roast for later use. When the meat is stored at 0 degrees or below, it will keep indefinitely. To preserve the texture, however, we would suggest thawing and cooking it within 6 months.
Best Internal Temperature For Pork Loin
In the olden days, experts claimed that pork had to cook to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees before it was safe to consume. Happily, the USDA revised those guidelines in 2012. The recommended temperature for lean cuts of pork, including the loin, is now 145 degrees.
Why the change? Breeding practices have changed a great deal, resulting in leaner pork. Since the meat from the average pig is so lean, it will dry out if it’s cooked to 160-165 degrees. This excludes naturally fatty cuts like the Boston butt and the picnic shoulder.
The health risks that came along with consuming undercooked pork are no longer as much of a concern, either. Since breeders have altered their feeding practices, instances of trichinosis have dropped off significantly. This means it’s no longer dangerous to consume pork that’s cooked to just 145 degrees.
Remember that meat continues to cook during the resting period. This is especially true when you’re dealing with large roasts. It’s fine to pull pork loin from the smoker when the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees, but you might want to leave it until it hits 145, just to be on the safe side.
How Long To Smoke Pork Loin Per Pound: A Guide
When the smoker temperature is set to 225-250 degrees, expect pork loin to cook at a rate of 30 minutes per pound. Since the average weight of a pork loin roast is about 3 pounds, you’re looking at a smoking time of roughly 1.5 hours.
Remember that the total cooking time depends on a number of factors. The size of the roast is the primary one, which is why we’re using a per-pound template for the estimate.
The cooking temperature is another important factor. Although we suggest setting the smoker to 225 degrees, the actual temperature could vary depending on the quality of your unit. The weather outside could contribute to erratic conditions inside the smoker, too.
Our best advice is to keep an eye on both the smoker temperature and the internal temperature of the pork loin. When the latter reaches 145 degrees, you’re ready to start the resting period.
How Long To Smoke a 5lb Pork Loin
Using the calculated rate of 30 minutes per pound, you can anticipate a 2.5 hour cooking time for a 5-pound pork loin roast. This assumes a cooking temperature of 225 degrees. If you turn the smoker up to a higher temp, the pork will cook through more quickly.
At 275 degrees, a 5-pound pork loin should hit the 145-degree mark in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. When the heat is cranked to 325, the cooking time is reduced to 1.5 hours.
Use a lower temperature setting whenever possible. This will give any fat a chance to render and make the pork loin roast more tender and juicy throughout. For times when you’re in a hurry, a 325-degree smoker will work, but try not to go any higher than that.
Can You Use Pork Loin To Make Pulled Pork?
This isn’t a recommended practice, because the meat is so lean. When you’re making pulled pork, you want the meat to contain plenty of fat, so it will enrich the meat. If you cook pork loin until it’s tender enough to shred, it will have a texture that resembles sawdust.
Should you decide to ignore this advice and cook the pork to the falling-apart stage, wait until it reaches an internal temperature of 200 degrees. At 225 degrees, a 5-pound pork loin should hit this threshold in about 5 hours.
When the smoker is set to 275, the same cut of pork should reach 200 degrees in 3.5 hours. If you opt for a 325-degree cooking temperature, it will be ready to shred in about 2.5 hours.
The Bottom Line
Our suggested smoking temperature is 225 degrees. Assuming that your unit runs accurately, your smoked pork loin roast should be ready in 1 to 2.5 hours, depending on how big it is.
When you get within 30 minutes of your estimated finish time, start checking the internal temperature of the roast every 10 minutes or so. That way, you’ll be able to tell when it’s getting close. Overdone pork isn’t the end of the world, but it’s better to avoid it if you can.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!