This smoked pork loin tastes more like deli meat rather than your typical BBQ smoked pork loin or smoked tenderloin. Its production process is very similar to ready-to-eat smoked bacon and backboard bacon. Dry-cured for two weeks, then slow-smoked at a low temperature, cooked and 154F internal temperature, and chilled, it has a very smooth texture and can be easily sliced very thinly. It's perfect for serving as an appetizer or for making sandwiches. You can also use it in place of ham in soups or serve it fried with eggs as a healthier version of bacon. Or make beans with it.
You can make smoked pork loin in several ways. In North America, pork loins are typically smoked at 225F and above. In Poland, meats, just like kielbasa, are smoked at temperatures of 125F - 140F. This is somewhere between what we know as hot smoking and cold smoking. It results in a less grainy, much smoother meat texture. The meat smoked at this temperature retains more liquid too. This is my favorite way to make smoked pork loin.
When meat is smoked at temperatures below 225F, it needs to be cured in pink salt, also known as Cure #1 or Prague Powder #1. Pink salt contains a small amount of sodium nitrite, which prevents harmful bacteria from growing. It also gives the meat its nice pink color and enhances the flavor.
This smoked pork loin can be wet cured, which I have done many times. However, when testing and comparing wet-cured and dry-cured smoked pork loins, I always preferred the texture of the dry-cured version of it. I used to think that wet-cured pork loin would be moister after smoking, but that just wasn't the case. Both had relatively similar levels of moisture in the final product.
Dry-curing is very straightforward. Simply apply the salt, curing salt, and the seasonings, vacuum seal the meat, and refrigerate for 2 weeks. After that, scrape off the excess seasonings from the meat, dry the surface, and smoke. With this method where you add only the required amount of salt, it's impossible to oversalt the meat. It always comes out perfectly salted and seasoned.
Before applying the smoke, make sure that the meat is dry. Let it sit at room temperature for an hour before transferring it to the smoker or the smokehouse. Once the meat is in the smoker, let it warm up for another 30 -45 minutes at about 110F - 120F. Once the meat feels dry to the touch, begin applying smoke.
The smoke flavor is a personal thing, but oak, cherry, or pecan should suit many tastes. How long you want to smoke your pork loins depends on how much smokiness and color you want. I typically smoke pork loins for about 4-5 hours.
'Baking' smoked pork loin
After smoking, the meat is traditionally 'baked' in a smoker or a smokehouse at 167F - 185F, until its internal temperature reaches 154F. This will bring the meat to a safe-to-eat internal temperature. The baking stage may take up to 2.5 - 3 hours or even longer, depending on humidity, ambient temperature, airflow, and other factors.
A much simpler way to bring a piece of smoked meat to temperature is to poach it in water at 167F - 176F. Higher water temperature would be ideal in colder months, while lower would be best for hot summer days.
Poaching softens the crust formed during smoking, not to mention that it takes much less time than baking. Smoked pork loins can also be vacuum-sealed or placed in a plastic bag before poaching to preserve all the color and the smoky flavor. Unlike smoked sausage where there is not much difference between the two poaching methods, I do find that meat poached in bags better retains smokiness and color. The crust on the vacuum-sealed pork loins won't be as soft as on the ones poached directly in water, though.
Drying improves the texture of smoked meats and intensifies their flavor. I dry most of my smoked meats for about 5 days at 55F and 70-75 Rh. I used to dry smoked porked loins as well, but over time I've stopped doing that as I found that I preferred pork loin as is. Drying make makes its texture slightly grainier and less enjoyable. Though, it does improve the meat's shelf life.
Unlike oven-cooked pork loin or BBQ smoked pork loin, this smoked pork loin is best consumed cold and thinly sliced. After poaching, let it could down then refrigerate overnight before slicing and enjoying.
This smoked pork loin will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Just make sure to wrap it in unglazed butcher paper. For longer storage, three months plus, vacuum seal the meat and freeze it.
This post was updated on November 4, 2022.
- 1000 g pork loin boneless
For the wet cure
- 22.5 g kosher salt
- 2.5 g Cure #1
- 3 g black pepper medium grind
- 1 clove garlic pressed or sliced
- 25 g maple syrup
- 1 g ground sage
- 1 g ground coriander
- Trim the pork loin(s) of fat and silverskin. Cut in half.
- Weigh each piece in grams. Divide by 1000, then multiply each ingredient by that number. For example, if the meat weighs 1700 g, you need to multiply the ingredients specified above by 1.7. Use the US Customary measurements if you want but it may be a little more challenging.
- Combine the salt, Cure #1, black pepper, sage, and coriander in a small bowl.
- Rub the dry cure mix evenly on all sides of the pork loin. Evenly apply pressed garlic.
- Place the meat into a Ziploc or vacuum-sealer bag and drizzle maple syrup spreading it evenly over the meat. Seal and refrigerate for 14 days, flipping and massaging occasionally. If using a Ziploc bag, expel as much air as possible before sealing the bag.
- Two weeks later, remove the meat from the bags, pat dry with paper towels, and scrape off excess seasonings. Let the meat rest on a cooling rack for an hour at room temperature.
- When the surface is dry to touch, increase the temperature to 140F (60C) and smoke until the desired color is attained, at least 2 hours adn up to 4-6 hours.
- When the smoking is just about done, fill a large pot with water, heat it up to 176F. Transfer the meat to the pot, as is or packed in vacuum-sealed plastic bags or Ziploc bags, and poach, maintaining the water temperature between 167F and 176F, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 154F, about 40-50 minutes. (See notes).
- Remove the pork loins from the pot and shower with cold water then hang at room temperature to cool down.
- Refrigerate overnight before slicing and enjoying. Store in a fridge, wrapped in butcher paper, for up to 1-2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months. Serve sliced as thinly as you can.