This smoked pork tenderloin recipe was inspired by my stovetop steak and smoked cured pork chop recipes. In both of those recipes, I salt and season the meat well in advance. This helps the lean tenderloin meat come out juicier, smokier and more flavorful that ever. I like this method a lot!
Salt tenderizes and amps up the flavor of the meat over time. When you put salt on the meat, it draws water to the surface through the osmosis process. This makes the surface wet, which is not good for smoking. However, over time, the salt will get diluted in the released water and will get re-absorbed back into the meat along with most of the water. This flavors the meat inside out. Lean and bland cut like tenderloin greatly benefits from this.
I find that 24 to 48 hours is sufficient for getting pork tenderloins properly flavored. You can go a little longer if you want but its not necessary. If you don’t have the luxury of a full day, try 8 to 12 hours and you will still notice a difference.
Another benefit to this is that a day or two in the fridge will help the formation of a pellicle on the surface of the meat. The pellicle is a dry sticky layer that makes the smoke stick to the meat. You get better color and better smoky flavor, and you get it faster.
This is especially beneficial for thin cuts like tenderloin as they cook quite fast. It’s hard to put a good smoky flavor on meat in just 90- minutes, but if the meat goes in the smoker with a dry, sticky surface, you will get a much better color in that short time.
The pellicle will also help seal in the juices, making the meat retain more water during smoking. This makes smoked tenderloins remain moist and succulent.
So, if you have the time, I highly recommend seasoning the meat beforehand. If you can’t afford a day or two, do it overnight, or even a few hours beforehand. Just make sure that the surface of the meat is dry before sending it to the smoker. It also helps to let the meat sit at room temperature for about an hour. This will warm up the meat’s surface which will prevent condensation once the tenderloins get into the pre-heated smoker.
- 3 lb pork tenderloin Two 1.5-lb pieces
- 2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- 2 tsp black pepper coarsley ground
- 2 tsp ancho chile powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder or granulated garlic
- 1 tsp onion powder or granulated onion
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- Mix the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Apply the rub evenly, patting down to make it stick to the meat.
- Place the seasoned tenderloins on a baking sheet fitted with a cooling rack. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, uncovered.
- Preheat the smoker to 225F - 250F. Smoke the tenderloins over cherrywood smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145F, about 1.5 hours.
- Remove the cooked tenderlions from the smoker, wrap in butcher paper and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving.