Brined Smoked Pork Loin

A smoked pork loin on a pewter platter.

Want a juicy, tender, brined smoked pork loin? It’s easier than you think. Soaking the meat in a simple bourbon apple cider brine for a couple of hours and smoking it with real apple wood chips or chunks gives you a moist, tender, uber-flavorful roast. Instead of a long smoke at an ultra-low temperature, this smoked pork loin recipe is cooked at an even 350° and is ready in a little over an hour.

Smoked Pork Loin

Scott and I have been making this smoked pork loin recipe for about 3 years and it’s one of our go-to’s because it’s simple to make and always juicy with a meaty, smoked flavor. When you bring this roast to the table, eyes go wide and tummies grumble in anticipation. That’s not an exaggeration.

A photo showing the difference between a pork loin roast and a pork tenderloin.

The difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin

Before we get to the recipe, you may be wondering if a pork loin and pork tenderloin are the same thing. No. They’re not. And it’s important to know the difference.

Pork loin

Pork loin is a larger, thicker cut that comes from higher up on the back of the pig. A whole pork loin can weigh between 6-10 pounds. Pork loins can be cut into smaller roasts or even individual chops.

Newsletter Signup
Join our community of food lovers!

Get my latest recipes, helpful kitchen tips and more good things each week in your inbox.

I’ve found pork loin to be a very economical cut of meat (I source mine at Costco and can usually get a whole pork loin for about $20-$25). At home, I cut the pork into roasts and chops, and even chunk the uneven trimmings for kebabs, soups and stews.


Pork tenderloin, on the other hand, is a much smaller cut and it comes from beneath the pork loin. It has a deeper red color and is the most tender cut from the pig.

They usually weigh between 3/4 pound to one pound and are great for quick grills and sautés with rubs and marinades. You can cook a whole pork tenderloin in about 20 minutes flat.

For this recipe, you’ll need a 3-4 pound pork loin roast, preferably center cut (i.e. it’s not tied with a string).

Making the bourbon apple cider brine.

Bourbon Apple Cider Brine Ingredients

  • Kosher Salt
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Bay Leaf
  • Boiling Water
  • Apple Cider
  • Bourbon
  • Orange Peel

This easy apple cider brine comes together in minutes.

  1. Combine the kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and bay leaf in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it.
  2. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved completely.
  3. Add chilled apple cider, bourbon and orange peel.

Note: Cool the cider brine to room temperature before brining the meat.

I like to put the roast in a zip top storage bag and pour the brine over the top, squeezing the excess air out of the bag so the meat is completely submerged. Just be sure the brine is at room temperature before adding the meat — you don’t want to poach the pork.

Adding bourbon and orange peel to the apple cider brine.

This simple apple cider brine with whole spices, kosher salt and a splash of bourbon infuses the smoked pork loin with flavor and ensures that the pork stays moist, tender and juicy as it cooks.

Don’t over brine the roast. Too long in the brine will actually have a negative effect, making the flesh soft and mealy.

How long to brine pork loin

Unlike larger cuts, a 3-4 pound pork loin only needs to brine for a few hours. Two to three hours is plenty of time.

adding the bourbon cider brine to the pork loin roast.

Best wood to use for smoked pork loin

Apple wood, cherry, pecan and hickory are all good choices. You can even use oak. Avoid mesquite, though, as it’s too strong for the mild flavor of pork loin.

Wood chips or wood chunks?

You can use wood chips or wood chunks {affiliate links} to smoke the pork loin roast. I’ve made it both ways and personally have found wood chips to be a little easier to work with than wood chunks. Here’s the difference:

Smoking pork loin with wood chips

Wood chips need to be soaked in water for about an hour and then transferred to a smoker box or a pouch made from heavy duty tin foil, poked with holes to set over the heating elements of a gas grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can simply sprinkle the wood chips directly over the embers.

Most experts agree that wood chunks don’t need to be soaked before using, however, dry wood tends to catch fire when placed on or near charcoal embers. If using wood chunks, I’d advise having a squirt water bottle handy to put out any flames that spring up.

Lighting the charcoal, arranging cooking zones and adding wood chunks to the charcoal for smoking. Setting up the charcoal grill for smoking.

How to smoke a pork loin

You don’t have to have a special smoker to smoke a pork loin roast. In fact, I’ve made this smoked pork loin recipe on my gas grill, in a regular kettle water smoker, as well as on a charcoal grill. Of course, if you have an electric pellet smoker, you can also use that according to your manufacturer’s directions.

My husband likes setting up his old-school Weber charcoal grill in the back yard, so that’s what we did for this brined smoked pork loin.

  1. Set up your grill for indirect heat cooking. That means the heat source (charcoal embers or heating element) is not directly under the roast. The heat can be on one side and the meat on the other, or you can set up two zones of heat with the meat resting between the two.
  2. For a charcoal grill, we used these charcoal briquet holders spaced opposite of each other on either side of the grill. The meat rests in between the charcoal briquets on the grilling grate that sits above the burning embers.
  3. Place the soaked wood chips or wood chunks (whichever you’re using) on the charcoal embers.
  4. Line the center of the grill with a shallow drip pan or layer of foil (resting beneath the pork) to catch any fat or juices.
  5. Once the wood starts to smoke rinse the brine from the pork loin, pat it dry with paper towels and place it on the grilling rack opposite the heat source. Cover the grill with the lid.
  6. Regulate the temperature by opening or closing the vents as needed. Smoke the pork loin at a moderate 325°-350° temperature for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on the temperature of the grill and size of the pork).
Stages of cooking the smoked pork loin on the charcoal grill from raw to nearly done.

How long does smoked pork loin cook?

This pork loin roast was about 4 pounds and took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the proper internal temperature, but the timing is not absolute. It will depend on the grill temperature and weight of the smoked pork loin.

What’s the safe temperature for pork?

The safe temperature for cooked pork is 145° F or 62°C, however, the meat will continue to cook after you’ve removed it from the grill, so pulling it off a few degrees early is fine.

I actually got a little closer than I’d like on this one. At 144°F, I was slightly nervous that the meat would end up overcooked, but then I remembered the brine. That apple cider brine is a failsafe against dry, overcooked meat. It keeps the smoked pork loin very tender and juicy, even when you’re flirting with the upper range of cooking temperatures.

Using an instant read thermometer to check the temperature of the roast.

Be sure of your temperature

To verify the actual doneness of your smoked pork loin, I recommend a good instant read thermometer. My favorite and the one I stand behind, is the Thermoworks Thermapen One {affiliate link}.

This reliable instant read is remarkably accurate within seconds, has a backlit screen for night time grilling and smoking and folds discreetly away in your kitchen drawer (so you don’t inadvertently stab yourself) which has been known to happen with lesser designs.

The Thermapen isn’t cheap, but it’s the only instant read thermometer you’ll ever need.

Letting the smoked pork loin rest on a cutting board before carving.

Rest the smoked pork

Once the correct temperature has been achieved, transfer the smoked pork loin to a cutting board and lightly tent it with tin foil and allow the roast to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute throughout the flesh.

If you cut into it too early, the juices will spill onto the cutting board instead of staying in the roast. Patience pays dividends.

Carving the smoked pork loin into slices.

The smoke ring

This is a quick smoked pork roast, so you won’t get the distinct red smoke ring around the edge of the meat that you usually find with slow-smoked BBQ. However, you’ll definitely see a light pink hue, around the perimeter indicating that the smoke has permeated the flesh. The photo below shows it in a little more detail.

What to serve with smoked pork loin:

This roast is super tender and juicy with a distinctive smoked flavor that’s irresistible. Any leftovers make great sandwiches, can be chunked into casseroles or diced for a smoky hash.

Carved smoked pork loin with a feint smoke ring around the outside edge.

More grilled and smoked pork recipes:

Tried this recipe? Leave a rating and review.

Your comments and shares are invaluable to me and the thousands of readers who use this site daily. If you've made the recipe, leave a star rating and review. We want to hear how you liked it.

We'd love it if you shared the recipe with your friends on social media!

carved brined smoked pork loin on a platter.
Print Pin
4.25 from 12 votes

Bourbon Apple Brined Smoked Pork Loin

An easy bourbon cider brine and a few hours of low smoke yield a tender, juice, lightly smoked pork loin that’s irresistible.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword pork loin, pork roast, smoke
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free, Egg Free, Gluten-Free
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6


  • charcoal or gas grill
  • 3-4 Apple wood chunks OR 2 cups of apple wood chips



  • 3 tablespoons Diamond Kosher Salt or 2 Tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups apple cider well chilled
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 3×1″ strips orange peel with very little pith


  • 3 pound pork loin roast



  • In a large bowl, combine the kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and bay leaf. Pour the boiling water over the spices and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Stir in the apple cider, bourbon and orange peel.
  • Cool the brine to room temperature before adding it to the pork roast.
  • Trim fat from the pork loin if there’s a lot on the fat cap, leaving about 1/4″. Transfer the pork loin to a large (1 gallon sized) plastic zip top bag. Pour the brine over the pork roast. Squeeze out as much excess air as possible and seal the bag. Put the bag of pork and brine back into the bowl you mixed the brine in and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.


  • Set up your grill for indirect cooking, so that the meat will cook residually by sitting opposite the heat source, not directly over it.


  • Set up your grill for indirect heat. If using a gas grill that means one side of the grill is lit and the other is not. The pork will go on the side that is not lit, while the wood chips or chunks are placed directly over the heating elements to smoke.
    If you’re using wood chips, soak them for about an hour in water before adding them to the smoking pouches. If you have a smoker basket, add the wood chips to the basket. 
    If you don’t have a smoker basket, make one by placing the soaked wood chips in the center of a piece of tin foil. Seal the chips into a pouch and poke the outside of the pouch all over with a knife to create slits that the smoke can escape from.
  • Heat the grill to about 350° – 375° and place the wood pouch or whole wood chunks over the heating element. Note: if the wood chunks start to burn, move them a little further from the flame and douse any flare ups with the water bottle. The idea is to get a steady smoke going. We had a few flameups early on using apple wood chunks and had to maneuver them around before we found the right spot where it would smoke and not burn.
    White smoke means it’s infusing the pork with flavor. Black smoke means fire/burning.
  • Pat the pork loin dry with paper towels and place it on the grill opposite the side that’s lit so it doesn’t get any direct flame. Smoke the meat with the lid on until the internal temperature reads about 140°. The safe internal temp is 145° for pork, but it will continue to cook after you remove it from the grill. It should take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.
    Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness.


  • Start the charcoal using a chimney starter. Add loosely balled newspaper to the bottom of the starter and pour the charcoal into the top. Place the starter on the bottom grates of the grill and light the newspaper. Let the embers burn and simmer until they are ashy and glowing.
    Pour half of the charcoal onto one side of the grill and the other half opposite, so that there are embers on either side, but an open space in the center of the grill. Lay a piece of foil or a foil baking tray in between the embers to catch any juices. (Note: you won’t want to use the juices on the meat, it will be too smoky.
  • When the heat is steady between 350° and 400° add the wood. If using soaked wood chips, sprinkle half of the the wood directly onto the embers.
    If using wood chunks, place 1-2 chunks on or very close to the embers. Note: this is the method we used and the wood caught fire a number of times, but we sprayed the wood with water and it did start to smoke.
    When it starts to smoke, place the upper grate onto the grill. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and position the roast in the center of the grill between the two piles of embers, over the foil.
    Smoke the pork at 350° to 375° for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches about 140°.


  • When the pork roast has reached 140°, transfer it to a cutting board and tent it for 10-15 minutes to let the juices redistribute before carving.
  • Slice the roast into 1/4″ to 1/3″ slices.


Calories: 399kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 51g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 3606mg | Potassium: 985mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

Pin “Brined Smoked Pork Loin” for later!

a pin of the smoked pork loin roast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Shannon Fuller says:

    We are smoking it right now on our traeger. My husband left the fat on. What side should we cook it on, the fat or the bare side?

    1. James Mccall says:

      Fat side up so fat runs down the meat for more flavor.

  2. Andrea Metlika says:

    5 stars
    Wow! What wonderful flavors in this pork. I can just imagine how wonderful it smells and tastes. Cannot wait to try this myself.

  3. 5 stars
    I have a pork loin in the freezer that I am needing to use so I am going to try this this week!

  4. 5 stars
    My family and I are going to love this recipe! I can’t wait to give this a try! Looks so delicious and flavorful!

  5. 5 stars
    I hadn’t ever thought of using apple cider for a brine but I am sure glad I know about it now! Makes the meat so tender and delicious.

  6. Jessica Formicola says:

    5 stars
    We love pork loin at our house, and this apple cider version looks amazing! I can’t wait to make it for dinner this week!