The Difference Between Pork Loin & Pork Tenderloin (Smoker Recipes Included)

Oh, there’s a difference.

The Difference Between Pork Loin & Pork Tenderloin (Smoker Recipes Included)

Most of us have probably made the mistake of confusing a pork tenderloin with a pork loin, and vice versa.

But while these two tasty cuts of pork share some similarities, they have a bunch of differences too. Today at Fire Food Chef, we are going to get into all of that and more. 

Pork Loin & Pork Tenderloin: What’s The Difference?

Pork loin and pork tenderloin are not from the same part of the pig.

When looking at these two cuts, you'll see that they look different — pork tenderloin is thin and small, while a pork loin is broad enough that you can cut steak-like pieces from it.

Although both cuts of pork are relatively lean, their shapes and sizes are very much different, so they shouldn't be used to substitute each other in recipes.

how long to smoke pork loin

Pork loin and tenderloin also have different textures. Tenderloin is the most tender part of the pig and is much smaller in size, and pork loins are usually used for roasts or cut into steaks. So if you need to feed a large crowd, don’t substitute pork loin for pork tenderloin.

Pork Loin 101

Location: The animal’s back.

Bone-in or boneless: Pork loin can be bone-in or boneless. Bone-in loins with the backbones removed and the ribs trimmed of meat are sometimes called pork racks, and if the pork rack is tied into a circle, it is called a crown roast of pork.

Size: Pork loin is a large piece of meat. A typical roast can be anywhere from two to five pounds.

Texture and flavor: Fairly lean, mildly flavored meat with a thick cap of fat on top -  tender if cooked properly.

Pork Tenderloin 101

Location: Pork tenderloin is the muscle that runs alongside the backbone.

Bone-in or boneless: Boneless.

Size: Each tenderloin averages about one pound and is sold whole.

Texture and flavor: Tenderloin is lean, delicately flavored meat. It is the most tender cut of pork. The brine is essential for low-fat smoking proteins like pork tenderloin to add flavor and keep them super juicy.

Let's get smokin'!

We’ll be using an electric smoker to smoke our pork tenderloins and loins today (but you can use any type of smoker you have on hand). One of the reasons we have chosen the smoking method is that, once this smoked meat is sliced, it's great to add to a variety of other dishes, plus the smokiness of the meat can add a wonderful flavor dimension to any dish!

So without further ado, let's get started. 

How to Smoke Pork Tenderloin in a Smoker

How to Smoke Pork Tenderloin in a Smoker

What you need:

  • One pork tenderloin
  • 3 tbsp rub of choice
  • 1/4 cup sauce of choice
  • Wood chips


  1. Start the smoker, using a wood of your choice and set the temperature of the smoker for 225F.
  2. Trim pork tenderloin of any fat or silver skin.
  3. Generously rub the spice mix all over the meat.
  4. Place meat in the smoker and smoke till the internal temperature is 145F, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  5. Brush the meat with a sauce of your choice when there is about 30 minutes left to go in the smoker.

How to Smoke Pork Loin in a Smoker

How to Smoke Pork Loin in a Smoker

This pork loin roast is great because it doesn't have a great deal of fat, but it has just enough to keep it juicy while it is on the smoker.

Temperature is everything when it comes to this meat roast. Set your smoker to 225 degrees F and smoke for approx 2-3 hours. Keeping the temperature nice and low in your smoker will ensure that this roast doesn't dry out and maintains moisture.

Tip: applewood and pork are a great combo

What you need:

  • 4-5 pound pork loin roast
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons rub of choice
  • Wood chips


  1. Get the smoke started, preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F.
  2. Trim and score your pork. Pat the roast down with a paper towel. Trim excess fat that is over 1/4 inch thick. Finish prepping by using a sharp knife to score through the fat cap about 1/4 of an inch deep in a diagonal pattern. Because pork loin is a thick-cut, it is challenging to get flavoring and seasoning to the center. Scoring gets the fat cap to render down as it cooks and gets more seasoning into the meat.
  3. Season the roast. Rub the pork with olive oil and ensure it is evenly coated. Sprinkle liberally on all sides.
  4. Once the pork is trimmed and seasoned, place it directly on the grates of your smoker. Close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. This can take anywhere from 2-3 hours.
  5. Remove the pork from the smoker and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes under a tent of foil. Slice against the grain and serve warm.

Smoker Recipes 

Smoked pork loin and tenderloin is a meat that works well any day of the week. Whether you are having guests over or just want something to cook in under an hour on a weeknight, these smoked pork recipes are simple yet pack a sophisticated flavor profile.

Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Pork Tenderloin
Bacon-Wrapped Smoked Pork Tenderloin

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Pork tenderloin
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ Onion, minced
  • 3 Cups spinach
  • 2 Cups mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ Tsp salt
  • ½ Tsp black pepper
  • 10-12 Bacon slices
  • Wood chips – Apple, Cherry or Hickory


  1. Trim the pork tenderloins of any fat and membrane. Holding your knife horizontally, slice the pork tenderloin in half, being careful not to pierce through the other end.
  2. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes and then add the spinach, mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Cook, often stirring, until the vegetables are cooked through. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Once cool, dump the vegetables in a food processor and pulse until they are finely and evenly minced.
  3. Spread the spinach and mushroom mixture evenly in the openings of the pork tenderloin. Close up the tenderloins, ensuring that the mixture stays inside the pocket of the meat.
  4. Wrap the tenderloins with the bacon and place it on a smoker rack. It may be wise to have the tenderloins with the cut open side facing up so that the vegetable mixture will stay in the pocket and not fall out.
  5. Set the smoker to 275°F using wood chips of choice (Apple, Cherry, or Hickory all work great).
  6. Smoke the pork until they reach an internal temperature of 155°F, and the bacon is rendered and starting to crisp. This should take approximately 2 – 2½ hours.
  7. Remove the pork tenderloins from the smoker and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Slice into 1-inch medallions and serve.

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce

What you’ll need:

  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Two pork tenderloins
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Raspberry chipotle sauce
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic minced
  • Two serrano peppers minced
  • 2 tsp adobo sauce
  • 2 pints raspberries
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar packed


  1. Set the temperature of the smoker to 225℉ and preheat, lid closed for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Wash pork in cool water and pat dry.
  3. Cut off excess fat and silverback.
  4. Mince rosemary and thyme and combine with the salt and pepper
  5. Rub over pork and let stand 10 mins.
  6. Place the pork loin directly on the grill grate and smoke until the internal temperature registers an internal temperature of 145℉, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  7. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Raspberry chipotle sauce

  1. While the meat is cooking heat the oil in a medium saucepan and add garlic and pepper and saute for about 2 mins
  2. Add the adobo sauce and stir
  3. Bring to a simmer and add the raspberries
  4. Stir until the raspberries break down and turn into a sauce
  5. Add the apple cider vinegar, salt and sugar and bring back to a boil

Honey-Glazed Smoked Pork Tenderloin

Honey-Glazed Smoked Pork Tenderloin

What you’ll need

  • Two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Two tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Three cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • One teaspoon smoked paprika
  • One teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Two pork tenderloins
  • Kosher salt and black pepper


  • Four tablespoons honey
  • One teaspoon apple cider vinegar


  1. Whisk olive oil, vinegar, garlic, paprika, chili powders and oregano together and add pork to coat thoroughly.  Marinate overnight or 4-6 hours preferred.
  2. When ready to cook, heat a smoker to 225 degrees.  Transfer pork to the smoker, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, and close lid.
  3. Cook to an internal temperature of 145 degrees and remove from the smoker—tent in foil to rest while you prep glaze.
  4. Combine honey and apple cider vinegar and drizzle over sliced pork.

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Glaze

Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Glaze

What you’ll need:

  • 2 Pork tenderloins approximately 2.5 pounds total
  • ¼ Cup yellow mustard
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper


  1. Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees.
  2. Trim excess fat and silver skin from the pork, if your butcher did not do that for you.
  3. Mix all ingredients for the glaze and coat all sides of the pork. Place the pork on a small baking tray to fit inside the smoker. Place in the smoker and cook for approximately 2.5 – 3 hours until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.
  4. Remove from the smoker and tent with foil for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.
  5. You can place this directly on the smoker grill. However, the glaze will drip as it cooks, so you may want to put something underneath to catch the drippings.

Smoked Pork Loin with Raspberry Chipotle Glaze

Smoked Pork Loin with Raspberry Chipotle Glaze

What you’ll need:

  • 1 (4-pound) pork loin
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Three tablespoons dry spice rub for pork
  • 1 (10-ounce) jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 (5-ounce) bottle chipotle hot pepper sauce


  1. Preheat your smoker to approximately 230 degrees F.
  2. Trim the white "silver skin" from the pork loin and lightly coat the entire loin with olive oil. Sprinkle the rub liberally on all sides of the loin.
  3. Place pork in the smoker and smoke until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 150 degrees F, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove pork from smoker and wrap lightly in aluminum foil.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
  5. Place the jam in a medium bowl and stir in about 1/3 of the chipotle sauce. Mix well, adding more chipotle sauce until the heat and taste reach your personal preference.
  6. Unwrap the pork and cover with the glaze. Place on a broiler pan and broil until glaze is bubbling about 3 minutes. Slice pork against the grain and serve.

Bourbon Brown Sugar Smoked Pork Loin

Bourbon Brown Sugar Smoked Pork Loin

What you'll need:

For the pork:

  • One center-cut piece of pork loin (2½ to 3 pounds)
  • Three tablespoons Tennessee whiskey
  • Two tablespoons of your favorite barbecue rub
  • Three tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • Four slices of bacon

For the glaze:

  • Three tablespoons salted butter
  • Three tablespoons brown sugar
  • Three tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Three tablespoons Tennessee whiskey
  • Barbecue sauce (optional)


  1. Using a very sharp knife, cut the roast almost in half lengthwise through one side (stop about 1 inch from the opposite side). Open the roast up as you would a book. Sprinkle the inside of the roast with one tablespoon of the whiskey and let it marinate for 5 minutes. Sprinkle a third of the rub over the inside of the roast. Spread the mustard on top with a spatula, then sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the mustard. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons of whiskey on top of the brown sugar. Fold the roast back together (like closing a book) and sprinkle the remaining rub over the outside.
  2. Cut four 12-inch pieces of butcher's string. Position the pieces of string on the work surface so that they are parallel and roughly 2 inches apart. Place a slice of bacon across the strings so that it is perpendicular to and in the center of them. Set the roast on top of the bacon, positioning its long side parallel to the bacon. Place a slice of bacon on top of the roast. Press the remaining two slices against the long sides of the roast. Tie each piece of string together around the roast so that they hold the slices of bacon against it. Set the pork roast aside.
  3. Make the glaze: Combine the butter, brown sugar, mustard, and whiskey in a saucepan and boil until syrupy, 4 to 6 minutes. Set the glaze aside.
  4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or a smoker pouch and run the grill on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.
  5. When ready to cook, place the pork roast on the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat and cover the grill. Cook the roast until cooked through, 1 to 1½ hours. To test for completion, insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the side of the roast: The internal temperature should be about 160°F. Start basting the roast with some of the glazes after 30 minutes and continue basting every 15 minutes. If you are using a charcoal grill and the pork is not done after 1 hour, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals to each side.
  6. Transfer the cooked roast to a cutting board and let it rest for 5 minutes, then remove and discard the strings. Slice the roast crosswise and drizzle any remaining glaze over it. If you like, serve barbecue sauce alongside.

That’s A Wrap!

So as we have learned today, these two tasty cuts are not the same. And while they do share some similarities, they have a bunch of variations too. Smoking tenderloins and loins is an excellent option because once sliced, they are great to add to many other dishes to your heart's content. 

Until next time Fire Food Chefs!


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About the Author William Clay

William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.