A bone-in pork loin can become many things. Cut the ribs away from the loin, and you’ll have baby back ribs and a boneless pork loin. Slice the loin between each bone, and you’ll get pork chops, but leave it together and you’ll get a big barbecue payoff with incredibly little effort.
When approaching the process for a smoked pork loin, I had to call Roy Perez of Kreuz Market, in Lockhart. The longtime pitmaster at one of Texas’s oldest barbecue joints has been smoking this cut since he started there, and this is where I first fell in love with it. Much like with a slice of brisket, the seasoning and smoke flavor is concentrated around the outer edges, but at Kreuz, the saltiness goes deep into each cut. Perez said that’s because “everything that we sell here, we season it the night before.” Their mix of salt, black pepper, and cayenne is like a dry brine for all of their barbecue, which goes on the pit in the morning.
As for the cooking, it couldn’t be more simple. Leave the meat bone side down in the smoker for one and a half to two hours. Kreuz Market’s pits run pretty hot, but Perez keeps the pork loins toward the center of the pit, where it’s cooler. To check doneness, he said to look for the meat to pull back from the rib bones, leaving the bones exposed (I use a meat thermometer).
At home, I salted a bone-in pork loin from Central Market and left it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight (this recipe will also work fine if you season the meat just before smoking). I applied the rest of the seasoning just before it went into the smoker the following day. By then, the surface of the meat was pretty dry, so I used a yellow mustard slather to allow the rub to stick more easily. For the rub, just make sure it’s low in salt if you salted the meat the day prior.
I hung the pork loin bone side down in a charcoal-fired Pit Barrel Cooker (with some oak wood chips added for smoke) that was humming along at between 270 and 290 degrees. Any offset smoker will also work well. I left myself two hours for cooking, but checked the internal temp at the ninety-minute mark. It had already reached 140 degrees, which was surprisingly fast, but a good target for doneness. I quickly finished the sides for a dinner that was about a half hour earlier than expected, and let the meat rest for twenty minutes. The meat was incredibly juicy when I sliced into it, but all the pink was gone. (Remove it at 135 internal if you’d like a more rosy interior.) It was salty throughout, with a bold smokiness on the exterior, and I was able to snag both of the end cut chops, my favorite, for myself.
Bone-in Pork Loin
1 bone-in pork loin roast (at least four bones’ worth)
Low-salt barbecue rub
The night before cooking, apply kosher salt liberally to all surfaces of the pork loin. Use 1.5 percent of the weight of the meat to determine your salt amount if unsure. Let the salted meat sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.
Prepare a smoker at 275 degrees. While heating the smoker, remove the pork loin from the refrigerator and cover with a thin coating of yellow mustard. Apply barbecue rub to cover all surfaces, and place into the preheated smoker. Smoke for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until internal temperature of the pork is 140 degrees. Rest for 20 minutes and slice between each bone to serve.