Little black dress or a tank and jeans - either way, this Traeger pork loin recipe fits right in. A low-and-slow cook results in a tender and juicy piece of meat ready for a dinner party or a backyard BBQ.
We love our Traeger Grill. Or rather, I love it. My husband has mixed emotions, because it doesn't allow him to sit outside and "man the grill" for 4-6 hours when he's smoking a piece of meat. Because everything is done through the app, and the temp is controlled automatically, it's essentially hands-off for the most part. (Here's a complete guide to Traeger Grills, if you're on the fence!)
Whether you have a Traeger pellet grill, Pit Boss, or other pellet smoker, you know there's no other really good way to get that smoky flavor you can get from the wood pellets. It's also incredibly easy to take a cut of meat that you're planning on for that evening's dinner, preheat the grill, and throw it on. It'll notify you when it's done. Too easy.
This Traeger pork loin recipe is just that - a cut of meat we threw on there for dinner. While we do use the Traeger for special occasions and family gatherings (and you could use this pork loin recipe there as well!) it's just as useful for every day cooking.
Prepping and Pre-cook
There are lots of different cuts of meat that are consumed when it comes to pork. For this recipe, we're using a pork tenderloin, or boneless pork loin. This is a fairly lean cut of meat when compared to things like a pork shoulder (which is commonly used for making pulled pork like this recipe) that tend to have a lot of excess fat.
Pork chops are another popular lean cut of meat. You can find all of these in a typical grocery store, and they will all have slightly different flavor profiles due to coming from different parts of the animal.
When you unpack your boneless pork tenderloin, you're going to see one side that looks shiny and silver. This is called the silver skin. This is tough and not delicious to eat, so you want to take a sharp knife and try and cut that off, without cutting off a bunch of the meat as well. I use a boning knife to get as close to the meat as possible without removing much of the meat.
Often times when they remove the bone, the pork tenderloin comes in two pieces. I like to use these little silicone doohickies called Foodloops to tie it together, but you can also just use regular kitchen twine and tie a knot!
Once you've removed the silver skin as best as you can, tie it up, and then you're going to season the pork loin with a dry rub mixture. I like to make my own, which I've included my recipe for below. You can also use a store-bought pork seasoning, or even one directly from Traeger - they have lots of options here.
Seasoning and Marinade
I prefer to use a dry rub on this pork loin. If you want to marinate it, you can do that instead. I would just make sure it sits in your marinade in the fridge for a minimum of 3-4 hours.
I find it takes about 10-15 minutes to get the Traeger up to temp for this one, so I like to turn it on to preheat, make the dry rub, and then by the time I'm done prepping the tenderloin, the grill is ready.
If you prefer to marinate, apple juice or apple cider make a great base for a liquid marinade. You can find a great recipe for that here. For a dry rub recipe, you can honestly use any flavors that you like. You want to make sure not to go to heavily on any one spice, or it will overwhelm the others. Spices I like include chili powder, oregano, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and smoked paprika.
Many dry rub recipes include some type of sugar or brown sugar. This can actually help enhance the flavor of the meat and bring out the depth of the seasoning when it's combined with the other spices. I typically try to avoid adding sugar when it's not necessary, but I did add a bit of coconut sugar to this one. Keep it to simple ingredients that you enjoy and that you know compliment each other well!
And, if you have a favorite pork rub that's store-bought, that's ok too. Some days we don't have the time to make our own, and we can be happy with the fact that we are cooking our own pork tenderloin instead of getting take out, and not worry about the pre-made seasoning. 🤷♀️
Once you've got the tenderloin coated with your dry rub, place it directly on the grill with the fat side up for best results. This will ensure that the meat underneath stays tender and juicy while cooking. As the fat melts, it will drip down into and around the meat to help keep it moist and keep it from getting dried out.
Cook it until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 145°. You can use a regular meat thermometer to measure this. Our Traeger has a "meat probe" (insert ridiculous dirty joke here) that we can plug into the grill and set a "probe alarm" (ridiculous joke #2 goes here), which will alert you via your phone when the thermometer has reached the desired temp.
Cooking time will likely be somewhere between 2-3 hours for it to come to temperature. You're working with lower temperatures, and since there's not high heat it's going to take a bit. We call this low n' slow and the end result is worth every minute!
When it reaches 145°, remove it from the smoker. Place it on a sheet pan and tent with aluminum foil. You're going to let the smoked pork loin rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
I like to stick the sheet pan in the oven, but not turn the oven on - this helps keep it warm and contains the heat a bit without doing any additional cooking to the meat.
When you're ready to serve, grab a cutting board. If your cutting board slides around on the counter, put a damp paper towel under it to keep it still. Transfer the tenderloin to the cutting board and slice on the diagonal. You should have a juicy, tender piece of meat that can either be served warm or at room temperature.
What to Serve With
Sweet potatoes are a popular choice with pork - the flavors are very complimentary. I've included four great sweet potato side dish recipe recommendations below that will pair with this dish, depending on the season: twice baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato salad, and spiced roasted sweet potatoes.
I also always serve my pork tenderloin with a side of unsweetened applesauce. It's something my mom used to do when I was a kid and I love the flavor of pork and apples together. (I think it also helped with the dryness, as I think our pork was always overcooked? But now I know better than to overcook it. But I still love a good applesauce dunk!)
Store any leftover pork loin in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the fridge for 3-4 days. I find that anything longer than about 4 days for meat tends to leave the meat a little funky and is past the point you probably want to eat it.
While it does take a bit of planning ahead, this easy recipe makes a delicious meal for a simple weeknight dinner or a great option for a main dish to feed a crowd!
- 4lb pork tenderloin
- pork dry rub seasoning
- apple cider vinegar (optional)
- Preheat pellet grill to 225°.
- If you are making your own rub, mix your rub ingredients together in a small bowl - I combined chili powder, onion powder, sweet paprika, mustard, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and cinnamon for mine.
- Tie up your tenderloin if needed, then coat completely with the dry rub.
- Place pork tenderloin on the pellet grill. Put in the meat thermometer if you have one, and set temperature alarm to 145.
- Close grill (and keep closed!) and allow to smoke for 2-3 hours or until meat reaches the required temperature.
- If you'd like to, you can open it up after about 1-1.5 hours and give it a quick spritz of apple cider vinegar or water to keep it from drying out (not necessary, but helpful.)
- When tenderloin reaches 145°, remove from the grill and transfer to a baking sheet. Tent with aluminum foil and place in cold oven for 20-30 minutes to allow to rest.
- Slice on a diagonal and serve with your favorite veggie sides.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 479Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 233mgSodium: 244mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 82g
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