So you bought a whole pork loin at the store and you’re looking for the best way to cook it. Actually, you have several options at your disposal: you could roast the pork loin in your oven, much like you would a beef roast, but because of its smaller size it may be difficult to find just the right temperature and cooking time to optimize the flavor and consistency of the meat.
You could also, I suppose, pan fry it like you would a steak, but a pork loin, being larger than a steak, may burn on the outside during this process, while being under cooked within. You could even smoke the pork loin in your electric smoker if you have about 3-6 hours to kill, but we are assuming with all this talk of pork loin you are really getting hungry now.
Although each of these methods is a possibility, in this article we are going to talk strictly about the BEST and TASTIEST way to cook a pork tenderloin: Grilling It!
- How to Grill a Pork Loin for Best Results
- Step One: Selecting the Perfect Pork Loin Cut
- Step Two: Brine The Pork Loin for Extra Tenderness
- Step Three: Get the Grill Ready for Cooking
- Step Four: Getting the Pork Loin Ready for the Grill
- Step Five: Cooking Your Pork Loin on the Grill
- Step Six: Allow the Pork Loin to Rest
- Step 7: Slice and Serve Your Grilled Pork Loin
How to Grill a Pork Loin for Best Results
In the following step-by-step guide we will take you through the perfect way to grill a pork loin.
Step One: Selecting the Perfect Pork Loin Cut
When shopping at the grocery store, instead of just selecting one of the pork loins that is pre-wrapped, ask your butcher to cut you one instead. This requires a little more effort—and it may cost you a bit more at the cash register—but the end results are well worth it. Be sure to tell the butcher that you want a whole pork loin (not the tenderloin), as this is what we are cooking with this recipe.
Step Two: Brine The Pork Loin for Extra Tenderness
The pigs of yesteryear had a lot more fat and thus marbling throughout the pork loin. As such, there was really no need to brine those cuts, as they were already tender. Today’s pigs, however, are much leaner, which means the meat is a bit tougher. However, by brining the pork loin you can help break down the muscles, which will ultimately lead to a much more tender consistency.
A good brine to use with a pork loin is one made from a quart of water, and a quarter cup each of salt and brown sugar. Heat all of these ingredients in a pan until the water comes to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow the solution to simmer for about 5 minutes. At the end of this period, take it off the burner to cool. Add a few ice cubes to bring down the temperature of the brine—down to about 45 degrees F.
When it has reached this temperature, pour the brine into a plastic bag and add the meat, making sure the cut is totally submerged. Place the bag into a large bowl (just in case of leaks) and put it in the refrigerator. Allow the loin to tenderize and marinate in the brine overnight.
Some may also opt to add other ingredients to their brine, such as onions, garlic cloves, lemon and/or molasses. It is really up to you what you add.
Step Three: Get the Grill Ready for Cooking
Although a pork loin can be cooked on either a gas or charcoal grill, for best results in terms of flavor and tenderness we strongly recommend you use a charcoal grill for this recipe.
Arrange the coals into a small pyramid and light. Give the coals about 30-40 minutes to really heat up, as you are going to start the cooking process with the highest temperature possible. While waiting for the coals to heat up you can apply a light coating of olive oil to the grill. This will keep the skin and meat from sticking when you turn or remove the pork loin.
Once the coals are ready and fully hot, move about ¾ of them over to one side, leaving the other ¼ of the coals on the other side. This will create an atmosphere in which one side of the grill is VERY hot, and the other side is at medium heat.
Step Four: Getting the Pork Loin Ready for the Grill
Getting the pork loin ready for the grill is another step you should do as the coals of your grill are heating. To accomplish this, you will first need to remove the pork loin from the brine solution, where it was marinating overnight. Once removed, pat the pork loin down using clean paper towels, and allow it to come to room temperature.
Take 5 to 10 cloves of garlic depending on the size of your pork loin and mince them until they take on a paste-like consistency. You can use a flat knife to further squish the garlic until you reach the consistency you seek. Place the minced garlic into a bowl and add some kosher salt, a drizzling of olive oil, fresh ground pepper and any other pork seasoning you prefer, such as sage or rosemary. Mix all of the ingredients together.
Using the paste you have created, rub down the entire pork loin, being sure to cover each side. Here you can also add in any dried seasonings you prefer, such as some more pepper or salt or dried rosemary.
Your pork loin is now ready for the grill.
Step Five: Cooking Your Pork Loin on the Grill
In cooking the pork loin on the grill, the first thing you want to do is sear it on both sides. By searing it, you will prevent the moisture from escaping the meat, moisture that leads to tenderness and better flavor. To sear the pork loin, place it on the hot side of the grill and immediately cover it with foil. You can also use an aluminum grill plan for this step by turning it upside down and placing it on top of the meat. The goal is to sear the meat for five minutes in this way, turning once at about the halfway mark, about 2 minutes and 30 seconds into the process.
After you have seared the pork loin, move it to the other side of the grill with only medium heat to roast. Again, you want to cover the top of the loin with foil or an aluminum pan to prevent the top part from becoming burnt. Close the lid on the grill, allowing all of the smoky flavor to penetrate and flavor the meat. You are going to want to roast the pork loin for about an hour in this way, while also turning the meat occasionally. In the last 10 minutes of the roasting process, go ahead and remove the foil and allow the top portion of the meat to brown to perfection.
Pork should be cooked to about 145-160 degrees, so be sure to check and monitor the temperature during the last phase of cooking. Remember, the pork loin will continue to cook once it is removed from the grill, so if you like your meat medium, we recommend you remove it when the internal temperature reaches about 140-145 degrees. Those who prefer their meat a little more well-done can wait until the pork loin reaches about 155 degrees to remove it.
Step Six: Allow the Pork Loin to Rest
Like all pieces of well-cooked meat, pork loin will need to “rest” when taken off the grill before it is sliced and ultimately served. The resting stage is absolutely critical, because it ensures the meat will not fall apart as it is being sliced. It also allows the meat to finish cooking while retaining all of its tasty moisture.
Depending on the size of the pork loin you purchased from your butcher, the meat should be allowed to rest for about 15-25 minutes. Studies show that your meat will reach its optimal temperature about 10-20 minutes after it is removed from the grill, so for a very large pork loin you should probably extend the resting period to about 30 minutes. This is because the meat will be a lot easier to slice once it has had time to cool down a bit.
Step 7: Slice and Serve Your Grilled Pork Loin
Finally, once the pork loin has rested for the optimal time frame based on its size, it’s time to slice and serve the meat. Slice the pork loin against the grain into slices that are about one-half inch in thickness. Only slice the amount you need for that night’s supper. Pork loin will keep better in the refrigerator when it is whole than it will when sliced.
You can serve your freshly grilled pork loin with whatever sides appeal to you. Brown rice, wild rice and rice pilaf are always tasty with pork dishes, as are any number of vegetables. If you prefer, you can serve up an assortment of vegetables by cooking them in a grill pan as you roast the pork loin.
Add a little apple sauce or apple chutney on the side and you have a meal fit for a king: A tender, juicy grilled pork loin with those lovely grill marks, a mess of sides and a sweet treat for dessert.