""If I had to narrow my choice of meats down to one for the rest of my life, I am quite certain that meat would be pork." " James Beard
When it comes to selecting large value cuts of meat, boneless pork loin has long been one of my top choices. On sale, it can feed the entire family for nearly the same price as a “supersized” meal from a famous fast food joint.
Sold whole, a boneless pork loin (not to be confused with the much smaller tenderloin) weighs roughly 10 pounds. Most grocers offer smaller three- to five-pound portions that are often labeled as center cut pork loin roast. If, however, smaller sections of the loin aren’t available, you can always portion out a whole boneless roast yourself at home. Simply cut it crosswise. The remaining loin can then be frozen whole or cut into 1-inch thick pork chops to be used at a later date.
As with most value cuts, the secret is cooking it properly. An extremely lean piece of meat, pork loin can easily go from moist and tender to shoe leather if cooked much beyond an internal temperature of 145°F. I’ll admit that I did just that early on in my BBQ career. I decided to smoke a pork loin all day just as I would a pork butt. After the meat reached 190°F, I proudly presented it to our waiting guests only to slice into it and discover a dry-as-bone disaster.
Today, my pork loin skills are much more advanced and I know how to keep it moist and juicy. There is, however, always room for improvement, especially in the tenderness department. Enter my new favorite method of preparation -- sous-vide-que. By cooking the pork loin for several hours in a low temperature water bath, you can achieve melt-in-your-mouth tenderness without compromising on moistness. Plus it's super simple.
After four hours in a warm sous vide bath, you rapidly cool it down in a 50/50 mix of water and ice, and then it can be smoked on the grill without drying it out. Or, if you want to make it ahead of time, you can refrigerate the cooled-down pork loin for a day or two or freeze it for several weeks before heading to the grill.
When you are ready to complete the “que” portion of the sous-vide-que method, simply smoke the pork loin over indirect 325°F heat until it reaches an internal temperature of 120°F (remember, the loin is already perfectly cooked during the sous vide stage, so the goal is to add smoky flavor while heating it through just enough to make it taste pleasantly warm). When it's done, this smoked pork loin will wow your crowd without breaking the bank.
Recipe: Smoked Sous-Vide-Que Pork Loin
Makes. 6 to 8 servings.
Takes. 4 hours to sous vide, 30 minutes to chill, 1 hour to smoke.
Special tools. Sous vide immersion circulator. One gallon sealable freezer bag.
Serve with. A lager or pale ale.
1 boneless pork loin roast, approximately 4 pounds
Meathead’s Memphis Dust dry rub seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt per pound of meat
About the salt: Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
1) Prep. Season the pork loin with Kosher salt. If you can, give the salt 1 to 2 hours to be absorbed. The process of salting in advance is called dry brining. The rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat.
2) Prepare a sous vide immersion circulator, such as Joule by ChefSteps, according to the manufacturer's instructions and set the water temperature for 140°F.
3) Season the pork loin with Meathead’s Memphis Dust dry rub.
4) Place the seasoned pork loin in a gallon-size sealable freezer bag. Carefully submerge the freezer bag in the water bath until most of the air has been removed and then seal. Once the bag is submerged, cook the pork loin for four hours.
5) Once the pork loin has finishing cooking, remove the bag from the water and submerge in a large container filled with a 50/50 mix of ice and water until the meat’s core temperature reaches a safe range of 34-38°F, at least 30 minutes. At this point, the pork loin can be refrigerated until you are ready to grill (up to two days ahead of time) or frozen for future use. Thaw before grilling.
6) Fire up. Prepare a grill for 2-zone cooking. On a charcoal grill, place a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the charcoal grate to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the grill vents to bring the temperature to about 325°F. Add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off (the indirect side) and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 325°F on the indirect side.
7) Cook. Once the grill is ready, remove the pork loin from the ice bath or refrigerator and place on the cooler side of the grill as far away from the heat source as possible. Set the lid on the grill with the top vent fully open and positioned directly above the pork loin in order to force the smoke over and around the meat. Allow the pork loin to smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 120°F, about 1 hour. Note that the pork loin will already be perfectly cooked inside from the sous vide step. The goal is to simply reheat and smoke the pork without overcooking it.
8) Serve. Remove the pork loin from the grill, slice, and serve immediately.