Start with a pork loin that is in the 5-pound range, which is just the right size to fit on any smoker or grill. Rinse the meat under cold running water, blot dry with paper towels. Using a clean, sharp knife, trim the fat cap so as to leave at least a ¼-inch of fat. Any less and the pork will be drier and anymore, the fat will prevent the brine solution and rub from seasoning the meat.Next, using a sharp knife, score the fat cap and set aside.
Score The Pork Loin:
Scoring meat is a culinary term that means cutting slits on the surface of the food. Add a crosshatch pattern, starting with diagonal cuts approximately 1 inch apart across the surface of the fat cap, only allowing the knife to penetrate about ⅛ to ¼ inch deep. Turn the meat 90 degrees to add a crosshatch. Scoring across in the opposite direction. Scoring makes little pockets that allow the bacon fat, rub and sauce to penetrate into the meat below the fat cap, making the meat flavorful and juicy. Combine all the brine solution ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk well until the salt has dissolved completely. Allow the brine solution to sit for 2 to 3 minutes to settle. This will allow the red crushed pepper to float to the top, which will keep the meat injector from clogging up.Next, submerge the meat injector into the bowl and fill with the brine solution.If the meat injector clogs, simply push the plunger to release some brine solution and then start pulling it again to fill with the brine solution.Place the meat inside the zip-top bag to inject the pork loin. (Sometimes a quick plunge can cause the injector to squirt brine solution everywhere and the bag will keep you from having to wash your cabinets or even worse rinse your eye out! Not that I am speaking from experience or anything...) Plunge the needle deep inside the meat, while pushing the plunger with a slow and steady force. Withdraw the needle gradually with each plunge. It’s important to minimize the number of holes you put into the meat. You can do this by angling the needle in 2 or 3 different directions using the same entry point. Continue to inject the meat cannot hold any more liquid and the brine solution begins to leak from the holes.Squeeze as much air out of the zip-top bag and seal tightly so that the pork loin is completely submerged in the brine solution. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Wrap The Pork Loin In Bacon
After applying the rub, you can easily wrap the pork loin in bacon strips by wrapping individual strips around the pork loin using butcher's twine to secure it to the meat.ORMake a Bacon Weave (SEE VIDEO BELOW): Start by laying 7 or 8 slices of bacon tight against each other, horizontally in rows on a sheet of parchment paper or butcher’s paper. If the bacon is larger at one end than the other, alternate the direction the bacon slices end to end can compensate for any curve so that the weave will be more square. The width of the bacon slices should match the length of the strips.Begin to build the weave by folding back every other strip half onto itself. Lay one strip of bacon perpendicular to those folded strips, flush up against the back of the folds. Unfold the folded row of strips back over the perpendicular slice of bacon.Next, fold back every other strip that wasn’t folded back before. Lay one strip of bacon perpendicular to those strips, tightly up against the back of the folds. Then unfold the folded strips back over the perpendicular strip of bacon.Repeat the process, continuing to weave the bacon, alternately folding and unfolding the horizontal over the perpendicular strips of bacon. When the weave is complete, there should be the same number of strips going down as there are going across.Chill the bacon weave until needed.
Rub and Wrap the Pork Loin
Using tongs, lift the pork loin out of the brine solution inside the zip-lock bag. Blot dry with paper towels. If not already, lay the bacon weave out on a piece of parchment paper or butcher paper. The lay the pork loin fat cap side up in the center of the bacon weave. Rub the pork rub mixture onto the meat, making sure to cover each end. Flip the pork loin over so that the fat cap is down and rub the “bottom” of the pork loin. The pork loin should be completely covered in rub with the fat cap side down in the center of the bacon weave.Wrap the bacon weave around the pork loin as if it were a bacon blanket, using the parchment paper to help roll the bacon weave around the meat. If your weave doesn’t completely cover the pork loin, finish covering it with extra strips laying across the gap horizontally. Use butcher’s twine to help hold the bacon weave securely in place around the meat. Tie the twine around the meat is 2 to 3-inch sections. Then tuck any loose edges of the bacon weave into itself or the twine.
Prep the Smoker or Grill
Smoking is a form of indirect cooking and usually takes place over a period of hours over low temperatures. Set up your smoker for what is called the burn-down method. To do this, fill the charcoal bed with unlit coals and add only a few lit coals to the very top. The coals on top slowly light the ones underneath and burn down slowly over time. If using a charcoal grill, set it up for an indirect heat technique with a drip pan. Fill the drip pan with half water and half apple juice (About 32-ounces of each, but doesn’t have to be exact.) directly underneath the meat to stabilize the temperature.Meanwhile, soak a few handfuls hickory wood chunks for about 30 minutes in warm water before placing atop the coals.Preheat the grill from 225 to 250 degrees F. To maintain this low temperature, use only half as much charcoal as usual. (A half chimney-full.)
Smoke the Pork Loin
When the smoker or grill is the ideal temperature range, you are ready to smoke, place the bacon wrapped pork loin seam side down onto the hot grate directly over the drip pan. Toss a hand full of the soaked wood chunks and some dry wood chunks onto the coals and cover the grill. Use a combination of dry and wet wood chunks, alternating between the two. The dry gives a quick intense smoke and brings the heat up. The wet wood chunks provide a lower, slower smoke and bring the heat down. Heat adjustments can be made using this technique.Bring the temperature up to 225 degrees F, using the vents to regulate the temperature.
Low and slow
You will need to add fresh coals and more wood chunks to each side of the grill every hour for at least the first 4 hours. Check the temperature of the grill every hour, staying as close to 225 degrees F as possible. Resist the temptation to open the lid. Only open the charcoal door or the lid if you need to add more charcoal or soaked wood chips to maintain temperature and smoke. After at least 4 hours, check the temperature of the meat to see where it is and get an idea of how much more time it will need to smoke.
Test For Doneness
You want to smoke the pork loin until the internal temperature of the pork is at least 145 degrees F (medium rare) at a minimum. A 3 to 4-pound pork loin typically takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours to reach 145 degrees smoking at 250 degrees. Our pork loin was an overachiever. Its weight was close to 6 pounds, so it took it twice the amount of time! David put the pork loin on the grill around 12:30 p.m. and it was taken off about 6:00 p.m. We also like our pork well done, so we like the internal temperature somewhere around 150 degrees F.
Saucing the Pork Loin
During the last ½ to 1 hour of smoking, baste the pork loin with barbecue sauce using a brush or mop. How often and how much sauce you put on is up to you.
Resting the Pork Loin
When the smoked pork loin is done, carefully remove it from the smoker or grill and place it onto a platter or cutting board. Tent with foil and allow it to rest as you would with grilled or roasted meats. Allowing the pork to rest before slicing lets the meat fibers relax, moisture that was driven out is redistributed and reabsorbed by some of the dissolved proteins. Rested meat holds on to more of its natural juices. This also keeps your platter or cutting board from flooding with meat juices when you slice it into the pork. A good 10 to 15-minute rest should do.
Slicing and Serving Bacon Wrapped Hickory-Smoked Pork Loin
First, remove cut and remove the butcher’s twine from around the smoked pork loin. Then slice the pork loin into slices about ½ to 1 inch thick. Any thinner and the bacon tries to come off from around the slice. Serve drizzled in sauce or with sauce on the side.
Bacon Weave Notes:You may not use all of the two pounds of bacon, but some of the leftover bacon may be needed if the weave doesn’t completely wrap the pork loin.Our bacon weave was too small to fit all the way around the pork loin. To compensate for the uncovered portion of the pork loin. We lined strips across the naked portion and used the butcher’s twine to help secure it.After this was all said and done, I learned from reading BarbecueBible.com that you can cover the bacon weave with plastic wrap and gently roll it with a rolling pin to tighten the weave. As a result, the rolling helps to expand the dimensions of the weave slightly. Doing so ((MAY)) have helped to cover the pork loin a little better. We will definitely try this next time to see how it does.
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