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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Best Way to Grill a Whole Pork Loin



If pork doesn't get your mouth watering, I don't know what will!
If pork doesn’t get your mouth watering, I don’t know what will!

There are some people who are afraid to grill a whole pork loin. I know you’re out there. You cut it up into slices, grill the outside, and then shove it in the oven to finish. No, no, don’t hide, come right out. Today is your day.

There are, of course, some secret tips to producing a fantastic grilled pork loin. And, as we all know, secrets are meant to be shared!

Step 1: Choose your cut

The first is to make sure you have a pork loin. I know, it sounds obvious, but stick with me! Pork loin and pork tenderloin may sound similar, but they are different cuts of meat. Both of them come from below the spine on either side of the pig, but tenderloin is the most tender cut on the whole animal. It is a long thin cut, whereas the pork loin or loin roast is a cylindrical, thicker cut.

Once you have the right cut, prepare the loin by removing the silvery-white sinew from around the meat (if the butcher hasn’t already).

Preparing a lot of meat at home? You’ll probably want to know about the best wood butcher’s block.

Step 2: Brining the loin

Because today’s pig is a leaner animal than 50 years ago, you don’t find a lot of marbling. As such, it’s extra important to ensure you keep the moisture in the pork when you cook it. One way to do this is by brining.

You can brine more than pork! Check out my salmon brine recipe.

Brining helps to break down the thick muscle meat and allow the meat to stay moist, even when grilling. A basic brine recipe for pork is a quart of water, a quarter cup of salt, and a quarter cup of brown sugar.

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You can also add spices, chopped garlic or onion, or even a dash of molasses or brandy.

How to brine your loin

Adjust the recipe to make sure your entire loin is submersed. Put the water and other ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove from the heat to cool.

Add a couple cups of ice to bring the temperature of the brine down to about 45° F.
Pour the brine in a plastic bag and add your meat, shake if you have spices added, then place the bag into a bowl in case of leakage. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.

Don’t spend the afternoon cleaning up leaks and spills! Consider using a vacuum sealer for brining meat.

Step 3: Preparing the grill

Build a fire or heat the grill to a high temperature. Lightly oil the grill grate. Move the majority of coals to one side to create a hot side and a medium-low temperature side.

If you have a gas grill, heat to high and allow the grill grate to heat for a few minutes before placing the meat.

If you don’t yet have one, see my recommendations on great gas smoker combination grills.

Step 4: Preparing the loin

Remove the pork loin from the brine solution and pat dry with paper towels. Prepare a paste by mincing five or six cloves of garlic, then drag your knife across the minced garlic, pressing and pushing down firmly with your knife. Work in a bit of oil and some kosher salt and ground pepper.

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Rub the outside of the pork loin with the mixture, adding a sprinkle of any other herbs you like for pork, like rosemary.

You can also cook up some veggies while the grill is hot, by using a grill basket. Might as well!

Step 5: Grilling the loin

Let's get grillin'
Let’s get grillin’

Place the loin on the high heat side of the grill and cover with a sheet of heavy aluminum foil or a disposable aluminum roasting pan turned over. You can also just close the grill. Let it roast on high heat for about 5 minutes to sear the outside of the meat. Turn once.

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Move the pork loin to the low heat side of the grill, or reduce the heat to medium. Close the grill or cover with the aluminum roasting pan or the foil. Let roast for an hour or an hour and a half, turning occasionally.

Please always ensure your meats are cooked to safe temperatures with a reliable meat thermometer.

Tip: It’s okay to let a spot or two on the loin get black and crusty.

Pork should be done to an internal temperature of 145° to 160°F, that is, medium rare to medium doneness.

Tip: Once the pork achieves an internal temperature of about 140° to 145°F, remove it from the heat and cover.

NOTE:You may read that pork should be cooked to 160°F. In 2011, a study indicated that an internal temperature of 145o°F in pork was the equivalent of 160°F overall temperature.

You can do a quick test for doneness with the “I solemnly swear” test.

Step 6: Let your loin rest

The critical resting stage ensures the meat holds together when sliced.
The critical resting stage ensures the meat holds together when sliced.

Let the meat rest 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Meat continues to cook for a few minutes after removal from the heat, so your loin will reach optimal temperature anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes after resting. But, meat holds together better when cool. Think about taking out that piece of leftover roast beef from the refrigerator. It’s a lot tougher when cold, then it was the day before fresh from the oven.

Can’t finish that whole pork loin? See the best containers for freezing leftovers.

Allowing meat to rest helps the meat retain its juiciness and also makes it easier for you to slice.

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Plating a delicious pork loin roast from the grill, with those enticing black grill marks and those lovely odors of spices, will bring your guests running. Serve up a few BBQ appetizers, a cold beer, and have yourself a feast fit for a king!

Need a grilling pan? Check out this selection for your next barbecue.

Can’t get enough BBQ? Me neither! Check out my favorite dry rub recipe for brisket! You might also enjoy reading about the best indoor grill for delicious Korean BBQ. Indoor means you can have your favorite barbecue dishes, any time of the year.

If you love cooking Asian inspired meals you should invest in a wok. I’ve got recommendations for the best electrical woks.