If you have never brined your meats before cooking, you don’t know what juicy and tender is all about! Brining is the trick many professional cooks use to produce tender and juicy meats. I first tried brining with my last Thanksgiving turkey and I felt like immediately calling every former Thanksgiving guest to apologize for cheating them on past turkeys. Well this week, I wanted to cook a pork loin roast on the grill. Pork loin is very lean and lean meats have a tendency to dry out if not cooked properly. To counter-act this tendency, I decided the roast would be a good candidate for brining. I am so glad I decided to brine this pork loin roast because the result was awesome! Most of our simple grilling recipes don’t require a lot of prep time, but this one requires a little more planning. Plan on at least 12 hours of brining, overnight and up to 24 hours is optimal. Trust me on this one though, it is worth it!
What is brining?
Brining is the unsung hero of meat cooking, in my opinion. The actual brining process is similar to marinating. Both processes submerge the meat in a solution and allow is to absorb for some period of time. Unlike marinating though, brining actually packs the cells of the meat full of moisture. In other words, brining actually hydrates the meat. We all know that the opposite of hydration is dehydration, which unless we are making jerky, is a griller’s worst nightmare! The result is an extra juicy and extra tender hunk of meat!
The most common and most important component of brining is salt. In many cases brown sugar is also used to offset some of the saltiness of the brine solution. Once you have the main components (salt, water and sugar), you can pretty much throw any herb in there you want. Here’s my basic brining solution (good for about a 4 pound pork loin roast in this case):
Ingredients and Directions for Making the Brine:
4 – 5 pound pork loin roast (ask the butcher, you want the nice fat layer on the top as well!)
6 cups water
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
2 Bay leaves
1 handful of peppercorns
4 sprigs of Thyme
2 sprigs of Rosemary
- Combine the brown sugar and salt in the water and bring to a boil.
- Stir until dissolved and then add the rest of the brine ingredients.
- Lower heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
- Once the solution has completely cooled (we don’t want to start cooking the meat!), add the pork loin roast and brine solution to a Ziplock type bag. Seal and squeeze out as much air as possible.
- Put the sealed bag with the now brining pork roast into a pot or large bowl, one that can hold all of the liquid in case something happens to the bag (speaking from experience here!). Place the bowl containing the brining meat into a refrigerator for at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours.
How to Cook a Pork Loin Roast on a Gas Grill:
Ok, so now we know about brining and we have soaked that pork loin roast in the brining solution for at least 12 hours. It’s time to start thinking about how to cook this bad boy on the grill. Given the fact that these roasts are a little on the large side, we definitely want to cook them over indirect heat for a longer ammount of time. The process of roasting a pork loin on the grill is similar to roasting one in the oven, except for the smoke! So don’t forget about the smoke pouches for this one! Let’s take a look at the process in detail:
- Remove the pork roast from the refrigerator at least 45 minute prior to cooking. We want to give it a little time to warm to room temperature, so remove it from the brining solution and leave it on a platter on the kitchen counter while we prep the grill and smoke pouches.
- Prepare at least 2 smoke pouches worth of wood chips by soaking them in water for about 30 minutes. Once soaked, form the smoke pouches as detailed in this article.
- After about 45 minutes, rinse and pat the pork roast dry.
- Rub the pork loin with fresh ground black pepper.
- Light the grill to high.
- Once the grill is heated up, add the smoke pouches to the sides of the grill so they can start to smolder.
- Sear the pork loin roast on all sides and create some of those nice grill marks that make us look like we know what we are doing!
- Once the pork roast is seared, turn off the middle burner(s) on your grill to prepare for indirect grilling.
- We want to elevate the pork roast a little so that we can place a drip pan underneath. If you are able to fit one under the grates, go ahead and do so. My grill doesn’t have a separate middle grate, so I use a rack (from a roasting pan) to elevate the roast. As you’ll notice in the photo, I didn’t have an aluminum drip pan so I made one out of aluminum foil :).
- Place the seared pork loin on the grate (or rack) fat side up! Roasting meats fat side up also aides in keeping them juicy!
- We have mentioned this before, but don’t trust your grill’s built in thermometer. We want to roast this pork loin at around 300 degrees, so go ahead and place the thermometer right next to the pork loin on the grill.
- Now close the lid and your job is done for at least an hour! Make sure you monitor the thermometer for the first 20 minutes or so to get the temperature right. Adjust the “on” burners to get the thermometer to 300 degrees. Also, keep an eye on the smoke pouches and add more if needed to keep that smoke going!
- After about an hour, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast and then close the lid.
- Continue cooking until the meat thermometer measures around 150 degrees. This is where a good instant read meat thermometer in invaluable. Don’t use one of those metal dial thermometers, treat yourself to the highly accurate and splash-proof Thermapen. It will last you a lifetime and never needs calibrated. I must have for cooking and grilling. Get it here. If you are an iPhone owner, check out our free MeatTemps reference app that allows you to easily look up the proper internal temperatures for meat.
- Remove the pork loin roast from the grill, place on a platter and cover with a tent of aluminum foil and allow to rest for about 15 minutes before carving.
I have done my share of grilling pork; including BBQ ribs, tenderloins and anything else that can be found on a pig. I seriously do not recall ever eating a more delicious pork roast. The brining definitely kicked up the juiciness and tenderness of the pork loin. Taking the time to cook the pork slow over smoke adds just that much more flavor to this grill recipe. I made a lot in this case and I was happy to eat pork leftovers for about a week. I had sandwiches and even pork quesadillas and was upset to come home and find that my wife had thrown the rest of the roast away. I know it was getting old, I just didn’t want to let go!