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Forget about the deli counter, and try your hand at making this tender pork lunch meat.
The smoked center cut pork loin is an easy recipe for slicing up and making all-natural, nitrite-free deli sandwiches.
What is center cut pork loin?
Center cut pork loin is a lean cut of meat that runs along the back of a pig. It is cut from the full pork loin and is what remains when the tenderloin, ribs, riblets and other bones are removed.
It can be roasted or smoked whole or cut into boneless center cut pork chops. It’s also the cut used to make Canadian style bacon, which is cured, smoked and sliced
Don’t confuse the center cut pork loin with the pork tenderloin. The tenderloin is part of the loin primal, but it is a long, thin muscle that is a bit more tender.
If you’re looking for a pork tenderloin recipe, try my Quick and Juicy Grilled Pork Tenderloin.
Why is center cut pork loin good for lunch meat?
The most popular pork lunch meat is ham, but if you look for ham in the market, you’ll find that most are already pre-cooked.
You may also see a raw cut called picnic ham. That’s not actually ham. It’s cut from the shoulder; whereas, true ham is from the rear end of the pig. Confused yet?
To make things easy, when smoking pork lunch meat, I use the center cut pork loin.
You can smoke the pork on any type of grill. For homemade lunch meat, I like using a pellet smoker. It delivers that nice mild smoky flavor you’d find in store-bought lunch meat.
The best way to ensure the deli meat has a lot of flavor is to season it, wrap it and let it rest in the fridge overnight so the spices can penetrate into the meat.
After the meat is done smoking, it’s important to let it cool, wrap it up and let it rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. This will help enhance the flavor and make it easier to slice.
What you’re left with is juicy pork loin, perfect for slicing up and piling up on top of bread for the ultimate deli sandwich.
For perfectly shaved lunch meat, I use a meat slicer, but you can also use a sharp knife to cut the meat for a similar result.
- Center Cut Pork Loin: I chose a boneless pork loin roast for this recipe. You can find this at almost any grocery store. It’s also known as a center loin roast.
- Barbecue Rub: I use my own rubs but use any rub or seasoning you like.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to smoke center cut pork loin
- STEP ONE: Start by trimming away any excess fat or silver skin from the pork.
- STEP TWO: Apply dry rub on all sides of the meat. Plan on 2 tablespoons of rub for every 3-4 pounds of raw meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- STEP THREE: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours.
- STEP FOUR: Preheat your grill or smoker to 250F degrees. Remove the plastic wrap from the meat. Place the seasoned pork on the smoker over indirect heat and smoke it until it reaches an internal temperature of 145F degrees. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
PRO TIP: For best results, insert a leave-in thermometer into the pork loin from one end toward the center of the meat. Set the thermometer to 145F. It will sound an alarm when it’s ready.
- STEP FIVE: Remove the meat from the smoker. Let cool on the counter for 30 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The colder it is, the easier it will slice.
- STEP SIX: Using a meat slicer or sharp knife, slice to your desired thickness.
How to serve deli-sliced smoked pork loin
Layer the slices of moist pork loin on top of sandwich bread and add your favorite condiments for a delicious meal.
Leftover center cut pork loin can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
If you decide to freeze the pork loin, portion out individual servings of sliced meat into plastic bags, write a date on them and pop them into the freezer.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Season and chill overnight for enhanced flavor
- Smoke at 250F to an internal temperature of 145F
- Maple and pecan woods match the flavor of pork well
- After smoking, wrap and chill for easier slicing
Frequently Asked Questions
Nope. Feel free to experiment with different flavors like Dijon mustard, chili powder, fresh herbs, brown sugar, black pepper, onion powder, maple syrup or soy sauce.
Slow cooking pork loin at a lower temperature helps it retain its moisture. Also, by refrigerating overnight, the dry brine ensures your pork loin will stay moist throughout the cooking process.
Pork loin is a primal cut. Within that cut lies the tenderloin, ribs, riblets and center cut loin. The center cut loin is the cut used to make pork chops; whereas the tenderloin is often cooked whole and then sliced.
Because this pork lunch meat recipe is made without the addition of additives like sodium phosphates or nitrites, it should be treated like any other cooked meat. Refrigerate it or eat it within 1-2 hours.
More lunch meat recipes
More pork recipes
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Homemade Smoked Pork Lunch Meat
- 3 lb center cut pork loin
- 2 tbsp barbecue rub
- Trim: Trim any excess fat or silver skin from the pork loin.
- Season: Apply the rub on all sides of the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
- Heat Grill: Heat your grill or smoker to 250F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
- Smoke: Remove the pork from the plastic wrap. Place it on the smoker and cook to an internal temperature of 145F degrees. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Cool: Remove the meat from the smoker and let rest for 30-60 minutes.
- Wrap: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
- Slice: Using a meat slicer or sharp knife, slice to your desired thickness.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.