This is part of a series of recipes we did for the Joe Bon­wich and the St. Louis Post Dis­patch that incor­po­rat­ed soda in cook­ing recipes, or in this case, grilling. The impe­tus for this endeav­or was an arti­cle Joe was work­ing on about the Ski soda com­pa­ny which is an icon in South­ern Illi­nois.  You can read the arti­cle here and see this par­tic­u­lar recipe here, that is if you don’t want to go out and buy an actu­al news­pa­per.

We also did wings in an orange soda/hot sauce glaze.  Since I nor­mal­ly brine my pork ten­der­loins in apple juice, gar­lic, black pep­per and salt, this seemed like an easy tran­si­tion.

I actu­al­ly did a side by side between ten­der­loins brined in root beer and those brined in orange soda.  I’m only going to dis­cuss the root beer one because the fla­vor of the orange soda didn’t trans­fer to the fin­ished prod­uct.  The one done in orange soda was real­ly good, but we couldn’t taste the orange soda in the fin­ished prod­uct.  We could def­i­nite­ly taste the root beer.

Brine Ingre­di­ents:

2 (12-ounce) cans root beer
2 cloves gar­lic, rough­ly chopped
1/4 cup salt
2 tbsp fresh­ly ground black pep­per
2 (1 pound) pork ten­der­loins

Rub Ingre­di­ents:

1 tbsp brown sug­ar
1 tsp cin­na­mon
1 tsp nut­meg
1/8 tsp ground clove
1 tsp gran­u­lat­ed gar­lic
1 tsp smoked papri­ka

First a lit­tle about brin­ing.  What is a brine?  In the sim­plest term it’s salt water.  But doesn’t salt dry things out?  Nor­mal­ly it does, but in this case it does the exact oppo­site.  See, the salt forces water out of the salt water solu­tion and in this case into the meat sub­merged with­in.  So it makes meat juici­er.  Salt water also begins break­ing down con­nec­tive tis­sue and thus makes meat more ten­der.  If you stopped there you would be ahead of most peo­ple.  But there’s one more step to take to anoth­er lev­el.  What if that flu­id mov­ing from the salt solu­tion into the meat had added fla­vor?  In this case root beer, gar­lic, pep­per (or what­ev­er you want to use in your brine).  Then it also adds fla­vor.  So when peo­ple ask me if they should brine, I always say, “Absolute­ly.  It mois­tur­izes, ten­der­izes and fla­vorizes the meat.”  If you’ve nev­er brined, please do a side by side some time and I guar­an­tee you will always brine from that point on.

Back to the grilling recipe.  Com­bine the root beer, minced gar­lic, fresh ground black pep­per and salt in a bag and seal.  Swish the flu­id around until the the salt is dis­solved and then put the pork ten­der­loins in and put in the fridge overnight.  You can do this for as lit­tle as two hours for as much as 12.  I don’t rec­om­mend much more than 12, but the longer the bet­ter.  Here are my pork ten­der­loins ready to be removed from the bags:

Soda Brine

Remem­ber, I did orange soda too.  Guess which one is in front.  Like I said, the orange didn’t have much fla­vor in the fin­ished prod­uct of the soda so I’m not going to focus on it.  All it did was turn the ten­der­loins orange and make them sweet­er:

Orange Ten­der­loins

As opposed to the reverse seared pork ten­der­loins brined in root beer:

Root Beer Brined

As you can see I have two loins for each.  Usu­al­ly pork ten­der­loins are sold two to a pack­age.  They are very, very lean, and thus can dry out pret­ty quick­ly, even with the added mois­ture of the brine, so I always rec­om­mend tying two togeth­er so they insu­late each oth­er and don’t dry out.  And always go fat end to to skin­ny to keep the meat a uni­form thick­ness.  See above where the bot­tom loin tapers to the left?  And how the top one tapers to the right?  Tie them togeth­er with cook­ing twine and then you have a nice, stan­dard thick­ness for the ten­der­loin and thus it will even­ly cook:

Tied Togeth­er

I stopped buy­ing my cook­ing twine local­ly because it is so expen­sive for the most piti­ful lit­tle rolls. I got mine on Ama­zon with a stain­less hold­er that I can refill again and again for the cheap. If you just want the ball of cook­ing twine, they have that too.

Now time to make the rub.  Com­bine the dry rub ingre­di­ents in a bowl and mix thor­ough­ly.  Pat dry the ten­der­loins with a paper tow­el before apply­ing a rub.  If the loins are wet, a lot more of the rub will stick to the cut­ting board than it will to the meat.

Here are both sets of pork ten­der­loins tied off and rubbed down (root beer in the fore­front):


Set up the grill for indi­rect grilling with coals on one side and noth­ing on the oth­er.  For this I used the green­est Brad­ford pear I pos­si­bly could.  At 9 that morn­ing the wood was still attached to a tree.  At 2:00 pm, it was smok­ing my pork.  Most peo­ple think that orna­men­tal fruit trees are not the same as reg­u­lar fruit trees.  And most peo­ple think wood has to be dry and aged to be used for smok­ing.  This is to show that both are myths.  Myron Mixon uses the green­est peach he can when he grills and he’s done pret­ty well.  And use your crab apple or dou­ble blos­som cher­ry branch­es.  They both smoke just as well as reg­u­lar apple and cher­ry wood.

Here I have the meat on the right and coals on the left with the pear chunks:

On the Grill with a lit­tle Pear Wood

It took longer for the pear to get smok­ing, but after it got going it was fine.

After an hour in a 250 degree grill my ten­der­loins are ready to go over to the hot side of the grill for the reverse sear method.  What is the reverse sear method?  Many folks sear meat, and then smoke it, but once the out­side skin of the meat reach­es between 140–160, it won’t allow any smoke pen­e­tra­tion.  Here we smoked for an hour, and then seared.  That way I get my smoke fla­vor added and the nice fla­vor crust.  It’s the best of both worlds and adds depth to the fla­vor pro­file of the fin­ished prod­uct.

At this point, if you are doing this at home and you push your tongs into the ten­der­loins you’re think­ing these things aren’t close to being done.  And they aren’t.  They should be around rare right now.  Fin­ish­ing the reverse sear will take them up to between medi­um rare and medi­um because it’s not just a sear on the top and the bot­tom.  It’s a sear all the way around:


Here are the reverse seared pork ten­der­loins off the fire and back on the side with no coals:

Mmm­mm, Char

You will see a lot of black­en­ing.  Don’t let that scare you.  The brown sug­ar black­ens quick­ly, but the meal will still be great.

You could pull the ten­der­loins at this point, let them rest and serve.  Or you could leave them on for anoth­er 10 min­utes or so to get them to a sol­id medi­um.  I nor­mal­ly pull them after the sear, but the sides weren’t quite ready so I left the reverse seared pork ten­der­loins on the oth­er side of the grill with the lid open for about 15 min­utes before pulling them and let­ting them rest for about 10 min­utes.

Why rest the meat?  Because when the meat leaves the grill the juices are in an excit­ed state and mov­ing a mil­lion miles an hour.  If you cut into it right away, all the juices are going to run out all over the place.  Let the meat rest and the juices slow down and redis­trib­ute through­out the cut.  For a cut this size, about 10 min­utes is all that’s need­ed.  Here it is sliced for the buf­fet line:


The orange soda brined ten­der­loin was real­ly good, we just couldn’t taste the orange.  If it’s all you have, it will make a fine brine flu­id to ten­der­ize and mois­tur­ize as it was def­i­nite­ly moist and ten­der, but the root beer could be tast­ed through­out the oth­er reverse seared ten­der­loin and was deemed the bet­ter of the two by the many taste testers that day.

If you have any ques­tions about reverse seared pork ten­der­loin brined in root beer, feel free to shoot me an email or leave it below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

If you are inter­est­ed in oth­er pork dish­es we’ve done on the grill, click here.

Also, you can fol­low us on the Grillin Fools Face­book page and share your own grilling pic­tures, share grilling recipes or join the gen­er­al grilling con­ver­sa­tion.  You can fol­low us on Twit­ter @GrillinFool as well.

I post­ed some pic­tures on the face­book page of all the grilling we did that day.  You can find the album here.

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Orig­i­nal Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to col­lege with a suit­case and a grill where he over­cooked, under­cooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thou­sands of fail­ures, and quite a few suc­cess­es, near­ly two decades lat­er he start­ed a web­site to show step by step, pic­ture by pic­ture, fool­proof instruc­tions on how to make great things out of doors so that oth­ers don’t have to repeat the mis­takes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool­Porn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Oh my wow! There is so much per­fec­tion right there! 😲✔️👍😎 . Video shot by the insane­ly tal­ent­ed @carlaocarvalho77 …… — 3 months ago
Scott Thomas

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Root Beer ver­sion was the best. Expect an effort on baby-backs mar­i­nat­ed in root beer soon. I’m also anx­ious to tin­ker with cher­ry Coke and maybe some Andria’s Steak Sauce. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less for cre­ative recipes uti­liz­ing soda–it’s like putting “pop” into your que! Many thanks to Joe B. for giv­ing us an oppor­tu­ni­ty and inspi­ra­tion.


I have heard of peo­ple smok­ing pork with cof­fee beans with/instead of wood have you ever tried that?


I have not heard of that, but man I’ve GOT to try that. Do they smoke the beans or throw them on whole? I think I might’ve found what I want to grill this week­end. Maybe cof­fee smoked ribs?!?


What I saw was they threw them in(whole beans) in with the wood chips… but I have nev­er tried it or tast­ed the prod­uct so I would­nt be able to vouch for it.


I did some research on this and from what I read, the cof­fee beans have a great smoke for a while and then they start to put out a real­ly acrid, hor­ri­ble smelling smoke. Not exact­ly sure how to pull this off. I’ve thought about putting the beans in a foil pouch with holes in it, and yank­ing the pouch when it starts to stink and replace with a fresh one. Sounds a lit­tle high main­te­nance, but might be worth it…


Would this brine work with Cher­ry Coke in place of root beer? Either way, it’s going down this week­end . Love the site, thanks



It could, but it won’t be as good. Root Beer is a pret­ty com­plex set of fla­vors and spices. A bet­ter option would be Dr. Pep­per…


In your brine recipes, is the 14 cup of salt (or what­ev­er amount), is the salt Kosher salt or table salt?




Either will work. Table salt requires a lit­tle less I believe, but it’s not an exact sci­ence. Some­thing like a cup per gal­lon of flu­id is the ratio you want to use. Most of the time I just eye­ball it…


Hi Scott,

Jeff from Aussie land again. We don’t have root beer in Asu­tralia, what can I put in there instead? I take note of Dr Pep­per, how­ev­er it is pret­ty hard to find in aust also..



No root beer? That’s a crime. You can try Dr. Pep­per or even orange soda. I’ve also brined pork ten­der­loin in pump­kin beer. You might want to try a real­ly fla­vor­ful beer and brine it in that…


Could I use red wine in place of root beer?



Absolute­ly. You can use any­thing as a fla­vorizor. If you add the salt to the flu­id, it will take what­ev­er fla­vors from the flu­id and infuse them into the meat. Just don’t get turned off by how red the meat gets after soak­ing in wine all night. Well, more pink/purple than red, but you get the idea. I need to try that. I bet it’s deli­cious. I might do a cou­ple chick­en breasts brined in red wine as a tri­al run for a whole chick­en. Don’t want to waste a whole bot­tle if it’s not good, but my cook­ing instinct tells me it will be deli­cious…


I made the root ever ver­sion on the Egg last nig­bt. I didn’t make the rub though. The loin was excel­lent! I will def­i­nite­ly be mak­ing this again. The meat was nice and juicy!


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