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

@GrillinFool - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Oh my wow! There is so much perfection right there! 😲✔️👍😎 . Video shot by the insanely talented @carlaocarvalho77 …… - 11 months ago
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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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