Versatile, Affordable Pork Tenderloin
Photo by Richard Dallett.
One of the best-kept secrets of barbecue, pork tenderloin is as tender and tasty as beef tenderloin, but at a fraction of the price.
It cooks quickly, making it an excellent choice for easy weeknight dinners. Yet, it’s suitable for entertaining. There’s no waste. It readily absorbs the flavors of a host of international rubs and marinades and is complemented by a wide variety of sauces.
And its large ratio of surface area to lean meat all but guarantees a beautifully caramelized crust. Serve it whole, stuffed, or sliced; just make sure it is part of your grilling repertory. Here are my pork tenderloin tips:
- Discrete muscles like tenderloin have a shiny protective sheath around them called silverskin. Sometimes, the meat comes to the meat case well-trimmed. Other times, a bit of silverskin remains, which you’ll want to remove as no amount of cooking will tenderize it. To do so, slide the tip of a sharp boning or paring knife between the strip of silverskin and the meat about 1 inch from the end. Angle the blade of the knife upward (against the silverskin), and smoothly slice toward the opposite end, pulling the silverskin you’ve released upward with your fingers. Reverse the direction of the knife and slice toward the still-attached end. Repeat as necessary until the membrane is gone.
- If the tail ends of the tenderloin are thin, fold them under and tie with butcher’s string before grilling to make the muscle more uniform in thickness.
- Slice the raw, trimmed tenderloin on a sharp diagonal into 1/4 inch elliptical-shaped pieces, then marinate briefly and thread on metal or bamboo skewers for quick Asian-style satés.
- Most pork tenderloins weigh between 1 and 1-1/2 pounds. Two will serve 4 people generously.
- When possible, buy heritage breed pork such as Duroc, Berkshire, or Kurobuta. How your food is raised is as important as how you cook it.
- Because pork tenderloin is so lean, it benefits from being wrapped in thin-cut bacon or pancetta. To do this easily, lay thin-cut bacon strips parallel to each other (the long sides should overlap slightly) on a piece of parchment paper. Lay the tenderloin on top of and perpendicular to the bacon toward the edge closest to you. Use the parchment to help you roll the tenderloin snugly in the bacon. Trim any excess bacon once the tenderloin is covered and reserve for another use. Tie at intervals with butcher’s string. Grill, turning as needed with tongs, then remove the strings before slicing and serving. Individual medallions of pork tenderloin can also be wrapped with bacon and grilled.
- Pineapple and/or pineapple juice is a popular ingredient in marinades for pork as the flavors marry well. But limit the pork’s exposure to marinades containing this ingredient as the enzymes in pineapple can give meat a mushy texture. An hour in the marinade is sufficient.
- Grill whole pork tenderloin to an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees for maximum juiciness as read on an instant-read meat thermometer. (It will still be slightly pink in the center.) This will take 15 to 18 minutes over medium-high heat. Medallions cut to a thickness of 3/4- to 1-inch will take 4 to 6 minutes per side. Be sure to let the meat rest for 2 minutes before slicing and/or serving.
- For an attractive presentation, butterfly a pork tenderloin (a larger one works best) by making a lengthwise cut through the tenderloin, stopping 1/2 inch from the opposite side. Open like a book. Sandwich between two sheets of plastic wrap, then pound to a uniform thickness. Stuff as desired—I like to repurpose the stuffing from The Ultimate Cheesesteak—then reform the tenderloin and tie at intervals with butcher’s string. Grill as directed above.
Get more ideas for pork tenderloin in these recipes:
Oaxacan Pork Fajitas
Char Siu Pork Tenderloin
Coffee-Crusted Pork Tenderloins with Redeye Barbecue Sauce
Jerk Pork Tenderloin