Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite things to cook. It is tremendously versatile, works great with all kinds of other ingredients, and is one of the leaner healthier meats available. That said, to fully appreciate it, it needs to be cooked well, and there are some specific do’s and don’ts that will ensure insure a tasty, tender, and moist pork tenderloin. Below, and in the video, I explain how to cook a pork tenderloin, and I think you may be surprise with how simple and quick it is. Hope you find this cooking technique helpful, and enjoy you pork tenderloin!
How to Cook a Pork Tenderloin
Before cooking, you should understand a few things about pork tenderloins:
- The cut itself is the equivalent of the Filet Mignon. That means the meat is naturally very lean and very tender. Because it is so lean as it cooks, it will become increasingly dry, and there is no such thing as a well-done, moist pork tenderloin. If you want it cooked to well done, you’re going to eat it dry
- Because I the pork is so lean, and you want to eat it cooked to medium, you don’t want to cook it for a long time. Tenderloin, is not like pork shoulder that you cook for hours. So plan on 15 – 20 minutes max!
- The flavor of pork tenderloin is pretty mild. Which why a good sear on the outside is important. It will add a ton of flavor, and it’s easy to do. So start the tenderloin on top of the stove in a good hot pan.
- Most pork tenderloins you buy will have what’s called the sliver skin attached to it. The skin is a piece of tendon, or some other un-desirable connective tissue. It doesn’t break down when cooked, and it’s best to slice it over before cooking.
- To Brine or not to brine. I love brining pork chops and pork loin, but when it comes to tenderloins, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. The tenderloin is already so tender…I mean it’s in the name; all you need to do it make sure you don’t over cook it, and you’ll end up with a great piece of meat.
- But what you do need to do, regardless of how you’re going to cook the pork tenderloin is season it. Simple salt and pepper liberally spread on all sides works great - and if you want to keep it that easy, go for it. You call also add all kinds of rubs and spices - just be careful so some may burn, depending on your cooking methods.
The most common ways to cook pork tenderloin
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there more than one way to cook a pork tenderloin. In this video, I show you how to pan roast the whole tenderloin, as that is one my favorite methods, it tastes great, and you don’t need any special equipment. However, you should give some of the other cooking methods that I list below a try, as you may find you prefer another way.
How to cook pork tenderloin - Pan Roasted Version
- Allow the pork tenderloin to come up to room temperature and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees
- Season the pork on all sides with salt and pepper, and bring a large frying up to high temperature on the stove top
- Coat the pan with olive oil, and lay the tenderloin down in the pan
- Allow it to sear on that side for 2 – 3 minutes or until browned, without moving or touching the pork
- Turn the pork 180 degrees to sear on the other side, again until browned and again not touching the meat much
- Rotate the pork again, to sear the other two sides, following the same techniques
- Move the whole pork tenderloin into the oven, and allow it to roast until you read an internal temp of 140. That should take between 5 – 10 minutes.
- Remove the pork from the oven, and place it on a cutting board to rest for 5 – 6 minutes
- Now you can slice into it, and you’ll find the center, perfectly cooked, just slightly pink, and full of the natural juices.
Pork tenderloin goes well with many different wines, and it’s tough to go wrong. My favorite, but a long shot however, it pinot noir. Depending on what you’re making the pork with, you can vary the type of pinots, but generally you’ll find a good amount of acid, and not too much tannin. Best of all, pinot generally have light fruit notes, like cherry, that are a natural pair with pork.
Other ways to cook a pork tenderloin
- Grilling - For pure taste, grilled pork tenderloin may be my favorite. The meat picks up the smoky char from the grill, which adds complexity to the meat. You follow the same basic rules as the pan roasting method above, but you do have to watch out for flame ups, and making sure you don’t burn the tenderloin - especially if you’ve used any spice rubs or marinades.
- Baking - So, by baking I mean, simply taking the tenderloin and putting it straight into a 350ish degree oven. My advice - don’t do it. Yes, the pork will get cooked, but you’ll never get a sear on the outside (unless you way overcook the center) and so you loose out on a ton of flavor. It is easy to fire and forget…but I’m pretty sure it will end in regret.
- Butterflying - This refers to cutting open up the pork tenderloin, and pounding it out so it’s a oval shape about 1/2 inch thick. It’s actually easy to do with a bit of practice. The advantage of butterflying is the pork cooks super fast, and you’ve got a ton more surface area to pick up spices & marinades. And when cooked, there’s a lot more to sear off, giving you more of that charred, sweet, savory, browned goodness. Butterflying is also a great way to start to stuff a tenderloin.
- Stuffing - A pork tenderloin is one of my favorite cuts of meat for stuffing. Because the meat has a mild flavor it works well with all kinds of stuffing. One of my favorite is mushroom & spinach, but anything from fruits to veggies, even to more pork (sausage anyone?) make great stuffings. The simplest way it to butterfly the tenderloin, lay the stuffing out on the pounded out meat, roll it, and then tie it up using twine - reforming the original tenderloin shape.
- Medallions - A somewhat “elegant” way to serve pork tenderloin is to make pork medallions. Think filet mignon, but instead of steak, we’re slicing the tenderloin into individual steaks, each 1 - 2 inches thick. They can be seared off quickly and served with all kinds of side dishes & sauces. It’s a great way to impress - and still be budget friendly.