Pork Tenderloin Cooking Tips

pork tenderloin on a platter with kale
Diana Rattray

Pork tenderloin is one of the leanest meats available, according to the National Pork Producers' comparison chart, and it's nearly as low in saturated fat and calories as chicken breasts. Because there's very little fat on a tenderloin, a small amount can go a long way, particularly in stir-fry dishes, or cut and flattened as medallions. Pork tenderloin is part of the loin, but it's a separate cut of meat — it's much smaller and leaner than a pork loin. It's a healthy cut of meat; however, it's easy to overcook pork tenderloin, so make sure that it's made properly

Avoid Pre-Marinated Meat

Pork tenderloins are often sold prepackaged in a marinade, but it's a good idea to avoid these because of the sodium content. Instead, season the meat yourself with garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper to ramp up the flavor while controlling the salt.

Trim off the Silverskin

After you unwrap the tenderloin, which often comes in packages of two, look to see if there's a sheer, light gray layer of connective tissue. This is the silverskin, and it needs to be removed before you cook the meat. Slide a knife under the silverskin and peel it away from the meat. Discard whatever you pull off. Wrap up that second pork tenderloin and stick it in the freezer for dinner on another night.

Season the Tenderloin

Use a dry rub on the pork tenderloin by combining brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. First, drizzle the tenderloin with olive oil, and then massage the spice rub it on the meat 30 minutes before you cook it.

Consider Brining

If you think about it a day before you want to eat the pork tenderloin, put it in a brine. It requires soaking the meat in a mixture of salt and water for eight to 12 hours. You can also include other herbs and spices in the brine to increase the flavor that soaks into the pork tenderloin. After you remove the tenderloin from the brine, discard the liquid.

If You Grill

You can roast the pork tenderloin, but grilling is a good option, too. It takes just 20 minutes on a medium-hot grill, around 400 F. Let the meat rest out of the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before grilling it.

Use a Meat Thermometer

Overcooking pork tenderloin will cause the meat to dry out and toughen because it's so low in fat. It's a good idea to use a meat thermometer to test for doneness because cutting into the meat to test for color will cause too many good juices to run out.

Rest the Meat

Before you eat it, the pork tenderloin should reach at least 145 F. This should produce tenderloin that's juicy, tender, and safe. However, the pork will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven. Therefore, take it out when it reaches around 135 to 140 F, and let it rest for at least 5 minutes until it reaches 145 F.