How to Cook Pork Tenderloin

Recipe From Dr. Mercola

Also called pork filet and pork tender, pork tenderloin is a lean, boneless cut of meat taken from the muscles that run alongside the backbone of a pig. As its name implies, pork tenderloin is the most tender pork cut — this is because it’s located at a part that gets very little exercise, if any. It is long and cylindrical, with a tough connective tissue (called silver skin) that needs to be removed before cooking.

A pork tenderloin usually weighs around 1 pound and is often sold whole. It’s a little expensive compared to other pork cuts. Be careful not to confuse pork tenderloin with pork loin because they’re two completely different cuts of meat. While pork loin is also a lean cut of meat taken from the back of the animal, it’s wider compared to pork tenderloin and can be used to cut steak-like pieces. These two cuts cannot be substituted for each other because of their difference in size and shape.1,2 

How Long Should You Cook Pork Tenderloin?

Timing and temperature are crucial when it comes to cooking pork tenderloin, as it can easily dry out and become chewy when overcooked. When undercooked, it could put you at risk of foodborne microorganisms such as Trichinella spiralis, E. coli and salmonella.3 The cooking time for tenderloin may vary depending on the size of the cut, the cooking method used and the heat setting of the cooking equipment. Here are some of the approximate cooking times for different cooking methods according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):4

  • Roasting — Pork tenderloins weighing between 1 pound and 1 1/2 pounds should be roasted in a shallow pan at 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 27 minutes, provided the oven has been heated to 350 degrees F beforehand.
  • Broiling — Broil a 1-pound to 1 1/2-pound pork tenderloin for around 20 minutes over direct, medium heat. Turn the meat once halfway through.
  • Frying — Tenderloin medallions cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices should be cooked for four to eight minutes in a skillet on stovetop.
  • Braising — Braise 1/4-to 1/2-inch-thick tenderloin medallions for eight to 10 minutes.

Whichever cooking method you choose, be sure to let the meat rest for at least three minutes before consumption. The USDA also advises to measure the internal temperature of the pork tenderloin with a food thermometer before removing it from the heat source.

As with other cuts of pork, tenderloin should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you place the thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin to guarantee that the entire piece is cooked well for safe consumption. The center part of the tenderloin may be a little pink, but this is normal and safe as long as it reached the correct internal temperature.5,6,7,8

Different Ways to Cook Pork Tenderloin

Since it’s versatile, easy to prepare and quick to cook, pork tenderloin is a great go-to meat for a variety of recipes that you can serve for casual family meals or even formal dinner parties. Here are some ways you can cook pork tenderloin:

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

A marinated or dry-rubbed pork tenderloin takes well to the smokiness of a grill. I recommend grilling your meat over indirect heat. Do not use charcoal, as it can increase your risk of being exposed to heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are harmful chemicals produced during grilling. Here’s the proper way to grill pork tenderloin on indirect heat so you get a crispy crust and a juicy center:9,10

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Herbs and spices, to taste
  • Coconut oil

Procedure

  1. Using a thin, sharp knife, trim the silver skin from the surface of the tenderloin.
  2. Combine all of the seasonings in a small bowl to make the rub.
  3. Pat the rub on the surface of the tenderloin, then set it aside as you prepare the grill.
  4. Lightly oil the grate with coconut oil then place the tenderloin on top.
  5. Cook the tenderloin over indirect heat for around 30 to 45 minutes, or until its internal temperature reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Let the meat rest for around 10 minutes before serving.
Tip

Don’t skimp on herbs and spices when grilling pork tenderloin. Not only do they add flavor to the meat, but they may also help reduce the amount of HCAs and AGEs produced when grilling.11

Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Roasting is one of the most popular methods for cooking pork tenderloin. Here’s how it’s done:12

Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Herbs and spices, to taste

Procedure

  1. Ten to 20 minutes before roasting, place a skillet in the oven and set the heat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Trim off the silver skin of the tenderloin, then pat the seasoning on its surface.
  3. Using oven mitts, carefully take out the hot skillet from the oven. Add the oil into the skillet and swirl it to coat the surface of the pan.
  4. Place the pork tenderloin on the pan and put it back in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes.
  5. Flip the tenderloin then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until its internal temperature reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Let the meat rest for around 10 minutes before serving.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tenderloin

Slow cooking is an ideal cooking method if you want to ensure that your pork tenderloin is moist, juicy and cooked thoroughly. If you’re planning to try this method, make sure you have ample time to cook your pork tenderloin on low heat. Follow this step-by-step guide:13,14

Slow-Cooked Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Broth of your choice
  • Herbs and spices, to taste

Procedure

  1. Place the pork tenderloin in the slow cooker, then add in the broth, herbs, spices and other seasoning.
  2. Cook on a low heat setting for seven to eight hours.

Baked Pork Tenderloin

If you’re looking for other ways to cook pork tenderloin in the oven, then baking is a must-try. Here’s a guide to help you bake this pork cut properly:15,16,17,18

Baked Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Coconut oil
  • Marinade or rub of your choice

Procedure

  1. Heat the oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Season the tenderloin with the marinade or rub, then place it on a baking dish lined with parchment paper.
  3. Drizzle with coconut oil and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until its internal temperature has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving.

Try These Pork Tenderloin Recipes

Once you’ve mastered the different cooking techniques for pork tenderloin, try cooking one of these recipes:

Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin

Total Time: 35 minutes Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Procedure

  1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put all dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir well until all the ingredients are combined.
  3. Pat the rub on both sides of the pork tenderloin, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well.
  4. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Add in the minced garlic; sauté for one minute.
  6. Put the tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, searing each side. Use tongs to turn the meat. Transfer the meat to a roasting pan and allow it to cook for 20 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from Food Network19)

Mustard and Garlic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Total Time: 60 minutes Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45 minutes Serving size: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 3 tablespoons homemade mustard
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Procedure

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line the baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly grease.
  3. Place the pork tenderloins in the pan and sprinkle lightly with salt.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir well until blended. Rub over all sides of the pork tenderloins.
  5. Roast the tenderloins for 40 to 55 minutes, or until their internal temperature registers at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit on the meat thermometer.
  6. Remove from the oven, cover loosely and let rest for five to 10 minutes before serving.

(Recipe adapted from The Spruce Eats20)

What to Look for When Choosing a Pork Tenderloin

When buying pork tenderloin, choose a piece that’s pinkish-red in color to make sure it’s fresh. Avoid those that look pale and have dark spots.21 Most importantly, always choose pork tenderloin that comes from a naturally raised, pastured source. Do not buy meat that comes from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), since they’re likely given antibiotics that could put you at risk of antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is pork tenderloin?

A: Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat that’s taken from the muscles along the backbone of a pig.22 

Q: Is pork tenderloin healthy?

A: Pork tenderloin is just as lean as a chicken breast.23 According to the USDA, roasted pork tenderloin may be a great source of protein, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6 and selenium.24

Q: How do you know when the pork tenderloin is done?

A: The best way to tell the doneness of a pork tenderloin is to measure the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat. Pork tenderloin should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure it’s safe for consumption.25,26 

Q: How do you keep pork tenderloin from drying out?

Cooking the pork tenderloin to an internal temperature of no more than 145 degrees Fahrenheit keeps it moist and juicy.27 

Q: Should I cover a pork tenderloin in the oven?

A: You do not need to cover a pork tenderloin when cooking it in the oven. Roasting it uncovered gives it a caramelized crust.

Q: Is it OK for a cooked pork tenderloin to be pink?

A: It’s normal for a properly cooked pork tenderloin to be slightly pink in the middle. This is safe for consumption as long as the internal temperature reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit.28,29 

Q: Should I wrap pork tenderloin in foil?

A: I do not recommend wrapping pork tenderloin or any food in foil, since it’s made from aluminum. Aluminum is a neurotoxic substance that could contaminate food, drugs and other consumer products. One study even shows that aluminum exposure could increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.30

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