Pork tenderloin is the most delicate cut of pork your money can buy. It’s definitely on the pricier side, but well worth it in my opinion. It is definitely a great choice for even the pickiest of eaters, since there is basically no internal fat present. On the other hand, the absence of fat means it can be overcooked quite easily, which would result in a grayish and tough piece of sadness on a plate.
Let’s take a closer look at the pork tenderloin cut today together, ok? What is it, what part of pig it comes from, how to cook it properly, what are some great and simple recipes to try… I will cover all of that in today’s blog post.
What Is Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is a relatively small boneless cut of meat. It’s long and thin in shape, usually around 500g/1 pound heavy and roughly 2 inches wide. The cut comes from the back of the pig, it sits right underneath the backbone/spine and it is actually attached to the pork loin, which it is often confused with. These are two completely different cuts though, with totally different characteristics and I will get back to this later on.
It is an extra lean cut of meat with basically no marbling, which makes it the perfect choice for quick ways of preparation. When cooked correctly, it will become extremely tender, juicy and full of flavor. This cut is also known as the Pork filet or Pork tender. The color of a high quality and fresh pork tenderloin must be pink, darker than chicken, but lighter than beef.
Is Pork Tenderloin Healthy
While there are definitely more healthy foods out there, pork tenderloin is likely the healthiest pork to eat. It’s an excellent low fat source of protein, vitamin B6, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus and selenium. On top of that, it’s very low in fat.
Let’s take a closer look at the nutrition facts. When cooking most meats, I use about 200g/7oz per person. This amount contains 290 Calories, 8g Fat, 145mg Cholesterol, 112mg Sodium, 830mg Potassium and 51g Protein.
Want to calculate the values for a different serving size? Use this handy Nutrition calculator.
Pork Loin VS Tenderloin
As mentioned in the introduction, pork tenderloin is often confused for pork loin, but these two cuts are VERY different. The good thing is, it’s very easy to tell them apart. Pork loin is lighter in color and MUCH bigger, wider and flatter than the tenderloin. The loin is often sold with the bone in, while tenderloin is always boneless. The price is also a good sign to follow, tenderloin is significantly pricier than the loin.
Both the pork tenderloin and loin are very lean cuts, but they cannot be used interchangeably. Tenderloin is much smaller and requires shorter cooking times, should you cook the pork loin for the same time, it would still be raw on the inside. To put it simple, when a recipe calls for the tenderloin, make sure you use the right cut.
How Long To Cook Pork Tenderloin
This depends on the particular recipe, method of preparation and what you are trying to achieve, there is nothing like an universal cooking time for this cut. The times will be completely different when baking pork tenderloin in the oven, compared to let’s say making tenderloin steaks on a pan.
However, there is one golden rule to follow, you should always aim to reach a safe internal temperature. The reason is a possible Trichinella contamination. This parasitic worm can cause an ugly disease called Trichinosis that can have fatal consequences. Even though this seems to be a problem of the past for the most part, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Research has shown that this unwanted “passenger” gets killed once the temperature reaches 137F / 58C and that should be the minimum internal temperature to aim for, when cooking pork. The USDA recommends 145F / 62C just to be on the safe side.
Using a food thermometer is the safest approach, but what if you don’t have one? Pork tenderloin is safe to eat once it reaches the “medium” level of doneness. This means a slightly pinkish color on the inside, right in the center of the cut. This way, the meat is safe to eat and it still remains very juicy and tender.
If I should name one sin that people commit when cooking pork tenderloin, it would be overcooking and drying the meat out. Never try to make a well done steak from this cut, that would be a waste of a rather expensive cut. It will become tough, chewy and just plain wrong. Go for medium… PLEASE 🙂
Additional Pork Tenderloin Tips
Can you reheat cooked pork tenderloin?
Yes, but truth to be told, it’s never gonna taste as good as freshly served. Once cooked, the juicy meat starts to dry out and further reheating just makes this worse. If you really have to do this, a few minutes on the pan or 1-2 minutes in the microwave will do the job. There is one exception, if you plan to cook pork tenderloin in advance for later use, choose a recipe where the meat cooks in some sauce. Stewed or braised tenderloin reheats great.
What to serve with pork tenderloin?
This depends on the method of preparation again. Pork tenderloin steaks go well with baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fries or some salad. Stewed or braised tenderloin literally asks for something that can soak the sauce up. Rice, mashed potatoes, pasta or flat bread would work great. For me personally, some potato based side dish always wins, paired with a delicious mushroom sauce.
Do you have to trim and clean pork tenderloin?
This cut is usually “kitchen ready”, which means not much trimming is needed, if any. Keep in mind it’s an expensive cut, so the butchers give it some extra time to look pretty on the shelves. The only thing you need to do is remove the silver skin. There is always some on any pork tenderloin you buy and it has to go, in my opinion. It’s easy to do, just insert a sharp knife under the silver skin strip and slowly pull the knife to the side. Don’t try to do it all in one go, it’s not really possible and will take a few cuts. Just make sure you don’t trim away too much meat along with it.
Can you freeze pork tenderloin leftovers?
I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Not that it wouldn’t be safe, but the quality goes down hills, literally. If you have some tenderloin leftovers from dinner or lunch, make a sandwich from those. Something like this, for example. (YT short video) The same exception applies here as with reheating, stewed or sauce braised pork tenderloin freezes nicely.
Pork Tenderloin Recipes To Try
Enough of the theory now, how about we actually take a look at some easy to prepare pork tenderloin recipes? All of these are super simple, so that even the biggest beginners can shine in the kitchen. I have cooked all of these recipes many times already and all of them are well received by all members of my family.
Pork Tenderloin Medallions
This recipe is as simple as it gets. It’s one of my last resort options, whenever I need to cook something quickly and there is no time for planning or complicated preparations. These pork tenderloin medallions are very popular with my family. The marinade gives the meat an intense, deep flavor and tenderizes the meat even further.
Crispy oven baked potatoes will serve as the side, I’m baking these while working on the rest, so when planned correctly, all is ready at the same time. To make this dish complete, I’m serving these pork tenderloin medallions with a fried egg and a bit of tartar sauce. Everything is ready in under an hour.
Pork Tenderloin Steaks On The Grill
One of my summer classics! Beautifully grilled pork tenderloin steaks prepared on the most basic charcoal fired grill. Served with grilled potatoes and my signature creamy mushroom sauce. A simple marinade enhances the flavors of the tenderloin and the mushroom sauce makes it a special dish that your family or friend are about to love.
The same recipe works great with a gas or even electric grill, but it’s also great when prepared on a grilling pan inside of your kitchen. I’ve made these pork tenderloin steaks MANY times already and I have yet to meet someone who wouldn’t enjoy this dish. Give it a try.
Pork Tenderloin Skewers With Potatoes And Vegetable Salad
This is a fun meal that my kids love! Whenever I’m cooking these pork tenderloin skewers, they want to help with the threading. I guess they love how messy it can get since the tenderloin pieces are marinated. Crispy potato wedges and a healthy vegetable salad are my default sides for this dish.
The good thing about this pork tenderloin skewers recipe is that the potatoes bake at the same time, in the same baking sheet or tray. It saves time and makes cleaning easier. These skewers can be prepared on the grill too, just make sure you cut the potato wedges large enough, so they don’t fall through the grill grate.
Pork Tenderloin Schnitzels & Potato Salad
Now this is a huge classic all over Europe: Traditional schnitzels and potato mayonnaise salad. The default cut of meat to use for this recipe is the pork loin, but since I like pork tenderloin more… well, that’s what I have used 🙂 This way, the schnitzels are smaller, juicier and more tender.
This dish is often served during the festive Christmas season in several European countries, but that doesn’t mean we cannot prepare it whenever we crave it. It’s probably not super healthy, but hey, it’s not like we have to eat schnitzels daily, right?
Pork Tenderloin Bun Sandwich
To round this list up, here is a simple inspiration for you. My pork tenderloin sandwich is an easy to make treat that’s exploding in flavors. Simple marinade, quick preparation on a pan, some simple veggies and there you have it. The selection of vegetables and bread for this recipe can be totally modified to your likings. Just take it as inspiration please.
You can use this recipe with any possible pork leftovers, to put them to good use. Sometimes I’m making this for my kids as their school lunch meal prep. It’s definitely much better than buying some soggy baguette from a food machine.
Bonus: Pork Loin Steaks
Did you make the mistake of buying pork loin instead of the tenderloin? Fear not, I got you covered. Even something as cheap as this cut can be used to make GREAT pan seared steaks. Many people look down on this cut and would never even attempt to make steaks with it, but that’s a mistake.
All you need is to follow a few simple steps, in order to not overcook and dry the meat out. And to make these pork loin steaks even better, I’m going to show you how to make a delicious shallot & mushroom “something” to put atop of the steaks. Mashed potatoes served as the side.
And that’s it for today!
If you have made it this far, congratulations! It really means a lot to me that someone would take their time to read the whole thing, much appreciated. Have something to say, please comment below!
Thanks for sharing the tips of how to make pork tenderloin. My cousin loves tenderloin but she tends to make mistake on how to cook this type of meat. I will definitely relay this post to her.
I am a huge fan of pork tenderloin and I so appreciate all your great tips, not to freeze it an important one, as well as all the fantastic suggestions on how to prepare it. Thank you so much! You just give me great inspirations for my next meal
I love to cook tenderloin but I always end up simply baking it in the oven with different spices. Now you gave me some ideas for my next dinner. Thanks 🙂
Informational posts are legit important! Before blogs were a thing, I used to rip technique articles out of cooking magazines and put them into a binder. Now all I have to do is go online to this site, and here it is! Love this!!
great tips on preparing pork tenderloin and what to make with it
This site makes me hungry; What’s your number one tip for barbecue? Thanks
Hello Ronnie, thanks for your comment!
Just 1 tip? That’s hard 🙂
But if I really had to give just one tip, it would be to focus on the marinade and give the meat enough time to absorb all the flavors. Plan ahead and let the meat marinate overnight.
Matej, I like the way you represent this post. Thanks for sharing such fantastic tips along with the recipe.