If you're in the mood for a simple dinner of meat and vegetables, but need to shake up your chicken breast (or pork chop) routine, pork tenderloin is your ticket. Pork tenderloin is one of the easiest, most relaxed cuts of meat to cook for dinner, and it's one of my favorite weeknight meals. There's no major preparation involved; just season and bang into the oven while you make a salad.
Here's our best method for making tender, juicy pork tenderloin that tastes so good it may just earn a spot in your weekly meal rotation.
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What Is the Tenderloin?
As Christine explains in her guide to buying pork chops, the tenderloin comes from the loin of the pig, which runs from the hip to the shoulder. The tenderloin itself is sometimes also called a pork "fillet," and it is one of the tenderest cuts of meat on the animal, since it is not a muscle that receives much if any exercise.
This means that the tenderloin is usually a little more expensive than cuts of meat that need longer cooking, like the loin proper or pork butt (shoulder). It also means that it can be cooked quickly and easily, with no brining or braising needed.
What to Look for in a Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is often sold in individual packages in the meat section of the grocery store. An individual tenderloin isn't very much meat; it usually weighs about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. So you'll often find two tenderloins in one package. If you come home with two, just cook both. Leftovers keep beautifully and are great in sandwiches. Or freeze one, if two is more than you can eat within a few days.
Pork tenderloins are also often sold packaged in a marinade. Personally, I avoid these, as I would prefer to season the meat myself (and control the amount of salt and oil used). It's very quick and easy to roll a pork tenderloin in some salt and spices, or to create a paste of garlic and ginger to rub all over it.
Cooking Pork Tenderloin
The method below is our favorite way to cook a pork tenderloin, and it's very easy. The only way to make it easier would be to not flip the meat while it's cooking, but that one extra step creates a delicious crust on the meat and cooks it more evenly.
Pork tenderloin is usually fairly lean, so it's important to not overcook it. It can quickly turn from tender and juicy to dry and chewy, so check the internal temperature and remove the pork from the pan right away the meat registers 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part of the meat. It's perfectly normal and fine for the pork to be a little pink inside, as long as it has reached the correct temperature in the thickest part of the meat.
Another fabulous way to have pork for dinner. Watch the video —->
5 More Recipes for Pork Tenderloin
Once you've mastered this method, try one of these other recipes too!
How To Make Roasted Pork Tenderloin
What You Need
1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
1 to 2 tablespoons spices or seasonings (See Recipe Note)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
10-inch or larger cast iron, or other oven-safe skillet
- Preheat the oven and pan: Ten to 20 minutes before you plan to cook, place the skillet in the oven on a middle rack and preheat the oven to 450°F. The skillet will heat along with the oven.
- Season the pork: Pat the pork dry and cut off any large pieces of surface fat. Mix any spices being used with the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix into the surface of the pork on all sides.
- Swirl the pan with oil: Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven using oven mitts and pour the oil in the pan. Swirl to coat the bottom.
- Roast the pork for 10 minutes: Set the pork in the pan. (It's fine if your pork tenderloin is a little long for the pan; just bend it to fit as we did here.) Return the pan to the oven. Roast for 10 minutes.
- Flip the pork, reduce the heat, and roast another 10 to 15 minutes: Flip the pork to the other side. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes. The pork is done when its internal temperature registers 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part of the meat (20 to 25 minutes total).
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving: Transfer the pork to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. For extra-thin slices for sandwiches, cool the pork completely, then refrigerate before cutting.
- Seasoning the pork: You can keep this pork simple and season with just salt and pepper, or you can rub it with any favorite spices or blend of spices. Some favorites are chili powder, curry powder, garam masala, Chinese 5-spice blend, and za'atar.
- Doubling this recipe: To make sure you have leftovers for sandwiches or other meals during the week, you can roast a second tenderloin in the same pan. Cooking time will be the same.
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