Honey is a sweet friend to pork, made famous by the ubiquitous honey-baked Easter ham. The trouble with a ham is that it's big enough to be a burden in a small kitchen. (Some people contend that eternity is one ham and two people.) A tenderloin, however, makes just enough for two to four servings, and still makes one fine Sunday dinner.
The best thing about pork tenderloin is that it is very lean and cooks quickly. The trickiest thing about pork tenderloin is that it is very lean and cooks quickly.
Because it turns drab and dry when overcooked, the secret to juicy roasted pork is to trust an instant-read thermometer to gauge doneness instead of guessing or following the advice in older cookbooks that insist it's risky to eat pork that isn't well-done and gray. We're wiser now, and understand that tenderloin cooked to a safe 145°F to 150°F might be a tad rosy in the center, but the juices will show no traces of pink. For an accurate reading, insert the thermometer horizontally through the end of the cylindrical tenderloin; this cut of pork is so slender that it's hard to pinpoint the center when pierced from the top or side.
Read More: USDA Lowers Temperature Guidelines for Cooking Pork
The bear-shaped squeeze-bottle of honey will work if it's all you have on hand, but this recipe (especially when made with premium pastured pork or served for Easter) deserves superb local honey — perhaps acacia or wildflower, or even sourwood or chestnut if you prefer a bolder, earthier flavor. The heat from the cracked black and cayenne pepper tempers the sweetness. I suggest serving this recipe with biscuits or yeast rolls to sop up all of the amazing glaze.
Read More: What to Know About Honey Color, Varietals, and Finding a Honey You Really Love
Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
1/4 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
One (1- to 1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Whisk together the honey, vinegar, mustard, and cayenne in a small bowl.
Trim any silver skin from the tenderloin. Turn under the tapered end and tie it in place with kitchen twine, or leave it loose to create a portion that will be very well-done. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook until well-browned on all sides, turning with tongs, about 5 minutes.
Place in the oven to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the end of the pork registers 140°F, about 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the pork to a clean plate.
Place the skillet over medium-high heat. Pour the honey mixture into the skillet and stir to loosen any browned bits. When the liquid begins to sizzle, return the pork and any juices to the skillet. Gently tilt the skillet so that the liquid pools on one side of the pan and continuously spoon it over the top of the pork until the liquid thickens into a syrupy glaze, about 2 minutes. Transfer the pork to a serving platter and pour the glaze over the top. Let rest for 5 minutes. The internal temperature of the pork will rise to 145°F to 150°F.
Cut the pork into slices. Drizzle with more honey and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Serve warm.
(Image credits: Quentin Bacon)