How to Cook a Pork Tenderloin: Four Easy, Essential Methods

updated Mar 6, 2020
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Credit: Faith Durand

Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite weeknight proteins. It takes on flavor with ease, cooks quickly, and stays tender and juicy no matter how you cook it. There are dozens of ways to cook it, but a few essential methods will teach you everything you need to know about cooking this weeknight hero.

These four techniques for cooking pork tenderloin — roasting, grilling, bacon-wrapping, and stir-frying — will teach you everything you need to know about cooking a juicy, flavorful piece of pork.

Credit: Faith Durand

What Is Pork Tenderloin?

Pork tenderloin is a lean yet tender cut of meat from along the backbone of the animal. A single tenderloin cut is usually about 1 pound total. But it’s common to find pork tenderloin sold in supermarkets in packages of two, for a total of 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of meat.

How to Brine & Flavor Pork Tenderloin

While it’s common to find these packages of tenderloin pre-seasoned and marinated, we suggest you skip the pre-seasoned tenderloins and use a dry rub or a simple salt brine at home to season the pork before cooking.

Plus how to brine a pork tenderloin: Stir 1 tablespoon kosher salt into 4 cups lukewarm water. Add seasonings such as cracked pepper or fresh herbs if you want (it’s not essential). Pour the brine over the pork tenderloin in a shallow dish. Brine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour. You will see good results and tender meat after less than an hour of brining (but it’s fine to brine all day too).

If you don’t have this much time to brine, try a quick rub of black pepper and garlic salt, or a spice mix of your choice.

On to the essential methods!

1. How To Roast Pork Tenderloin in the Oven

For roasting a pork tenderloin (or two), heat the oven to 450°F. Preheat an oven-safe skillet such as cast iron or a baking sheet in the oven as it heats. Check the pork tenderloin for any bits of silver skin and remove before seasoning. If brining the meat, pour off the brine and lightly dry the meat with a paper towel. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper or use a dry rub to add flavor.

Place the tenderloin in the preheated pan and roast for 10 minutes in the oven. Flip the meat over and reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and roast some more. Roast the meat for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the meat has reached 140 to 145°F in the thickest part. Rest the tenderloin for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Try a Recipe

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. How To Grill Pork Tenderloin

Grilling is one of those cooking methods that will make you fall madly in love with pork tenderloin — it cooks so quickly and the smoky, charred exterior adds so much flavor and texture.

Start by rubbing the pork with a sweet and savory rub that will season the meat and help you get gorgeous grill marks on the exterior.

Cook the pork tenderloin on a hot grill using high (direct) heat to get those grill marks and then lower (indirect) heat to get the interior to that 145°F finish line. Grilled pork tenderloin takes about 20 minutes of total cooking time, but sometimes less, so keep an eye on the grill.

Another flavorful variation: Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

3. How To Cook Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin is nothing short of amazing, plus the bacon wrap keeps the pork from drying out and seasons it in one fell swoop. This method combines stovetop cooking to crisp the bacon and oven baking — a lower temperature of 350 degrees than roasting’s 450 — to get the pork to 140°F.

Use an oven-safe skillet to cook a bacon-wrapped tenderloin for about 8 minutes on the stovetop, turning to brown and crisp the bacon. Then move the skillet to a 350°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes. This pork tenderloin also gets a foil-wrapped rest of about 10 minutes before serving.

4. How To Stir-Fry Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin takes especially well to stir-frying, thanks to its low fat content and tenderness. Make sure you have everything ready to go before you get started, because this one cooks really fast! Freezing the pork tenderloin briefly before slicing will make it easier to thinly slice the pork across the grain before stir-frying.

Heat a large skillet or wok and a little oil over high heat and sear the pork slices for just 1 minute on each side before adding the vegetables and stir-fry sauce to finish the dish. This stir-fry cooks in less than 15 minutes.

What’s your favorite method for cooking pork tenderloin?