Why Brining Is Better than a Marinade for Pork Tenderloin

published Mar 21, 2017
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Ready to say goodbye to dry pork tenderloin once and for all? I thought so — me too! The simplest way to do it is to ditch the marinade in favor of brining. Consider it your insurance policy for a super-juicy, flavorful pork tenderloin every single time.

Brining Is the Secret to Juicier Meat and Flavor

Like pork chops and chicken breast, pork tenderloin is a super-lean cut of meat, with the potential to dry out quickly when cooked for even just a couple minutes too long. When soaked in a brine solution — a mixture of salt and liquid — the tenderloin not only takes on additional flavor, but also additional moisture. So you’re essentially making the meat juicier from the very beginning. A marinade, on the other hand, simply adds flavor to the surface of the meat. If it doesn’t contain salt, it won’t do much to enhance the tenderness.

Sodium is truly the key here. It had a tenderizing effect on protein — it begins to break it down — so timing here is important. Let the meat sit in the brine for an hour or two, although you’ll notice a difference from even 30 minutes. The max should be 24 hours.

“Enhanced” Meat

Before you go straight to brining your meat, be sure you’re not using a pork tenderloin that was labeled “enhanced.” That’s the industry term for meat that has already been injected with a brining solution.

Brining, No Recipe Required

Brining is super simple and doesn’t require a recipe. All you need to know is the ratio of salt to water. The basic ratio for a brine is one tablespoon of salt per one cup of water. You’ll need to use enough to cover the entire tenderloin; depending on the size, four to six cups of liquid should be sufficient.

You’re not likely to see a step for brining in most pork tenderloin recipes, but go ahead and include it anyway. No matter the recipe, even a quick brine is beneficial to the texture and flavor of the meat. It doesn’t flavor the meat in the way a marinade would; instead brining seasons the meat all the way through.

Pork Tenderloin Recipes to Try