Image credit: Faith Durand
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.
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 “filet,” and it is one of the most tender 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.
Image credit: Faith Durand
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 as soon as 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.
How To Make Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Yield: Serves 2 to 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Prep Time: 20 minutes to 25 minutes
- 1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons spices or seasonings (See Recipe Note)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Heat the oven and pan. 10 to 20 minutes before you plan to cook, place a large cast-iron or ovensafe skillet on the middle rack in the oven and heat the oven to 450°F. The skillet will heat along with the oven.
Season the pork. Pat the pork dry with paper towels and trim 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 onto the pork on all sides.
Swirl the pan with oil. Using oven mitts, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan.
Roast the pork for 10 minutes. Place 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 and roast for 10 minutes.
Flip the pork, reduce the heat, and roast another 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the pork. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and continue roasting 10 to 15 minutes more. The pork is done when its internal temperature registers 140°F to 145°F in the thickest part, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Rest for 10 minutes before serving. Transfer the pork to a clean cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing crosswise. 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 salt-free 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.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.