I absolutely love a good chunk of meat. Most of my favorite dishes are made out of meat, and when I try to think of a meat menu, the first thing that comes to mind is pork tenderloin.
Pork tenderloin is a very versatile and, dare I say, a meat’s best cut that can be prepared in various ways.
However, many people confuse pork tenderloin and pork loin and often end up going home bringing the wrong cut of meat. In this article, we will discuss the difference between pork loin and tenderloin and how to cook pork tenderloin to get the best out of this fantastic meat cut.
Pork tenderloin vs. Pork Loin
First of all, pork tenderloin and pork loin look very different visually. Pork tenderloin is thin and small, while pork loin is large, wide, and thick.
They’re even cut from different parts of an animal because a pork loin runs along the back between the back fat and the ribs, while a pork tenderloin runs along the spine.
They are shaped differently and look differently, and the way they’re cooked is entirely different as well. Due to it being very tender, pork tenderloin easily cooks and should be cooked over high heat quickly, while pork loin tends to be best-cooked slow-roast or grilled.
How to Cook Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is very versatile and tender; you can cook it in an oven, a microwave, or an air fryer. With all these methods, the key here is cooking the pork tenderloin quickly, be it broiling, grilling, sauteing, braising, or quick roasting.
Because pork tenderloin is very lean, it can quickly dry out and is relatively okay-tasting meat by itself, which is why pork tenderloin is best made with the right sauces and marinades.
An effective way how to cook pork tenderloin in the oven is by first preheating the oven at 400°F. Remove or trim the fat in the tenderloin and pat dry with a paper towel.
Mix 1 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, one teaspoon of Italian seasoning, one teaspoon of garlic powder, and one teaspoon of ground coriander. Stab the pork with a fork, rub with oil and sprinkle the mixed herbs or use your hands to rub them all over the pork tenderloin.
On a pan or skillet, heat one teaspoon of oil over medium to high heat and add the pork tenderloin to brown both sides. Don’t worry if it’s still raw in the middle. Place the pork tenderloin afterwards in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, flipping it halfway through cooking.
Grab a digital thermometer and check if the internal temperature has reached 160°F. Perfect pork tenderloin will be very slightly pink in the middle.
Once done, get the pork tenderloin out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. You can serve the pork tenderloin as is, or better, with your favorite sauces.
How Long to Cook Pork Tenderloin
If you’re wondering how long to cook pork tenderloin, it takes 20 to 35 minutes for 1 to 1 ½ pound of pork with an internal temperature of 145° to 160° F.
When roasting or baking, how long to cook pork tenderloin in the oven at 400° to 425° takes just as much time. Remember that it is essential to use a digital thermometer, if possible, in checking if meat is thoroughly cooked. Some meat may look cooked outside but are actually undercooked inside, which is possibly the last thing you would want.
It also takes 20 to 35 minutes or 1 to 1 ½ pound of pork tenderloin to cook when broiling or grilling. When broiling, keep tenderloin 4 to 5 inches away from heat and turn halfway through the cooking time. You can grill the pork tenderloin over direct, medium heat, also turning once halfway.
When sauteeing, it takes pork tenderloin medallions that are ¼ to ½ inch 4 to 8 minutes to cook. Make sure that the tenderloin is tender at this time. Add a little cooking oil to the pan while sauteeing over medium to high heat, and turn once halfway through the cooking time.
To braise tenderloin medallions, cook them over medium to high heat with one tablespoon of vegetable oil until browned on both sides. Add water to reach ¼ or ½ inch up sides of the pork, boil, and simmer until the pork tenderloin is tender. A ½ inch pork tenderloin can be cooked for 8 to 10 minutes with this method.
Pork Tenderloin Side Dishes
I like pairing my pork tenderloin with various side dishes or complimenting foods and serving them with my favorite sauces.
Some of my favorite pork tenderloin side dishes are:
- roasted cauliflower
- roasted carrots
- roasted green beans
- mashed potatoes
- oven-roasted plums
- baked or roasted asparagus
- creamed or cheesy corn
- grilled mushrooms
- sweet potatoes
- sauteed broccoli
- fried apple and onions
- rice, roasted brussels sprouts
- couscous salad, and fried cabbage
I can keep on going because pork tenderloin is best paired with anything– ANYTHING!
In terms of sauces, a few of my favorites are:
- Alabama white sauce. Made with mayonnaise as the base with distilled white vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and seasonings.
- Honey Garlic Sauce. Made with cider vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.
- Dijon Sauce. Made with butter, garlic, chicken broth, heavy cream, mustard powder, Dijon mustard.
- Barbecue sauce. Made with peach preserves, ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar, chili powder, pepper, a dash of ground mustard.
Pork tenderloin is very tender and lean, so you must exercise extra caution when cooking them. Overcooking pork tenderloin in the oven will give you dry meat. When cooked perfectly, grilled, roasted, or however cooked, pork tenderloin will provide you with a sumptuous meat dish on your dinner table.