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How to Prep Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin is a lean protein workhorse. Here's how to get the most out of it.

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Sliced from the muscle that runs alongside the backbone of the pig, pork tenderloin most tender cut of pork. Think of long and narrow boneless tenderloin as pork’s version of chicken breast, but more flavorful. In fact, the two cuts are quite similar in how they are priced and can be cooked.

The USDA rates pork tenderloin as “extra lean,” meaning it delivers a higher proportion of protein calories than those from fat. A 3-ounce serving of this cut ponies up 18 grams of muscle-friendly protein. If you prep pork tenderloin well, it’ll deliver all those protein without bring dry or tough. Other nutrition notables include thiamin, vitamin B6, and selenium, a mineral linked to lower rates of depression.

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Don’t confuse pork tenderloin with pork loin. The tenderloin is a smaller cut, averaging about 1 pound. Look for meat with relatively firm, pink flesh. Pale or brownish meat is a sign it’s past prime.

Prep

Its relatively small size means you can cook up tenderloin in less than 30 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight option. It also takes well to marinades and rubs. If sold with a silvery skin, trim this off before cooking and then prepare with a one-two punch: Brown all sides in an oven-proof skillet, and then transfer to a 400°F oven. The cut is also great grilled, which imparts smoky flavor. The leanness means it’s easy to overcook, so pay attention when over the fire or in the oven, and cook only to an internal temperature of 145°F, letting rest 5 minutes before slicing. Going the extra step to brine pork tenderloin in a salty liquid (like leftover olive brine) for a few hours before cooking will help ensure you slice into moist meat.

Make It Last

Once home from the butcher, keep tenderloin in the back of the fridge on a plate for up to three days. Beyond that, store tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to three months.

 

If you’re watching your sodium intake and would rather not marinate tenderloin in a brine, try this recipe for Spicy Buffalo Pork Enchiladas. It slow-cooks the pork tenderloin, ensuring that it’s tender and juicy without extra salt.