How to Cook Pork Tenderloin So It's Tender, According to a Chef

To cook pork tenderloin that comes out tender and moist, roast it in the oven or grill it in indirect heat.
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Pork tenderloin makes a great addition to your meal rotation not only because it's tender but also because it's nutritious — it's about as lean as chicken breast, according to the National Pork Board.

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If you're wondering what the best way to cook pork tenderloin is, well, there are a few. This is a cut of meat you do not want to cook over low heat for a long time, like in a slow cooker or Dutch oven. Rather, high cooking temps and short cooking times work best, like oven-roasting or grilling.

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How Long to Cook Pork Tenderloin

No matter which method you choose, you can ensure juicy, tender pork loin every time by cooking it at a high temperature as quickly as possible, White says.

Roast pork tenderloin in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes. If you're cooking pork tenderloin on the grill, make sure to use indirect heat and cook for about 30 minutes, turning often throughout.

Cooking pork to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended to prevent foodborne illness, according to the USDA.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin in the Oven (Roasting)

Of all the ways to cook pork tenderloin, the oven is one of the best methods, says Chef Larry White, owner of Lo Lo's Chicken & Waffles and Brunch & Sip in Arizona.

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Here's how to roast pork tenderloin in the oven so it comes out tender, juicy and full of flavor.

Things You'll Need

  • Pork tenderloin

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Orange zest

  • Olive oil

  • Rosemary

  • Garlic

  • Small bowl

  • Resealable bag

  • Napkins or paper towels

  • Cooking oil

  • Cast-iron pan

  • Meat thermometer

1. Rub the Tenderloin or Let It Marinate

It's up to you whether you want to marinate the meat beforehand or not: "It isn't a requirement to marinate your tenderloin to get that perfect amount of flavor," White says. "For the most part, pork tenderloin is cooked quickly and easily with no brining needed."

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Rub:​ You can create a rub of salt, pepper and your choice of spices in a small bowl. Then, rub it on the tenderloin, making sure you cover all sides, White says.

Marinade:​ Marinating is another option if you prefer going that route: White recommends a marinade of orange zest, olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Mix your marinade in a small bowl and put it in a resealable bag with the tenderloin to sit for 1 to 4 hours.

Note:​ Do not let it sit for too long. "Marinating pork tenderloin overnight can destroy the structure of the meat," White says.

2. Pat the Pork Dry

"Make sure the pork is dry by patting it with napkins or paper towels before putting it in the pan," White says.

3. Preheat the Oven and Prep the Pan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the best oven-roasted pork tenderloin, use a large cast-iron pan, White says. Swirl a thin layer of cooking oil around the inside of the cast-iron pan before placing the pork tenderloin inside.

The next best thing to use if you're cooking pork tenderloin in the oven is a shallow roasting pan. Prep your roasting pan in the same way as you would cast iron, applying a thin layer of cooking oil before placing the meat in.

4. Cook the Tenderloin

Place your pan in the oven and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. This short cooking time is best for keeping the tenderloin moist — longer cooking times can dry out and toughen a tenderloin, White says.

You'll know your pork tenderloin is done when your meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 140 to 145 F. "It's perfect when it has a tiny, soft pink center," White says.

Tip

You can also make good use of the drippings. “The pork juice that is released from the tenderloins while cooking is perfect to put on top of rice or mashed potatoes,” White says.

How to Cook Pork Tenderloin on a Gas Grill

Indirect heat is great for cooking large cuts of meat because it helps it remain juicy and flavorful as it cooks. Because pork tenderloin is very lean, it can be easy to overcook and may dry out quickly.

But if you do it properly, you can cook a pork loin on a gas grill — or any grill — to tender perfection. Here's how to cook pork loin on a grill using indirect heat.

Things You'll Need

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • Tongs

  • Meat thermometer

1. Prepare the Grill

Preheat your grill. If you are using a gas grill, turn all of the burners on medium.

If you are using charcoal, place your coal grate in your grill, then roll aluminum foil into a cylinder long enough to go from end to end in the middle of the coal grate and place it there. Pour lit coals onto one half of the grill, then place your cooking grate on top.

2. Season Your Pork Tenderloin

Rub the olive oil, salt and pepper evenly on all four sides of the tenderloin.

3. Adjust the Heat

Prepare your gas grill for indirect heat by turning off one burner on a two-burner grill. If you have a three-burner gas grill, turn off the middle burner.

4. Grill the Meat

Place the pork tenderloin over the portion of your grill that is not lit. Turn the pork tenderloin with tongs every five minutes, making sure you are cooking evenly on all sides.

Check the temperature of the pork tenderloin using your meat thermometer — it should read 145 F. For a 1 and 1/2-pound tenderloin, cooking time is approximately 30 minutes.

5. Remove the Pork and Let It Rest

Remove the tenderloin from the heat once the safe internal temperature is reached. Wrap it in foil and let it rest for at least five minutes before slicing and serving.

How to Tenderize Pork Loin

Avoiding toughness and dryness is paramount to a good tenderloin. To help tenderize pork loin, White recommends pouring apple cider vinegar over the pork before you cook it. This will not only help it stay tender, but also add a blast of flavor.

What to Do With Dry, Overcooked Pork Tenderloin

If your pork tenderloin came out dry, don't let it go to waste.

In this situation, White recommends putting it into the food processor with your choice of sauce: try barbecue sauce, Buffalo sauce or lemon-pepper sauce. Then, put the finely-chopped pork on a sandwich with your favorite fixings. "You can also use it for potstickers and egg rolls," he says.

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