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what you need to know

Root Source: Pork Tenderloin

what you should know


Here's a widespread practice that we'd like to see scaled way back: pairing pork tenderloin with fruit.


Don't think it's that widespread? A challenge then: flip through the indices of your cookbooks until you find three pork tenderloin recipes in three separate books.

just let it be savory There's nothing inherently wrong with pairing pork tenderloin with fruit. It just shows a collective failure of imagination that it is all anyone ever seems to want to do with this leaner, milder cut more prized for its tenderness than its flavor. As with a filet mignon, a generous seasoning of coarsely ground salt and pepper paired with high heat can transform a pork tenderloin.


temp, not time The key to a juicy pork tenderloin: temperature. You can cook a tenderloin in just about conceivable way, but always have your meat thermometer ready. You cannot reliably use a timer and expect a juicy tenderloin. It's that simple.


While the National Pork Producers Council has for years recommended a blistering internal read of 160F, we're glad to see more and more people champion medium-rare and medium pork. We've been consistently pleased by pulling pork at 142F. We let the meat sit covered for 5-10 minutes, during which time the temp will tick up a few more degrees.



what you need


Cooking pork tenderloin gives us an excuse to wield our favorite kitchen tools: a pair of OXO Good Grips tongs (Chip) and a Taylor instant-read digital thermometer (Brys). No one's favorite kitchen tool is butcher's twine, but when you need it, you need it. And often for a whole pork tenderloin, you need it.


You may not need Peter Kaminsky's Pig Perfect or Bruce Aidell's Complete Book of Pork, but owning either or both means you'll never need another email like this one to remind you of this next point.


Which is that, in the past several decades, pigs have changed dramatically. What used to be a lush, fatty meat has been bred into something leaner, less marbled. Across the country, certain small-scale producers specialize in heritage pig breeds like the Berkshire and the Red Wattle. We urge you to try these breeds. Compared to most of the supermarket cuts (with Niman Ranch as an exception), they're juicier, they're tastier, and they're more humanely raised. To save them you have to eat them.




what you do


Get back to basics. Forgo the fruit, the marinades, the rubs. Forget everything you've heard about the tenderloin's blandness. Track down a good quality cut. Season and moisturize it in a simple brine, then sear and roast it. Using just a few ingredients and direct high heat, let the meat speak for itself.


Or, instead of a brine, try Mark Bittman's twice-seared pork medallions (video) with a good pan sauce. (Not a fruity one, though.)


Sticking a tenderloin in the freezer before using it in a stir-fry helps keep the meat firm as you thinly slice it. We love this clean, textured stir-fry of pork, eggplant, red peppers and basil.


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