For a very long time I hated the idea of pork. OK, not pork. Pork chops. Pork is great. Ham is great. Bacon is great. So why no love for the pork chop? I think it’s because pork chops very often turn out like meaty grey hockey pucks. They look very inviting. Often they are not. No wonder applesauce is so popular with pork chops. So pork chops this is not. I don’t buy chops anymore. I just buy a tenderloin when the urge hits.
I first started messing around with pork tenderloins a few years ago. I tried many different methods, many different temperatures….endless. I tried an experiment when we were hosting Thanksgiving a year or two ago. I made two giant tenderloins; one sweet, one savory. I used the revised FDA safe cooking temperatures, in this case 145 degrees F. Anyone who can remember President Eisenhower would be horrified. Pork’s always been 160 degrees F, for as long as anyone can remember. As my mother used to say of eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough from the bowl…”You’ll get worms…”
So I cooked them to just safe temperature in the oven. Trichinosis is killed at 138 degrees F. That’s just about the only thing you need to worry about in pork. I cooked the meat until a thermometer read no lower than 140 degrees F in the thickest most center part. I let them carry over to 145 degrees F while sitting on the counter.
So how were they? They were demolished. That’s how they were. The moistest, tastiest cuts of pork I’ve ever eaten. I’m the harshest critic of my own food and I even thought they were stellar. I’ve never used another method of cooking them since. I didn’t tell anyone until it was all over that I’d adjusted the cooking temp.
The choice whether of a rub, marinade, savory or sweet, or just leaving well enough alone you’ll have to come to yourself. The basic cooking directions are the same. Tonight I went with an olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic sort of thing. More along the lines of a rub, than a marinade. If you’re feeling cheeky you could add all the ingredients into a bag, add some extra olive oil, and marinate the meat in it or a few hours or overnight in the fridge. There are also plenty of pre-marinated pork tenderloin choices at the store, in my experience.
Often I don’t plan ahead when I’m making dinner. Marinades take time and planning and I’m not so hot with either. That’s why I’m going with a simple rub. Quick, easy, and painless.
I still researched the issue a bit and I find that a lot of recipes don’t sear the meat. That’s a missed opportunity. That great caramelization on the outside of the meat adds tons of taste. Not searing is a missed opportunity to commune with Mr. Maillard.
I bought a roughly two-pound pork tenderloin. That works out fantastic for the two of us. There’s always some left over and if one of us is ravenous, then there’s food to go around. I take a paper towel and pat dry the meat before I do anything else. I used a large skillet over medium high heat. A tablespoon or two of olive oil is all you need to get the job done.
I do a quick rub of thyme, rosemary, and a little bit of olive oil. A quick few minutes searing each side (I roll the whole thing around to get a nice even brown) and it’s done. Off the heat and into an oven safe pan. Crack a few cloves of garlic and place on top of the roast and around the pan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
You should have your oven cranking away at about 400 to 425 degrees F. Cooking times are going to vary quite a bit from oven to oven and roast to roast. Even the type of pan you use will make a difference. I have a pan I use for roasting meat. I found it at a thrift shop and I can’t for the life of me conceive why someone got rid of it. It’s made in Holland, is enameled cast iron, and it’s square with a nice handle. Best $3 I ever spent. Period.
I drizzle a little more fresh oil on, sprinkle with a little more rosemary and thyme and place it into the middle of a hot oven. An instant read thermometer is imperative for cooking meat accurately. Mine was $11 on Amazon and is probably the one tool in my kitchen that I can honestly say has made the largest improvement in my cooking. Buy it. Live it. Love it.
As little as 25 minutes and as much as 45 minutes might be necessary. Check periodically with the thermometer and feel free to baste the meat while it’s out of the oven. Roasted at a lower temperature (say 350 degrees F) this roast could take an hour to an hour and a half to cook all the way through. I roast my tenderloin to 140 to 142 degrees F. It will carry up a few degrees and not much more. Do make sure you’re comfortable with where it ends up. I give the meat a good five to ten minutes to rest before slicing.
A tenderloin will produce beautiful pork medallions if you slice on a bias. Oh so tasty! With the liquid and browned goodness left in the pan, add some wine to deglaze. I used maybe half a cup. Give that minute to cook and reduce. A very nice pan sauce can be made in just a few minutes. How boss is that?
I served these with mashed potatoes and Brussels Sprouts. It was a fantastic meal and there was barely any left over. A success in my book.
For a two-pound roast, enough for two people to have a nice meal with plenty left over, you’ll need the following:
- A Pork Tenderloin Around 2 Pounds
- A Few Tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 2 Teaspoons Thyme – Season to Taste
- 2 Teaspoons Salt – Season to Taste
- 2 Teaspoons Rosemary (Dried) – Season to Taste
- 2 Teaspoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper – Season to Taste (Seeing a theme here?)
- 2 (or more) Cloves of Garlic – Crushed
- About 1/2 Cup of White Wine
Serve with your favorite veggies or sides. A fantastic, relatively quick dinner. And the best pork tenderloin you’re bound to have in a long while.