If you're in the mood for a simple dinner of meat and vegetables, but need to shake up your chicken breast (or pork chop ) routine, pork tenderloin is your ticket. Pork tenderloin is one of the easiest, most relaxed cuts of meat to cook for dinner, and it's one of my favorite weeknight meals. There's no major preparation involved; just season and bang into the oven while you make a salad.
What Is the Tenderloin?
As Christine explains in her guide to buying pork chops. the tenderloin comes from the loin of the pig, which runs from the hip to the shoulder. The tenderloin itself is sometimes also called a pork "fillet," and it is one of the tenderest cuts of meat on the animal, since it is not a muscle that receives much if any exercise.
This means that the tenderloin is usually a little more expensive than cuts of meat that need longer cooking, like the loin proper or pork butt (shoulder). It also means that it can be cooked quickly and easily, with no brining or braising needed.
What to Look for in a Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is often sold in individual packages in the meat section of the grocery store. An individual tenderloin isn't very much meat; it usually weighs about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. So you'll often find two tenderloins in one package. If you come home with two, just cook both. Leftovers keep beautifully and are great in sandwiches. Or freeze one, if two is more than you can eat within a few days.
Pork tenderloins are also often sold packaged in a marinade. Personally, I avoid these, as I would prefer to season the meat myself (and control the amount of salt and oil used). It's very quick and easy to roll a pork tenderloin in some salt and spices, or to create a paste of garlic and ginger to rub all over it.
Cooking Pork Tenderloin
The method below is our favorite way to cook a pork tenderloin, and it's very easy. The only way to make it easier would be to not flip the meat while it's cooking, but that one extra step creates a delicious crust on the meat and cooks it more evenly.