Everything you need to know to make perfectly cooked and flavorful Pork Tenderloin, including tips and tricks for grilling or baking it. I marinate the pork in a very simple lemon and garlic marinade that adds amazing flavor!
Sunday dinner at our house usually consists of grilled or baked meat with salads and fruit on the side. I love how easy it is to marinate steak, chicken, or pork tenderloin and throw it on the grill or in the oven. It’s hardly any work for me and I can usually marinate the meat in advance.
Cooking pork tenderloin is so EASY, and I’m excited to share everything you need to know to cook it perfectly. Whether you’re an experienced cook or a beginner, you really can’t mess this up!
What is pork tenderloin? (pork loin vs. pork tenderloin)
Did you know that pork loin and pork tenderloin are NOT the same thing? So what’s the difference? Both pork loin and pork tenderloin are cuts of meat that are taken from the area of the pig between the shoulder and the back legs. However, pork loin is found on the topside of the backbone where pork tenderloin is taken from under the topside of the backbone.
You could think of pork tenderloin as “pork fillet” because it’s a lean, tender, and flavorful cut of meat. You can recognize pork tenderloin as a long, thin, and smaller cut of meat while pork loin is a much thicker, steak-like cut of meat (see image below).
Where should I buy pork tenderloin?
My favorite pork tenderloin comes from Costco! They sell pork tenderloins in a two pack, and each pack has two tenderloins in it (so you get a total of 4 tenderloins). They are great quality tenderloins and you get all 4 for about $1.99/lb. (P.S. Costco is not paying me to say this; it’s my true opinion :)).
How to Make Pork Tenderloin:
- Marinate. I recommend marinating your tenderloin overnight. Here’s my favorite pork tenderloin marinade recipe. It’s essentially equal parts lemon juice and olive oil with LOTS of garlic.
- Sear. Searing the pork tenderloin before baking it is essential! See tips for searing below.
- Bake. Bake it at 325 degrees for about 20-25 minutes
- Rest. Allow the tenderloin to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting it. Like all meat, allowing it to rest causes the juices to penetrate back into the meat. If you cut into it too soon, the juices will run out and your meat will be tougher and chewier.
How to Sear Pork Tenderloin:
The best way to sear your pork tenderloin is on the grill (although you could also do it on the stovetop if need to). Turn your grill to really high heat and allow it to get hot before adding the tenderloin. Place your tenderloin on the hot grill and sear it (or cook it) rotating it every 1-2 minutes until it is browned on all sides.
When searing meat, you are NOT trying to cook it through, you are simply looking for the sides of the meat to form a brown, crusty layer. Generally speaking, the more color you get on the sear, the better the flavor.
How to bake pork tenderloin:
After searing your pork tenderloin, place it in a baking dish and cover with tinfoil. Bake at 325° F for about 18-25 minutes, or until you reach your desired doneness. See below for cooking temperatures for medium-rare to well-done pork tenderloin.
What temperature should I cook pork tenderloin to?
The National Pork Board recommends cooking pork tenderloin to an internal temperature of between 145° F – 160° F. The picture below gives a great illustration of how pork should look when it’s finished cooking. You can check the temperature of your pork tenderloin by using a thermometer. I recommend this inexpensive meat thermometer.
Image credit: Pork Checkoff
How to keep pork tenderloin from drying out:
No one wants to eat a dry pork loin or tenderloin, and the truth is, it’s easy to overcook your meat, causing it to be dry and chewy. To avoid dry pork tenderloin, be extra careful not to overcook the meat! The most accurate way to do this is by using an inexpensive meat thermometer!
Sides to serve with pork tenderloin:
- 2 pork tenderloin (about 2.5 pounds total)
- Your favorite pork tenderloin marinade or rub
- Marinate your pork tenderloin (here is my favorite marinade recipe), or rub it with your favorite seasonings.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Heat a grill or grill pan over very high heat.
- Once the grill is hot, place the tenderloins on the hot grill and sear over high heat, it rotating the meat every 1-2 minutes, until well browned on all sides.
- Place pork tenderloins in a baking dish and cover the pan with tinfoil. Bake for about 18-25 minutes, or until you reach an internal temperature of between 145° F – 160° F, depending on how well done you like your meat.
- Remove from oven and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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