When it comes to main course proteins that “everyone” should know how to cook, the roasted chicken might be the most popular, at least in the United States. It is not, however, the easiest meat to master, nor is it even my favourite (though I do love this labneh-marinated bird). That, my friends, would be the pork tenderloin.
Pork tenderloin is the perfect cut for people who are just learning how to cook meat. It’s naturally tender, fairly cheap (though not the cheapest), and has an extremely favourable low-effort/high-reward ratio. It is the perfect weeknight protein.
Tenderloins — not to be confused with the larger, milder pork loin — are fairly small, around a pound or so, which is enough for 2-4 people, depending on how much non-meat stuff you serve along with it. If you live alone, rejoice in the leftovers: Thin slices of cold pork tenderloin make excellent sandwiches.
As its name would imply, pork tenderloin is tender, but it’s also lean, which means you can overcook it if you’re not careful. Luckily, there is an easy way to ensure this doesn’t happen. Just employ a little method known as “the reverse sear.” If you have read my other two blogs pork tenderloins (which were focused on the marinades), you know that all a reverse sear requires is popping the tenderloin in a low-temp (120 degrees Celsius) oven for about 50 minutes, or however long it takes to get 15 degrees below your target temperature, then finishing it with a sear on the stove to bring it up to that temperature.
You’ll need a kitchen thermometer, but anyone who cooks meat should have one of those anyway. You can use this method for pork chops as well, but I love the ease of cooking one big cut, rather than several smaller ones. (Though there are some big pork chops out there, the ones you find in most grocery stores are usually fit for one person.)
If you have time, marinating a tenderloin will take it to astonishing places, but you do not have to. My favourite marinades are one ingredient — either miso or shio koji — but I slow-roasted one this weekend with salt, pepper, and a little MSG, then finished it in lots of browned butter, and it ruled. Whether you marinate or not, the procedure is the same.
Simple Reverse-Seared Pork Tenderloin With Browned Butter
- 1 pork tenderloin (about a pound or a little more)
- Whatever marinades or rubs or seasonings you like
- A couple of teaspoons of olive oil (if you did not use a marinade)
- 4 tablespoons of butter
Marinate your pork if you wish, then remove that marinade by wiping or patting with paper towels. Preheat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. If you didn’t use a marinade, drizzle the pork with a little olive oil, rub it around, and season it liberally with salt and pepper (and a little MSG if you have it). Place the tenderloin in a roasting pan, and cook in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature that is 15 degrees shy of how “done” you want your pork to be, rotating about halfway through the cook. (I always cook mine to 55 degrees Celsius, so I remove the tenderloin from the oven when the thermometer reads 50 degrees Celsius, which takes about 5o minutes, so I rotate it at 25.)
Remove the tenderloin from the oven and set it aside while you heat your butter in a pan over high heat. Once the butter is really foamy, add the tenderloin and brown on all sides, flipping every 30 seconds or so until you get some good colour. The butter will get nice and brown along with the pork. Transfer the tenderloin to a plate or serving platter, pour the browned butter on top of the pork, and let it rest for five minutes before serving.