I have to admit that I’ve never been a big pork tenderloin fan. They’ve always seemed kind of pricy, bland, and finicky. Not qualities I look for in food or friends, so I tend to gravitate to more complex and tasty cuts of pig like shoulder roasts and ribs.
Part of the problem with tenderloins is that pork has gotten leaner and cooking an already lean piece of meat to the old USDA recommend 160°F left you with a pretty dry and flavorless hunk of meat.
Thankfully, the government has seen the error of its ways and since lowered the recommended temp to a pink and juicy 145°F. So when the local MongoMart ran a sale on some nice-looking tenderloins, I decided to give them a try.
Dead Simple Brine
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups ice water
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
Combine the salt, sugar, and un-iced water in a small pan and cook over high heat until salt and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add the iced water and stir till the ice is dissolved.
Put the tenderloins in a zip-top bag, pour in the cooled brine, squeeze the air out, then seal the bag, Stash in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
While the pork is brining, put the oil, butter, garlic, salt, juice, chili powder, cumin, and oregano in a large grill-safe pan (a 9×13 cake pan works fine).
Set up your grill for a raised direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat. I used a Woo2 extender ring to raise the cooking grate up a bit.
While the grill is heating up, remove the tenderloins from the bag. Pat them dry, then rub them down with a little olive oil and dust them with your favorite rub or seasoning. We’re going south of the border for this meal, so I used Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom.
When the grill is ready, put the pan with the baste on the grill grate and heat until the butter melts and the garlic becomes fragrant, then move it off the grill but keep it warm and nearby.
Put the tenderloins on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side, until the tenderloins are starting to brown and show grill marks.
Move the tenderloins off the grill and into the basting pan. Roll them in the baste and return them to the grill. Grill them for another 2 minutes per side, then move them back into the basting pan.
Roll them in the baste then put the whole pan with the tenderloins in it on the grill. Cook the tenderloins in the pan, rolling them in the baste every few minutes, until they hit 140°F internal (about another 6 to 10 minutes).
Remove the basting pan and tenderloins from the grill and let them rest for 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloins crosswise into 1/2 inch thick medallions and serve drizzled with the remaining baste.
These were the best tenderloins I think I’ve ever had – rosy-hued and juicy with great flavor. Not as rich (or fatty) as ribs, but they didn’t take hours to cook either. The mild flavor of the pork really benefited from the layers of flavor that the brine, flames, and baste brought to the game.