I bought a pork tenderloin last week without any plan for how I’d prepare it. I don’t usually cook the leaner cuts of pork, much to the detriment of any hypothetical dieting intentions. My preferred cuts are the fattier ones because I think they’re tastier–like shoulder, rib chops and belly. But the tenderloin looked particularly good and the price looked even better so I thought I’d give it a try. Full disclosure: the pork tenderloin purchase also came about because one of my life goals is to butcher a side of pig. But before I can do that, I have to first get comfortable cooking with the whole pig–even the lean parts.
One of your best weapons when it comes to cooking leaner cuts of meat is a good marinade or brine. It injects a little moisture and flavor into the meat, since it can’t rely much on fat to provide juiciness and flavor as it cooks.
I found this marinade from the infallible Alton Brown. I like the combination of sweet, smoky and acidic flavors. For the tastiest, juiciest results, give the pork at least 6 hours (and up to 24) to bathe in the marinade. You only need half of the marinade for the pork–keep the rest of it for drizzling over the top just before serving.
When cooking any thick piece of meat like this, it’s best to use an instant-read digital thermometer. You’ll know the pork is done once the thermometer reaches 140°F when inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin. Note: Take the meat off the grill before checking the internal temperature to get the most accurate read.
Grilled pork tenderloin with sweet chipotle lime sauce
Recipe from Alton Brown
1 whole pork tenderloin, approximately 1 pound
1 lime, zest finely grated
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon of the sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
Method: Trim the pork of excess fat and silver skin.
In a bowl, whisk together the lime zest, juice, honey, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chiles and oil. Pour about half of the marinade into a 1-gallon resealable bag. Add the pork, seal the bag, and massage the marinade into the pork.
Put in the refrigerator to marinade for 6-24 hours. Remove the tenderloin from the bag and allow it to sit at room temperature while heating the grill. Remove the reserved marinade from the refrigerator.
Heat the grill to medium heat, and brush it with canola or vegetable oil. Place the pork in the center of the grill and discard the marinade. Close the lid and cook the pork for about 15 minutes, turning every 2 minutes, until the thickest part of the tenderloin reaches 140°F.
Take the tenderloin off the grill, cover with foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
To serve, slice the pork and fan out the slices on a platter. Drizzle the pork with some of the reserved marinade, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serves 4.