I'm not sure why, but cooking pork tenderloin always intimidated me. It seemed like anyone who cooked it could only result in dried out slices of pork tenderloin. I've accumulated tips on how to cook the perfect pork tenderloin. It's rolled in crushed peppercorns, tender and JUICY! I'd say perfect indeed!
So, how do you make perfect pork tenderloin?
The real trick to making perfect pork tenderloin that isn't too dry? A meat thermometer! A thermometer is your best friend when cooking proteins. I have tried over and over to do that trick where you feel the bounce of the protein to see if it feels bouncy (undercooked) or hard (overcooked). The one tried and true method is simply finding the temperature. No matter what the recipe says for timing, everyone's stove-tops and ovens are different and it's the safest bet to use the thermometer as much as possible to know how far along your cook is.
My favorite tips?
- ROOM TEMPERATURE PORK TENDERLOIN - with any protein, I like to take it out of the fridge about 20-minutes prior so that it can come close to room temperature.
- MEAT THERMOMETER - as aforementioned, use your meat thermometer to make sure it reaches the temperature you prefer. For pork tenderloin: 160ºF is Medium, 175ºF is Well Done.
- CAST IRON PAN - want to achieve that perfect browned crispy edge for your pork tenderloin? Use a cast iron pan. It also means less dishes - you can put it straight in the oven once your pork tenderloin is seared! If you don't have a cast iron (I highly suggest one, it's probably my favorite kitchen utensil!) then a dutch oven does the same trick too! I offer an alternative below the instructions if you have neither.
- LET THE MEAT REST - once your pork tenderloin reaches the temperature you are looking for, take it immediately out of the oven and LET IT REST. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before you slice.
- SEASON ENOUGH - I cannot stress enough to make sure you use salt to sprinkle over all sides. For this pork tenderloin I like to use peppercorns and crush them with a cutting board or pan. If you have a mortar and pestle, use that!
Ingredients for 2 Large Servings Pork Tenderloin
1 LB Pork Tenderloin
2 TBSP Black Peppercorns (you could use rainbow peppercorns if preferred)
2 TSP Salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.
- Place peppercorns in a ziplock bag. Carefully take a cutting board or pan and place on top of the ziplock bag. Press down to crush majority of the peppercorns. (You could also use a meat tenderizer tool.)
- Empty the crushed peppercorns onto a large plate and mix in the salt. Place the pork tenderloin on top and roll it around to make sure every crevice is covered in seasoning.
- Place your cast-iron pan on the stove and turn on medium-high heat. After 30-seconds add the avocado oil (about 2 TBSP) and make sure it's evenly distributed in the pan.
- Using tongs, place your seasoned pork tenderloin into the cast iron pan (it should crackle from the heat of the oil; to check if it's hot enough splash a droplet of water and it should sizzle). Allow to sear 6-8 minutes per side, or until browned. If your pan starts to smoke, feel free to always add more oil - very carefully. You can also turn on the vent fan of your stove-top.
- Once both sides are browned, place the cast iron in the oven*. Cook until it reaches an internal heat of 160ºF for medium up to 175ºF for well done. A good estimate is 20 minutes per LB, however I always measure the internal temperature every 5-ish minutes as my 1 LB pork tenderloin took only 10-minutes to reach 165ºF.
- After the pork tenderloin reaches the preferred internal temperature, immediately remove from the oven and leave to the side to rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Slice into ½" coins and place onto serving plate or directly onto dining plates.
*If you don't have a cast iron: follow all steps except pre-heat a baking tray in the oven, sear the pork tenderloin in a large pan, and then transfer to the baking tray once browned.