I got a good thumping by a hulking piece of pork loin a couple weeks ago. I was determined to make a comeback.
The object of my defeat was a Jamaican-style pork loin with grilled pineapple for a potluck party. Sounds good, right? Well, I had never cooked this cut before, so I referenced different books and blogs to determine what temperature the pork should be when "done." I saw everything from 135 to 160 degrees.
I erred on the side of well done and cooked it to 158 degrees.
While the meat was flavorful, it was dry and a little tough -- a little embarrassing since I'm supposed to know how to cook. It didn't help that most of the juice fled the platter during transport and ended up on my car mat.
So what do you do when you fail? You try again.
Since it was my mother-in-law's birthday, I had the perfect opportunity to go for Round 2, a Greek-style dinner with tzatziki (Greek cucumber sauce), orzo with tomatoes, feta and mint, and this pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is more petite than the pork loin, but it still needs to be cooked to the right temperature to be succulent and not a piece of shoe leather.
This time I cooked the pork tenderloin to 149 degrees. It was perfect if you don't like pink pork but you still want it juicy.
A few cooking tips:
1) I'm a dry rub person, but when I make marinades, I puree the garlic and onions in the blender with the other marinade ingredients. Their flavors permeate the meat more than just chopped garlic and onions.
2) Don't skip using at least a little oil in your marinades as many spices are oil-soluble and will not release their flavor compounds without it.
3) If I'm going to marinate meat more than a half hour, I don't add much acid to the marinade as it makes the meat mushy. After you cook the meat, you can add a little acid such as a squirt of lemon juice for its bright flavors.
4) I cooked the pork on the Big Green Egg, a grill that uses lumpwood charcoal, but you can easily sear this on the stovetop and cook it in the oven at 350 degrees or cook it on a gas grill at 350 degrees.
5) A thermometer is your friend and takes all the guess work out of cooking big pieces of meat.
6) Once the meat is cooked, let it rest for 20 minutes. If you tent a piece of foil over it, it will stay warm. It will cook another ten degrees from when you pulled it off the grill and the juices will redistribute themselves. If you cut it too early, the juices will leak out and the meat will be dry.
Greek-style Pork Tenderloin
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tbs. red wine vinegar
Penzey's Greek Seasoning or Oregano
Salt and pepper
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
In a blender, puree the onion, garlic, red wine viner, and olive oil to make a marinade. Add enough olive oil, so that the onion and garlic will puree. Set aside.
Generously season the pork tenderloins on all sides with the Greek seasoning or oregano, salt and pepper. Put the tenderloins in a Ziploc bag and add the marinade. Distribute the marinade so that it's covering the pork. Add more oil if you need it.
Marinate a few hours or overnight in the fridge, turning the bag over once in a while. When you're ready to grill, take the meat out of the Ziploc bags and let any excess marinade drip off the meat.
Heat the grill to 350 degrees. Cook the tenderloin until its internal temperature is 149 degrees, about 25 minutes, turning occasionally on the grill so it browns evenly.
Take off the grill and let rest twenty minutes. Place a piece of foil loosely over the meat, and this will help keep it warm. Slice and serve. If you like, you can squirt the meat with a little lemon juice. The lemon juice will mix with the drippings and brighten up the flavors.