Baked Pork Tenderloin with Jerk Rub

Quick summary:  Apply a heavy coating of dry rub to the pork tenderloin.  Bake at 400 degrees for thirty to forty minutes until an internal temperature of 150 degrees is reached.

If you want to make your own jerk paste give this recipe a try:

  • Juice of one lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 seeded habenero pepper, fine diced
  • One inch peeled ginger, sliced thin, then diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

I will pulse the mix with a hand blender until smooth. I know the habenero pepper will look scary to some folks but if you remove all of the seeds the heat level is pretty mild. I will actually use three peppers if I want to have any real heat in my jerk paste.

Baked pork tenderloin
Jerk rubbed pork tenderloin

Longer version:  There are several other approaches to baking or roasting pork tenderloins.

  • Sear all sides in a skillet and then finish in the oven.
  • Start in a scorching hot oven and then lower the temperature.
  • Bake at a low temperature and then finish under the broiler.

I don’t bother with any of those approaches; it’s just to “busy” and I don’t see the point.  You are only trying to accomplish two things while baking pork tenderloin; getting the center of the meat to 150 degrees and making the meat delicious.    The three common methods outlined above all involve application of intense heat at some point with the intent of adding flavor through the formation of a browned surface.  The browning of the surface comes with the confusion of what is the best way and often results in cooks over cooking or even burning the tenderloin.

Relax, it’s not that hard!  Skip the whole browning of the meat routine and just bake the tenderloin.  Use whatever temperature makes you happy; 275 degrees will take about an hour and a half while 450 degrees will take about twenty minutes.  The only real requirement is to use a good thermometer and pay attention to what you are doing; take the tenderloin out of the oven the moment it reaches 150 degrees Do not go by my time and temperature as no two ovens are the same. Go by the internal temperature of the tenderloin. If you don’t have a good digital thermometer then buy one now. This one is good, this one is better.   If you have brined your pork tenderloin then you can be a little sloppy on your temperature and pull it a few degrees later.

I skip the whole browning step because the flavor that would provide would be completely insignificant compared to the flavors introduced by dry rubs, marinades and brines.

I had not planned ahead when I made this pork tenderloin so I hadn’t had time to brine.  Instead I bought a plain Hormel “Always Fresh” pork tenderloin which is essentially a pre-brined product.  I applied a heavy coat of dry rub and let the tenderloin sit in the refrigerator for an hour.  I brought the tenderloin back out of the fridge and allowed it to warm on the counter for twenty minutes before baking in a 400 degree oven for thirty five minutes.

Close up of pork tenderloin with jerk rub
Pack on the flavor and skip the browning.

The dry rub I used was a special blend, Old Florida Key Lime Jerk, from Homebbq.com (sadly this company is no longer selling any rubs).  This is a company run by a highly successful competitive barbecue chef, Kevin Bevington, and I encourage you to check out his site.  I sent Kevin an e-mail asking which of his dry rubs would be best for pork tenderloin and this is what he recommended.  This rub had most of the usual suspects (garlic, salt, sugar) but also included some allspice and cloves which really stood out.  There were just enough pepper flakes to make your mouth take notice but not so much as to call this rub “hot”.   This was a high quality, very flavorful rub that worked great with the pork tenderloin.

Flattened and Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Flattened and grilled pork tenderloin
Grilled and cut into strips

This is a whimsical way of grilling pork tenderloin.  It is a great way of highlighting a great rub or of making flavor packed pork strips for appetizers.  There are probably thirty different ways of using the end product that are more creative than what I have listed.  I would love to hear your ideas.

The preparation and grilling is super simple.  Trim, butterfly and flatten the pork tenderloin.  Give both sides of the meat a solid coating of a high quality rub; I used a mix of kosher salt, paprika, garlic and fresh rosemary.  Let the tenderloin marinate in the rub for an hour in the refrigerator.

 

 

Pork tenderloin flattened and rubbed
Rubbed and ready to grill
Rosemary and garlic rub for grilled pork tenderloin
A pretty simple but good rub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grilled this over the direct heat of a charcoal grill.  Since the tenderloin was so thin it only needed about three minutes per side to cook through.

Pork tenderloin off of the grill
What else would you use this for?

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Side dishes

I’ll try to keep posting some interesting side dishes that go well with pork tenderloin.  As always, pasta, rice, baked beans, mashed potatoes, etc are good; they just get a little old after a while.

Side #1:  Mixed Greens with Purple Hulled Peas

Mixed greens as a tenderloin side dish
Mixed greens with purple hulled peas

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound seasoning meat (tasso, smoked ham hock, etc)
  • 1 lb frozen chopped collard greens
  • 1 lb frozen chopped mustard greens
  • 1 lb frozen purple hulled peas.
  • 2 15 oz cans of low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Sauce

This is a mix and simmer type dish.  Combine the ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for about an hour.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  This makes a lot of food and I will use the leftovers as a simple and extremely healthy lunch during the week.  Cornbread would be great to soak up the liquids.

Side #2: Roasted Butternut Squash

Roasted butternut squash as a side dish for pork tenderloin
Roasted butternut squash

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • salt
  • pepper
  • brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Sprinkle the cut sides of the squash with salt, pepper and brown sugar.  Add a tablespoon of butter to the cavity where the seeds were.  Place the squash in an oven proof with a quarter cup of water in the bottom of the dish.  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for forty minutes or until the squash is fork tender.

Side #3: Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Grilled sweet potatoes as a side dish for pork tenderloin
Grilled sweet potatoes

Ingredients

  • whole sweet potatoes
  • vegetable oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • rosemary
  • butter

Cut the ends off of the sweet potatoes, peel and cut into eight sections of roughly the same size.  Apply a very light coating of oil and toss with salt, pepper and finely chopped rosemary.  I like to grill these for the sake of presentation but they are equally good when roasted in the oven.  These take about 20 minutes to grill (turning often) or 40 minutes to roast in a 350 degree oven.  When the sweet potatoes are fork tender remove to a dish and add a few pats of butter (and brown sugar if you are into that sort of thing).

 

Side #4 Rice Salad

Ingredients

  • ½ of a large red onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced.
  • 3 Tbls olive oil
  • 4 Tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1 quart cooked white rice (leftover from Chinese takeout works great!)
  • Salt to taste (~1 tsp)

Add the onion to the red wine vinegar and microwave for 45 seconds.  Allow the onions to steep in the vinegar for about 15 minutes.  This pickles the onions and takes away the “rawness”.  Mix everything together and serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pre Marinated Pork Tenderloin

I bought a “Farmlands” peppercorn pork tenderloin the other day for about ten bucks.  These really come in handy if you are not feeling too ambitious in the kitchen but want to have something quick and tasty.  I have cooked a couple of these and my family has consistently liked them.

Grilled pork tenderloin
An easy dinner!

I did a little indoor grilling with this tenderloin using a cast iron grill pan.  I suspect this would work equally as well with a George Foreman type grill.  There weren’t any special tricks or techniques here.

I let the tenderloin warm on the counter for thirty minutes before grilling.

Warm the tenderloin before grilling.
Letting the tenderloin warm….

The grill pan was pre-heated for five minutes over medium heat; it is ready to cook when little water droplets sizzle as they hit they pan.  I cooked the tenderloin for seven minutes on a side, rotated it 90 degrees and cooked for another seven minutes.  After thirty minutes I had seared all sides of the tenderloin and gotten some great grill marks.

If you are interested in grill pans then I can recommend this one or this one. Both are excellent.

Grilling pork tenderloin
Grill and turn…
Grilling pork tenderloin
Seven minutes and turn…

I pulled the tenderloin at an internal temperature of 150 degrees and let it rest for five minutes.  I sliced this guy up and drizzled it with my secret barbecue sauce (two parts Sweet Baby Rays to one part honey).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hardest part of all of this was getting over my macho pride and buying a pre-marinated processed piece of pork.  No serious cook would ever buy one of those, right?  Maybe not, but these sure are tasty!

Barbecued pork tenderloin
Sliced and sauced!

 

Apple and Raisin Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Stuffed pork tenderloin with apples and raisins
Really good!

I was taken aback at how good this recipe turned out; this is a keeper!  The sweet part of the stuffing was a sauté of Granny Smith apple, yellow onion and golden raisins while the savory part was mild curry powder.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, fine diced
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • 1 ½ teaspoons McCormick’s curry powder
  • 1 pork tenderloin

I sautéed the onions with a sprinkle of salt and just enough oil to keep them from sticking.  As soon as the onions started to sweat I added the apples, raisins and curry powder.  I let the stuffing cook on low heat for about ten minutes until the apples were soft but still had some structure.  The stuffing then went into a bowl and then the refrigerator to cool while I prepared the pork tenderloin for stuffing.

Stuffing for pork tenderloin
Apples, golden raisins and onions starting to cook.

TIP:  I spent the extra three dollars and bought a fresh one ounce bottle of curry powder.  Using the freshest curry powder you can put your hands on is what makes this dish spectacular.

Curried tenderloin stuffing
Curried stuffing ready to go.

The tenderloin prep was the same as in the spinach and feta post.  The silverskin was removed, the meat butterflied and then pounded flat between sheets of wax paper.  I applied a thin layer of the cooled stuffing to the meat and then rolled it up and tied.  I had about a quarter cup of stuffing left over which I wolfed down.  The pork got a simple rub of salt and pepper.

Stuffed pork tenderloin rubbed with salt and pepper
Tied and ready for the grill

I grilled this guy with indirect heat for about fifteen minutes and then with direct heat for another ten until I read an internal temperature of 150 degrees.  I liked the little bit of char that the direct grilling gave the meat.

Grilled pork tenderloin
Nice crust!

This was sliced into medallions and served with roasted butternut squash and a little pasta.  The stuffing was incredibly fragrant and the sweetness of the apples and raisins worked great with the grilled pork.

Roasted butternut squash
Roasted butternut squash...an easy and delicious side.