Whole pork tenderloins will typically weigh a little over a pound and be relatively free of large surfaces of fat deposits. Like the filet mignon, this cut of meat is very lean and extremely tender.
This cut is often confused with the loin, and while the loin is excellent in its own right, the two cuts do not benefit equally for the same treatments. The loin is easy to distinguish from the tenderloin by the size and the fat. A whole loin can weigh over ten pounds and almost always has a solid fat cap on one side. The loin is typically divided into more consumer friendly cuts such a half loins, pork loin roasts and boneless pork chops. Again, loins are great but they are not tenderloins; you have to treat them different so it is important to know what you have. The picture below shows a pork loin on the right and a two pack of pork tenderloins on the left. They look pretty similar and people will often grab the loin thinking they are getting the tenderloin.
However once you open the packages up you can really see the difference. Again, the loin is on the right but now the two tenderloins are obviously different. Pay attention when you’re shopping, it’s an easy mistake to make.
It is pretty obvious when you are looking at a pre-marinated product that there is no point in messing around with brines, marinades and rubs; the flavor profile has been pre-loaded. What is NOT obvious are tenderloins “enhanced” by injected flavor solutions as these will often look like plain tenderloins. It is important to read your labels here as, just like pre-marinated tenderloins, there isn’t that much you can do to change the flavor profile of ones that have been “enhanced”. Most Hormel pork products I find these days have been enhanced with a 12% solution but you can’t really tell without reading the fine print.
One of the shortcomings of tenderloins is that they don’t carry much of a flavor punch. This is one reason that the pre-marinated products are so popular. If you have the money an alternative to consider is buying tenderloins from that came from Berkshire hogs. Berkshires are the Kobe beef of the pig world and have great marbling and flavor that simply is not available with the mass produced pork found in most supermarkets. Unless you live close to an excellent butcher you will need to get these online.