The 4 Simple Steps to Mastering Grilled Pork Tenderloin
When cooking for the family, grilled pork tenderloin is hard to beat. This cut of meat is quick and easy to prepare, plus its an affordable choice that tastes like something from a fancy restaurant. Learn how to grill pork tenderloin with this easy guide.
On the grilling spectrum between the simplicity of burgers off the grill and the fancy factor of beef tenderloin, there's a sweet spot: pork tenderloin. This cut of meat is affordable and simple to cook yet sure to bring on the "wows" that every cook loves to hear. Pork tenderloin is very customizable in that you can flavor it any way you like with marinades or rubs, and it's equally delicious served alongside grilled vegetables or grilled fruit. Learn a few simple secrets (like using the indirect grilling method and letting the pork rest after cooking for the ultimate juiciness), and you'll make perfect grilled pork tenderloin the first time and every time.
Grilling Pork Tenderloin at a Glance
If you're just looking for a couple of essential facts, here's what to know.
- How long to grill pork tenderloin: Grill a ¾- to 1-pound tenderloin over medium-high indirect heat 30 to 35 minutes or until done.
- Grilled pork tenderloin temperature: An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the tenderloin should register 145°F. Cover with foil and allow to stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Step 1: Trim the Tenderloin
Before cooking pork tenderloin on a grill, remove excess fat as well as the silver skin (the smooth, shiny connective tissue on the surface of the meat). Using a sharp knife, remove the silver skin, pulling it up as you cut. A fillet knife ($125, Sur la Table) is great for these tasks. Also remove visible fat as desired.
Step 2: Season the Pork
Seasoning the meat with a dry rub or marinade before cooking will add more layers of flavor to your grilled pork tenderloin.
To marinate: Place the pork in a resealable plastic bag, and pour the marinade over the pork. Allow the pork to marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge before grilling.
To apply a dry rub: Use your fingers to gently massage the rub into the pork. Some recipes or package directions will specify applying the rub in advance so the pork better absorbs the flavors of the rub. If that's the case, refrigerate the rubbed pork until ready to grill.
Step 3: Prepare the Grill for Indirect Grilling
Because tenderloin is a lean cut, grilled pork tenderloin can dry out if cooked too quickly over too hot of a fire. For the perfect grilled pork tenderloin, the indirect-grilling route is the way to go. This method entails cooking meat in a covered grill away from (rather than directly above) the heat source. Indirect cooking works whether you're making pork tenderloin on a charcoal grill or a gas grill.
For a Charcoal Grill
If you're one who swears by the flavor you get cooking with charcoal grills, here's what to do.
- Light coals using lighter fluid, an electric starter, or a chimney starter. (If using lighter fluid, wait 1 minute before igniting the fire.) Let the fire burn until the coals are covered with a light coating of gray ash.
- Move coals from the center of the grill. Place a drip pan ($11, Target) in the center of the grill. Arrange coals around the drip pan.
- Test the coals for medium-high heat above the pan.
- If the coals are too hot, raise the grill rack, spread the coals apart, close the vents halfway, or remove some briquettes.
- If the coals are too cool, use long-handled tongs ($13, Target) to tap ashes off the burning coals, move coals together, add briquettes, lower the rack, or open the vents.
For a Gas Grill
For those who prefer the ease of gas grills, here's how to grill your tenderloin.
- To light a gas grill, open the lid. Turn the gas valve to "on" and ignite the grill as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the burners on high. Close the lid and preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Adjust for indirect cooking: Turn off the burner directly below where you will place the meat. Adjust burner controls to medium-high heat.
- If the indirect heat is too hot or cold, turn the burners to higher or lower heat settings as needed.
Step 4: Grill, Rest, and Serve
The pork is seasoned, the grill is hot, and now it's time to get grilling.
- Place the meat on the grill (over the drip pan if using a charcoal grill, or over the unlit burner on a gas grill.)
- Cover the grill and grill a ¾- to 1-pound tenderloin over medium-high indirect heat 30 to 35 minutes or until it registers 145°F on an instant-read thermometer. Turn once halfway through grilling time.
- Note: Meat color is not a reliable indicator of doneness; to determine grilled pork tenderloin temperature, always use an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the meat from the grill and loosely cover it with foil. Let the meat stand at least 10 minutes before serving. The meat's internal temperature will continue to rise as it stands.
- Slice the grilled pork tenderloin across the grain into ½-inch slices.
- If desired, serve with mustard, horseradish (or better yet, our homemade Mustard-Horseradish Sauce). Then again, you can't go wrong with a homemade barbecue sauce, either.
Related: Fast and Fabulous BBQ Sides
Now that you know how to grill pork tenderloin, you'll think of all kinds of ways to enjoy it. Sure, it's great as a center-of-the plate feast with a few side dish recipes, but it's also amazing in sandwiches, soups, and main-dish salads. In fact, when it comes to salads, anything grilled chicken can do, grilled pork tenderloin can do just as well (if not better!). To start, try substituting grilled pork tenderloin in a classic Chicken Caesar Salad, and you'll see what we mean.