Perfect Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloinjump to recipe
Today we're walking you through cooking perfect pork tenderloin in the oven every time! With this guide, you'll never have to sit through a dinner of dried-out, flavorless pork tenderloin again.
Pork tenderloin has long been one of my go-to dinners. It's affordable, it cooks up quickly, it tastes great and is perfect for leftovers, and it for some reason feels a little fancier than our typical fare – making it perfect for a dinner party or a family weeknight dinner. However, it took me a while before I finally figured out to cook a juicy, flavorful pork tenderloin. Without the right technique, you can easily end up with dried-out, bland pork, but today we'll show you exactly what you need to do to get the best pork tenderloin in the oven every time!
What’s the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin?
First things first, let's clear up a common confusion! While they may sound the same and are actually cut from the same part of the pig, pork loin and pork tenderloin are NOT the same things. Here's a comparison of the two:
Pork loin is a larger cut of meat that is usually sold as a 3-5 pound roast. It is fattier than pork tenderloin, usually comes with a fat cap on top, and can come as either boneless pork loin or bone-in. You can find our favorite pork loin recipe here.
Pork tenderloin is a smaller cut of meat that usually weighs around one pound. The tenderloin is from a muscle that runs along the spine of the pig and isn't used for movement. As a result, it's much more tender than other cuts of meat. Pork tenderloin is also a lean cut of meat and has a very mild flavor.
How to Prepare Pork Tenderloin
As mentioned before, pork tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat – but what exactly does that mean? In addition to being a low-fat choice of protein, it is also very low on flavor. If you want a flavorful pork tenderloin, we recommend marinating it or seasoning it heavily. The good news is that since it is so mild, pork tenderloin takes on flavor easily – you just have to give it a little time. While you can certainly add flavor by using a spice rub, we love adding flavor by marinating pork tenderloin in one of our 3 delicious pork tenderloin marinades – Balsamic and Rosemary (a delicious blend of herbs, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil), Maple Dijon (a great sweet and savory combo), or Sesame Ginger (a tasty Asian-inspired choice that includes soy sauce or coconut aminos, honey, and red pepper flakes)! Allow your pork to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or, if you have the time, up to 24 hours.
How to Cook Pork Tenderloin in the Oven
While we also love grilling pork tenderloin (or even cooking it all day in the slow cooker), today's technique is dedicated to how to roast pork tenderloin in the oven, because it's the most accessible cooking method year-round. Once you have marinated your pork tenderloin, it's time to get cooking! Just follow the steps below to perfect pork tenderloin.
Step 1: Sear the Pork Tenderloin
Our main goals with pork tenderloin are to build flavor and not overcook it. Searing the pork tenderloin goes a long way to building flavor! It caramelizes the marinade, creating a delicious golden brown crust on the outside. It also helps seal the juices before you bake it.
To sear the pork tenderloin, grab your favorite cast iron, or another heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pan, add about 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and heat it over medium-high heat. Then, take your pork tenderloin and let the excess marinade drip off, and place it in the pan and sear for about 3-4 minutes, until browned. After 3-4 minutes, flip the pork tenderloin over and sear for an additional 3-4 minutes, until browned. While you can sear it on all 4 sides if you'd like, we find that searing on two sides works just fine!
Step 2: Bake the Pork Tenderloin
Now that the pork tenderloin is seared, you can either bake it in the same pan you seared it in, or transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the pork tenderloin with additional marinade, then bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for about 15-20 minutes, until the pork reaches a temperature of 145°F, then remove it from the oven. Cooking the pork tenderloin at the high temperature of 425 degrees F helps it cook quickly and prevents it from drying out.
Step 3: Rest the Pork Tenderloin
Finally, you'll want to let the pork tenderloin rest for about 8-10 minutes before serving, if you skip this step and cut into it immediately, the juices will run out of it and you'll be left with dry pork.
How do you know when pork tenderloin is done?
My #1 tip for cooking this perfect pork tenderloin recipe in the oven is to buy a meat thermometer! Even better, if you can buy an in-oven thermometer that will beep as soon as the pork reaches the desired temperature, you will have perfect pork every time. I frequently use my in-oven thermometer for pork loin and tenderloin, chicken breast, and roasting whole chickens and can't recommend it enough!
Pork Tenderloin Temperatures
You'll know the pork is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. According to the USDA guidelines, cooking pork to 145°F is medium-rare. The pork will still be a little bit pink but is totally safe to eat. However, if you want to cook it a little bit more you can go up to 155°F, if desired, but know that the pork will continue to cook a little bit more after being pulled out of the oven.
How can I tell if pork tenderloin is done without a thermometer?
If you don't have a thermometer, follow the recommended cooking time (15-20 minutes), then pull the pork out of the oven and touch the thickest part of it. You can get a good gauge on how done it is by following the finger test – just remember you're looking for medium-rare to medium here! Finally, when you slice into it, the pork should be light pink and very juicy. If it looks undercooked, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.
How to Use Leftover Pork Tenderloin
We love using leftover pork tenderloin because it stays tender even when reheated! Next time you make pork tenderloin, consider making a double batch so you can use the rest for leftovers. Our favorite way to use it is in a stir fry, but you can also season it and use it to make tacos, make fried rice, or thinly slice it for sandwiches (it would be especially perfect in a Cuban sandwich).
We hope this guide to cooking the perfect pork tenderloin inspires you to give pork tenderloin a try!
More Pork Recipes
Perfect Oven-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Say goodbye to bland, boring pork tenderloin with this recipe for flavorful, juicy, oven-roasted pork tenderloin!
- Prep Time: 10 minutes + 30 minutes to marinade
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes + marinating time
- Yield: Serves 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
- Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade of your choice, then set aside.
- Trim the silver skin off of the pork – the silver skin is the white, tough strip of connective tissue that runs about halfway down the pork tenderloin. Once you have removed it, season pork tenderloin with 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
- Pour the marinade over the pork tenderloin. Refrigerate for 30 minutes up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F, then heat a cast iron or another heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, then, once hot, remove the pork tenderloin from its marinade and let the excess drip off, then place it in the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until browned, then cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, until browned.
- Remove the pork tenderloin from heat, then brush it with additional marinade. Transfer the pan to the oven, or place the pork tenderloin on a rimmed baking sheet, and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the pork has reached an internal temperature of 145 F. The best way to ensure your pork cooks to the perfect temperature is by using an in-oven thermometer, or by pulling it out at the 15 minute mark, checking the temperature, then returning to bake for another 2-3 minutes until it reaches the desired temperature.
- Remove from oven, let rest for about 8-10 minutes, then slice and serve!
Keywords: pork, pork tenderloin, oven, honey mustard, asian, ginger, sesame, balsamic, herb