Pork has never been one of my favorite foods. For a while, I even claimed I was allergic to it. Except for bacon. Who can be allergic to bacon? Anyway, to me pork was bland, dry and unpleasant. Before I discovered sous vide cooking, I never cooked pork tenderloin. Because it is such a small piece of meat, pork tenderloin is easy to overcook, often leaving it dry, bland and hard to swallow. No thank you.
The tenderloin comes from the full pork loin. As the name indicates, the tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of pork. Typically, pork tenderloin weighs between ¾ and 1 ½ pounds. Because of its position on the top of the loin, the muscle does virtually no work. While this is what makes it so tender – it also develops nothing for flavor.
Don’t Give Up On Pork Quite Yet!
I’m sure I’ve nearly talked you out of cooking pork tenderloin by now, but wait – there’s more! When I read everyone raving about pork tenderloin in my favorite Sous Vide Cooking Group Cooking, I was a skeptic. But then I tried it. Pork tenderloin is now my favorite cut of meat to cook this way. Cooking pork tenderloin sous vide makes it hard to overcook the meat, and it is easy to add flavors to the pork during the low and slow cooking process. Super tender, perfectly cooked, extremely flavorful meat – that’s the best of both worlds, right?
Let’s Talk Temperature for Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is one of the fast-cooking meats that texture is directly related to the temperature you cook it at. Sous vide allows you to dial in a temperature, picking the exact texture you want your meat to be. At 120°F. the texture of the meat begins to change. For me, the perfect temperature is 140°F, and I cook the meat for 1.5 – 2 hours. The meat holds its shape, is juicy, and cuts like butter.
|Temperature||Time||Resulting Texture & Juiciness|
|130°F/54°C||1 to 4 hours||Buttery-tender; very juicy – Medium-Rare|
|140°F/60°C||1 to 4 hours||Firm but still tender; moderately juicy – Medium|
|150°F/66°C||1 to 4 hours||Fully firm; moderately juicy – Medium Well|
|160°F/71°C||1 to 4 hours||Dry, with a firm, tacky texture – Well Done|
The Final Sear
Sous vide meat is ugly. There’s no color and it looks sickly. With beef and pork chops, I will often do a pre-sear. I don’t with tenderloin because of the delicate nature of the meat. So, when the meat comes out of the pan, you have to do a sear to give it the beautiful brown color and flavor everyone is looking for in a traditionally cooked roast.The scientific process of searing begins when all the surface moisture is gone and the proteins begin to take part in the maillard reaction. After debagging your meat, dry it well with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and then prepare your pan. In a heavy skillet, I prefer cast-iron, heat oil until it is almost smoking. Carefully add your pork. It browns super fast, so check every 30 seconds or so to see if the color is what you are looking for.Slice and serve immediately.
Let’s Get Saucy
The recipe below is delicious on its own. But, the brie is pungent and I found that a bit more apple sweetness brings balance that sorely needed. Apples and pork go perfectly together anyway and in this case, more is so much better. Pork tenderloin cooked sous vide is juicy enough that you don’t normally need a sauce, but in this recipe, I do recommend the sauce.