Pork Tenderloin is highly underrated. It’s lean, it cooks quickly and it takes on a variety of great flavors. What’s not to love, especially for an easy weeknight dinner? For this recipe, I utilize the time-honored tradition of marinading. Sure, marinades require a little planning ahead, but what I love about them is the fact that you can prep and forget. While you go about your life for 24 hours, the pork tenderloin will be bathing in all kinds of delicious goodness, soaking up tons of flavor to make dinner extra tasty. Now are you on board, or what?
My preferred marinading method is in a large, sealable food storage bag. Whisk everything all together in a bowl, then pour it into a large bag and add the pork tenderloin. Press out the air and seal the bag tight, then set it in the fridge and forget it. In this particular case, I think a full 24 hours is best, but if you are less than 24 hours away from your next dinner time, then by all means, cut it down to 8 or 12 hours if you need to. As you open the fridge over those hours, give the bag a flip or jostle to help marinade the pork evenly.
About 1 hour before you want to cook dinner, take the pork out of the marinade. (SAVE THE MARINADE!) Pat the pork dry and let it rest on some paper towel at room temperature. Helping it dry out like this will ensure a better caramelization.
PSA: Letting meat come to room temp before cooking is a very common culinary lesson, but truthfully, I’m sort of on the fence about it. Sure, it seems like the kind thing to do to take the chill off the meat before tossing it in a seriously hot pan, and seems logical that this would help it cook more evenly, but when I worked in restaurants we never left our meat sitting out at room temp and our proteins always cooked perfectly (ahem!). So, like I said – on the fence. If I have the time to rest it before cooking, I say do it but if not, no judgement either way.
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Heat up a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. If you don’t have a cast iron your favorite sauté pan will work fine too, the key here is letting it get super hot first. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and let it warm up so it’s viscous, meaning it swirls around the pan loosely and quickly. Once it seems to be nearly smoking, add your pork tenderloin. I’ve said it before when we cooked these crispy chicken thighs and I’ll say it again and again – you want to hear an aggressive sizzle when you add the pork to the pan. This sound is the sound of a seriously good sear happening, and that’s what we want!
As the pork browns on each side, rotate it to sear evenly. Look how gorgeous that is!
Similar again to the crispy chicken thigh recipe, I prefer to transfer the seared pork to a sheet pan because I want to make a sauce with all those pan drippings while the pork finishes cooking. So place the tenderloin on a sheet tray and set it in the preheated oven. Cook the pork until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees. Yes, this is medium temp, which means your pork will still be a little pink in the center, but that’s safe and delicious! Trust me. It’s the key to serving flavorful pork instead of dried out pork.
So while the pork finishes in the oven, let’s put that marinade to good use. Now, one thing to keep in mind, you should never, ever serve the marinade without cooking it. Since the marinade now has raw pork juices in it, we absolutely MUST cook it before serving. But that is as easy as putting it on the stove and boiling it for 5-10 minutes.
Once the sauce has reduced by about half, I want to thicken this up to make it nice and glazey, so I sprinkle it with about 2 teaspoons of flour. This works best if you sprinkle the flour through a mesh strainer while whisking. Bring it back to a boil and it watch how it thickens up.
I also like to strain this sauce back through that mesh strainer just before serving. You can strain it directly into a serving bowl to get out any clumps.
Another PSA: If you want to make the sauce gluten free, you could try rice flour or potato flour or even a reliable gluten-free all purpose flour alternative.
Like all meat cookery, be sure to let the pork tenderloin rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Transfer the sliced tenderloin to a serving platter or dinner plates with the apple cider glaze on the side!
Pork tenderloin marinated in favorite fall flavors makes an easy, family-friendly main course for your weeknight meal.
2 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons all purpose flour
Whisk together the apple cider, Dijon mustard, brown sugar and salt. Pour into a resealable food storage bag, add the garlic cloves and pork tenderloin. Press out the air, then seal tightly. Refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours and maximum of 24 hours. The longer then better. Flip the tenderloin in the bag every so often to ensure it marinades evenly.
About 1 hour before cooking, remove the pork tenderloin from the marinade. Set on a plate lined with paper towels and pat it dry. Let it rest at room temperature. Save the marinade to make the sauce.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Set a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and add extra virgin olive oil. Let the oil get quite hot. It should swirl quickly and fluidly around the pan and be nearly smoking. Add the pork tenderloin. You want to hear an active sizzling. If not, let the pan warm longer.
Sear each side of the pork tenderloin until well caramelized, using tongs to rotate it as it browns. Once all four sides are seared, transfer to a sheet pan. Place in the preheated oven and finishing cooking until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees for medium doneness, about 20 minutes.
While pork cooks in the oven, set the cast iron pan back over medium heat. Carefully pour in the marinade, bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes to reduce by about half. Sprinkle two teaspoons of flour through a mesh strainer if you have one, while whisking to incorporate. Let the mixture come back to a boil to thicken. Check taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Strain sauce back through the mesh strainer and into a serving dish to serve alongside the pork.
Once the pork is out of the oven, let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Slice the pork into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Arrange on a platter or dinner plates and serve with apple cider pan sauce on the side.