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Grilled Pork Tenderloin

DOUBLE UP TO MAKE THIS SKINNY CUT EASIER TO COOK WELL

Pork tenderloin is wonderfully tender and versatile, it doesn’t require much prep, and it’s relatively inexpensive. But alas, this cut also comes with some challenges. Because tenderloin is incredibly lean, it’s highly susceptible to drying out during cooking. Then there’s the ungainly tapered shape: By the time the large end hits a perfect medium (140 degrees), the skinnier tail is guaranteed to be overcooked.

Grilling might seem like the best way to cook pork tenderloin. The tender, mild-tasting meat would benefit from the creation of a crisp crust and the infusion of grill flavor. But with all that grill heat, how do you avoid turning tenderloin into shoe leather?

The biggest challenge with this roast is its size and shape. Tenderloins are very skinny, which means they cook very quickly. But what if we could fashion two tenderloins into a single thick roast? If we aligned the fat end on one roast with the skinny end on the other roast, we’d be able to produce one big roast with uniform thickness. (Picture two shoes together in a box, with the thick end of one nestled against the thin end of the other.)

With some twine, it was easy to tie two roasts together. And, as we hoped, this bigger roast cooked much more evenly and spent more time on the grill, helping to create a really nice crust. The roast also absorbed more grill flavor. But everything fell apart—quite literally—on the carving board. For this idea to work, we’d have to get two roasts to cook—and eat—like a single thick piece of meat. Sounds like we need a magician’s wand, but the actual solution relies on a dinner fork and some basic meat science.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Brine First

It’s important to brine pork tenderloin, especially if it’s going to withstand the dry, hot fire of the grill and still remain juicy. An hour in salt water offers plenty of protection.

The Glue That Binds

Trying to get meat to stick together sounds unorthodox, but it’s something that happens naturally all the time, at least with ground meat. Any time meat is damaged (such as during grinding, slicing, or even pounding), sticky proteins are released. The gluey texture of these proteins makes it possible to form a cohesive burger from nothing but ground beef. Before tying together the two pork tenderloins in this recipe, scrape the length of each roast with a fork to release those sticky proteins. When the tied roasts are cooked, these proteins bond and create a single roast that says together, even when the twine is removed after grilling.

Low Heat First, Then High

Grilling pork tenderloin directly over a hot fire the entire time results in a well-browned exterior—but a thick band of dry, overcooked meat below its surface. A better approach is to start the tenderloin over low heat followed by searing over high heat. The initial stint on the cooler side of the grill allows the meat’s surface to warm and dry, which makes for fast, efficient browning (and therefore safeguards against overcooking) when it moves to the hotter part of the grate.

Glazed and Infused

Adding glutamate-rich ingredients such as mirin, hoisin, or fish sauce to a glaze significantly enhances the savory, meaty flavor of the pork. Adding the glaze to the tenderloins over high heat allows the glaze to char and caramelize, further enhancing the rich, flavorful crust. Reserved glaze makes an ideal accompaniment at the table.

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Scraping releases sticky proteins that help glue two tenderloins into a single large roast.

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Grilled Glazed Pork Tenderloin Roast

SERVES 6

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 1 hour and 10 minutes to prepare and brine tenderloins (make glaze and set up grill while pork brines)
  • 5 minutes to tie up tenderloins
  • 40 minutes to grill and glaze roast
  • 10 minutes to rest roast

Essentials Tools

  • Large container for brining
  • Kitchen twine
  • Long-handled tongs
  • Instant-read thermometer

Substitutions & Variations

A sticky, savory glaze turns grilled pork tenderloin into something special. We offer three options, each built around an ingredient that enhances the meaty flavor of the pork—miso, soy sauce, and fish sauce. Create your own glazes, making sure to use one of these ingredients. Other keys to creating a good glaze—add something sweet as well as something acidic. Make sure to heat glazes to dissolve sugars and/or bloom aromatics like garlic, ginger, or spices. Finally, a thick glaze clings to the meat so keep liquids to a minimum.

Since brining is a key step in having the two tenderloins stick together, we don’t recommend using enhanced pork in this recipe.

  • 2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe glaze (recipes follow)
  1. Lay tenderloins on cutting board, flat side (side opposite where silverskin was) up. Holding thick end of 1 tenderloin with paper towels and using dinner fork, scrape flat side lengthwise from end to end 5 times, until surface is completely covered with shallow grooves. Repeat with second tenderloin. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 1½ quarts cold water in large container. Submerge tenderloins in brine and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Remove tenderloins from brine and pat completely dry with paper towels. Lay 1 tenderloin, scraped side up, on cutting board and lay second tenderloin, scraped side down, on top so that thick end of 1 tenderloin matches up with thin end of other. Spray five 14-inch lengths of kitchen twine thoroughly with vegetable oil spray; evenly space twine underneath tenderloins and tie. Brush roast with oil and season with pepper. Transfer ⅓ cup glaze to bowl for grilling; reserve remaining glaze for serving.
  3. 3A. For a Charcoal Grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against side of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
  4. 3B. For a Gas Grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place roast on cooler side of grill, cover, and cook until meat registers 115 degrees, 22 to 28 minutes, flipping and rotating halfway through cooking.
  6. Slide roast to hotter part of grill and cook until lightly browned on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes. Brush top of roast with about 1 tablespoon glaze and grill, glaze side down, until glaze begins to char, 2 to 3 minutes; repeat glazing and grilling with remaining 3 sides of roast, until meat registers 140 degrees.
  7. Transfer roast to carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Carefully remove twine and slice roast into ½-inch-thick slices. Serve with reserved glaze.

MISO GLAZE MAKES ABOUT ¾ CUP

  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • ⅓ cup white miso paste
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Bring sake and mirin to boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in miso and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. Remove pan from heat and continue to whisk until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Whisk in mustard, vinegar, ginger, and oil until smooth.

SWEET AND SPICY HOISIN GLAZE MAKES ABOUT ¾ CUP

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in hoisin and soy sauce until smooth. Remove pan from heat and stir in vinegar.

SATAY GLAZE MAKES ABOUT ¾ CUP

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2½ teaspoons fish sauce

Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add curry paste, garlic, and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in coconut milk and sugar and bring to simmer. Whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Remove pan from heat and whisk in lime juice and fish sauce.

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