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Any Way You Slice It, You’ll Love Pork Tenderloin

Slice it into medallions, cut it into steaks, or butterfly it—then pair each cut with the cooking method that suits it best

Fine Cooking Issue 78
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Pork tenderloin is perfect for weeknight cooking—it’s not expensive, it’s easy to find at the market, and it’s quick to cook, even when you leave it whole. Its has a mild flavor that partners  well with many ingredients, and best of all, it’s boneless, which makes it wonderfully versatile; you can cut it however you please. I make pork tenderloin more interesting by slicing it into different cuts, like thick steaks or thin medallions, or even by butterflying it. Then I cook each of these cuts using a method that complements it, add some bright flavors, and I have a simple weeknight meal that feels a little fancy.

Butterflied

By butterflying, I mean slicing the tenderloin almost all the way through lengthwise; you can then open the tenderloin like a book and stuff it with flavorful ingredients. I like to roast stuffed tenderloin, which ensures that it cooks evenly.
Spinach & Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Sherry Cream Sauce 

Medallions

These thin rounds cook quickly, so I find that they’re best sautéed on the stovetop, which allows you to control the heat and avoid overcooking the lean, tender meat.
Spicy Korean-Style Pork Medallions with Asian Slaw 

Steaks

Pounded flat, these are perfect for grilling, sort of like a tender version of a chop. The steaks are meaty enough that they won’t cook through too quickly, allowing them to absorb some of the smoky flavor of the grill.
Grilled Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin Steaks with Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce 

There’s not much to cutting pork tenderloin—just use a sharp knife and cut the pork against the grain into even pieces—but there are a few important  tricks to buying it. Look for all-natural tenderloins, which, I think, have the best flavor and texture. Avoid pork that has been injected with additives, which can give the meat an unpleasant, rubbery texture. Examine the label carefully to determine if anything has been added—the big print might say only “Always tender” or “Guaranteed tender.” Also, I try to use larger tenderloins (1 to 1-1/4 lb.), which tend to cook more gently and evenly than smaller ones; a larger tenderloin also yields fuller medallions for sautéing and often a more evenly shaped piece of meat for roasting whole

To pound or not to pound?

I pound the whole, butterflied tenderloin in my recipe for Spinach & Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Sherry Cream Sauce to lengthen it, giving me more surface area to top with stuffing. Pounding also helps thin the pork tenderloin steaks  so they cook more quickly and avoid drying out. (You won’t need to pound pork medallions, though, because they’re already thin enough to cook through quickly. I like to use a heavy pounder with a straight up-and-down handle (Norpro’s Grip-EZ meat pounder, sells for $18.95 at Amazon.com.), but you can also use the heel of your hand or a small, heavy skillet.

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