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.
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.