smoked pork tenderloin
This Southern pork tenderloin perfection should be your new your grilling go-to recipe when you want to impress your guests or just flex your skills. Trust us — the recipe comes directly from a Texas grandmother.
I grew up in Texas with a large extended family. Our family reunions were so large that they required renting out an entire hotel wing to accommodate the masses, although booking a venue was the easy part compared to the cooking.
Luckily, my grandmother — our beloved “Gran” — was a grillmaster. Everyone knows that "grill outs" (as we call them) are a part of life in Texas, where people take pride in their personal styles and recipes. Gran had something unique in the arsenal, and her signature recipe made everyone look forward to dinnertime. As a kid I loved it when she cooked, because I knew I would soon be devouring her honey-ginger pork tenderloin.
Sadly, Gran is no longer with us, but this recipe has lived on in my family alongside our wonderful memories our her. As I progressed through school into adulthood, this recipe continued to keep our family bond strong. It still is, and always will be, a go-to dish for get-togethers. But it has also made me new friends. I’ve volunteered for grill duty after meeting new people just so I can put this on their plates and bask in the praises.
Even with sweeter ingredients that this recipe calls for, it still boasts the familiar taste of smoky backyard barbecue. No, it’s not what you’re used to coming off a grill in the South, but there aren’t many things more flavorful. And, selfishly, it remains a favorite because it gives the chef a relaxing 20-minute window to hang by the grill with a beer, only needing to rotate the meat every five minutes.
Here’s how to do it.
Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin
Serves 4 to 6
2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
Begin making the marinade at least 1 to 3 hours before you plan to start cooking. Mince garlic, then pour contents into zip-close bag with soy sauce and ground ginger. Butterfly the tenderloins and place in bag with marinade. Make sure everything is evenly distributed, then place in refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours
To make the basting sauce, start with a saucepan and a little cooking spray so none of the ingredients stick, then add brown sugar to the saucepan. Next add honey and dark sesame oil, heat on low and stir to avoid burning. Once the baste is nice and liquefied, you’re ready to grill.
Start the grill on high heat and add tenderloins; a quick furnace blast sears the outside and keeps the juices cooking nicely inside. But be careful — this meat doesn’t need much initial heat, and it’s an awful feeling to burn your meat from the outset. Once seared, lower your grill to a medium temperature and maintain that level throughout.
Keep your baste hot by leaving it atop the lid of your grill or a side-burner, being careful not to burn it. Once you’ve reached a medium temperature, use the brush to spread the baste on the tenderloins. Lather up, but don’t use it all because you’ll need more for each rotation of the meat.
Cook the tenderloins for 20 minutes, flipping them every 5 minutes and re-basting on each turn. (If you’ve got a meat thermometer, cook until it reads 160 degrees.)
Take the tenderloins off grill, slice them up and serve. This dish goes well with green veggies or red potatoes, but don’t forget the applesauce — it’s the perfect side.
If you want to keep it more traditional
Of course I am partial to this family recipe because of all of the good memories I have around it, but I understand that this dish might not be everyone's cup of tea. Try these dishes the next time you've got a hankering for pork tenderloin.Pork Tenderloin with Red Cabbage and Apples
This dish is deceptively easy and can be made in one pan. The pork tenderloin is seared briefly and onion, red cabbage and Granny Smith apples are added in to the pan give this recipe a zippy acidity that will have your guests begging for the recipe. Luckily you have it here.
Get the recipe
Drunken Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Brown Sugar Glaze
Sliced into medallions and marinated in teriyaki-bourbon mixture, this pork tenderloin is served with stone-ground grits and green beans. After the slices are seared they are cooked with the sauce to create a delicious glaze without losing the tenderness of the meat.
Get the recipe Molasses-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
The pork is brined to keep its moisture during cooking and then marinated with a molasses and brown sugar mixture. It is served with an herbed walnut, apple and onion relish and sweet potatoes whipped with butter and cream. If a sauce is desired, buy prepared beef or veal reduction, sold at specialty markets.
Get the recipeHerb-Stuffed Pork Loin
Stuffing a pork loin is a fun way to turn a relatively inexpensive cut of meat into something truly elegant. You’ll need a good, sharp knife to trim the loin, but once you have the technique down, the rest of the dish is quite simple. This would be a great time to invest in an oven-safe probe thermometer, which will give off a signal when the meat has reached your desired internal temperature.
Get the recipe
Photos (pork with cabbage, herb-stuffed loin): Ramona King