I grew up in Texas with a large extended family. Our family reunions require renting out an entire hotel wing to accommodate the masses, although booking a venue is the easy part compared to the cooking.
Luckily, my grandmother — our beloved “Gran” — was a grillmaster. Everyone knows that grill outs are a part of life in Texas, where people take pride in their style 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.
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 flavors, it still boasts the familiar taste of 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 what you need, other than a grill.
1 (1-gallon) zipper-lock bag
Basic grill tool set, including tongs, knife and fork
2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloins
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
Begin making the marinade 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
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. (Recipe serves 5 to 6.)