Culinary Experiment #9: Spiced Pork Tenderloin

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I know I usually hide behind cute pastries and fabulous veggie recipes. This is not one of those times.

Before this post, I had never cooked any sort of meat before. Sure, I’ve microwaved or baked pre-cooked meats. But I had never cut, prepared and cooked raw meat.

I’m not particularly squeamish about working with raw meat, but I’ve always been afraid of under-cooking  it.

But this time was different. Instead of talking myself out of cooking it like I always do, a few days ago, I committed myself to actually cooking with raw meat. Why? Two reasons:

  1. My dad asked me to. Pork is one of his favorite foods. He doesn’t have much cooking experience and my mother refuses to touch the stuff. Pork, in every conceivable form, really grosses her out. Also, It’s Father’s Day weekend and so I can’t just say no to him. It’d be like telling your kid the night before that he’s getting absolutely nothing for Christmas. Yeah, you see that tree? All sparkly and festive for tomorrow? There’ll be nothing, nada, zilch under it come Christmas morning. Stop crying. 

Ok, maybe it wouldn’t be that awful if I said no. But when it comes to gift-giving holidays, my dad’s not into presents, he’s into food. And cards. That’s all. So if I take away the food, this year’s Father’s Day would be pretty crummy. Also, he rarely ever makes culinary requests like this, so why not?

  1. I had the perfect recipe on my Hobbies Cookbook list to use. I’d be super efficient this weekend: put a smile on Dad’s face and cross off another dish on my list. Win. Plus this recipe was perfect for a beginner like me. Nothing too complicated. Just a girl and her frying pan.

The outcome? I think my very first attempt at making Spiced Pork Tenderloin was a success. A surprising success, as you’ll soon see in my recipe notes.

The pork was juicy and had a lovely caramel sweetness to it. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet: there was  just a hint of of the brown sugar which led nicely into the spicy kick that came from Sriracha base I used for the marinade. Even the scorch marks had a nice flavor.

Both my dad and brother enjoyed it as well and even went for seconds. And you know what? It’s been two days, and no one got sick (as far as I know). Yay!

There were just a few slight changes I made to the recipe based on the ingredients I had access to:

  1. I used a 2-pound pork loin instead of a 1-pound pork tenderloin. I’m not sure if there is a difference between “pork loin” and “pork tenderloin” but they look similar in shape to me even though on their packaging they’re labeled differently. But judging based on my results, I got the taste I expected when I read the recipe and my photos of the finished dish looked similar to Cooking Light’s photo, so I honestly don’t think it matters. But in the interest of full disclosure: Yes, I used pork loin instead of tenderloin. I also used 2 pounds of pork rather than 1 pound because I snagged the last unflavored/original pork loin my local Walmart had and it happened to be 2 pounds; which leads me to the next change I made…
  2. I ended up doubling the recipe for the spice marinade to compensate for the extra pound of pork. 
  3. I used dark brown sugar. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of brown sugar to use: light or dark; so I just used what I had on hand.

Two important observations I made while preparing this dish:

  1. Pork fat is tough to separate from the meat. There’s a ton of connective tissue. If you’re a beginner, it would probably be best to slice your pork loin into the pieces you want first and then trim the fat from each piece. It’ll save you time and energy that you’d otherwise waste fighting with that connective tissue. It’s much more manageable to cut off little pieces of fat than having to tackle a huge sheet of it.
  2. The sharpness of your knife is important. It sounds simple but it’s vital to trimming pork. Seriously, that connective tissue is no joke.  Your knife shouldn’t be so dull that you have to constantly saw your way through the meat. You need a super sharp knife to cut through that tissue.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely week!

I’d also like to thank Alyson Haynes of  Cooking Light magazine for writing the piece from which this recipe originated and for posting Haynes’ article about this recipe.

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