GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN IS SIMPLE TO MAKE, QUICK TO COOK, and TANTALIZINGLY JUICY AND FLAVORFUL!
This Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe is buttery tender with a caramelized smoky brown sugar, paprika, garlic rub kissed with a hint of lime. It’s then smothered in a vibrant, tangy, fresh Cilantro Jalapeno Chimichurri Sauce that is the perfect complement to the earthy, smoky pork. This Grilled Pork Tenderloin Recipe is deceptively easy to make with a grill time of less than 15 minutes! I’ve included detailed instructions, tips, tricks and everything you need to know to make the BEST Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe!
GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN RECIPES
I am loving pork tenderloin lately. From my Baked Pork Tenderloin with Garlic Herb Butter, Sheet Pan Chili Dijon Pork Tenderloin, oldie but goodie Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Hoisin Glaze to my Tacos Al Pastor – I just can’t get enough! And now I give you one more reason to love pork tenderloin – this GRILLED Pork Tenderloin recipe with Chimichurri!
I knew I wanted to share a grilled pork tenderloin recipe with you because pork tenderloin is FABULOUS for grilling and entertaining. It’s quick, easy and mixes up the usual hot dog/hamburger/chicken routine with impressive results. Grilled pork tenderloin also chars beautifully and loves to soak up that smoky grill flavor.
So, when I asked my readers on Instagram which grilled pork tenderloin recipe they wanted me to make out of seven options, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri was the landslide winner – which I am ecstatic about!
In this pork tenderloin recipe, the pork is brined for maximum juiciness, enveloped in a wet rub, then grilled to buttery, flavorful perfection – all in about 45 minutes! It is then topped with vibrant chimichurri that just requires a few pulses in your food processor. It is one of the simplest, tastiest, impressive meals you will ever make.
Now, I’m going to get into all the details of this recipe and how to grill pork tenderloin, so if you want to skip straight to the recipe, you can use the “jump to recipe” at the top of the page or join me for the delicious ride. Enjoy!
WHAT IS PORK TENDERLOIN?
My husband and I still chuckle about a time some friends had us over for dinner and said she was serving pork chops – but she was actually serving pork tenderloin. So, let’s talk about an obvious question that might not be so obvious – what is pork tenderloin?
Pork tenderloin is NOT pork loin. Pork tenderloin is a specific muscle that runs along the backbone and is smaller and thinner (about 1-2 pounds) than pork loin which is a larger, wider portion of the back (about 3-5 pounds).
Pork tenderloin is unbelievably tender because it comes from a muscle that doesn’t get much exercise, whereas pork loin is more muscly and therefore requires longer cooking time to become tender.
Pork tenderloin should be roasted at higher temperatures to seal in the juices but pork loin should be cooked low and slow to break down the muscles fibers and become tender. In short, you cannot use pork tenderloin and pork loin interchangeably – they are not the same.
Pork tenderloin comes in two. Pork tenderloin almost always is packaged with two tenderloins per package. Each tenderloin weighs roughly 1-1 ½ pounds. You will need one package with TWO pork tenderloins for this Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin Rub
I love using wet rubs to season chicken and grilled meats because they deliver huge flavor without marinating AND because expert grillers advise that it is best to add oil to the surface of your meat and not just the grill as most of the oil burns off the grill by the time you add your meat.
This wet rub is rich, earthy, and complex with just the right amount of kick while the lime juice adds a splash of freshness. Its chili flavor lends itself beautifully to both the smoky grill and bright chimichurri.
For this grilled pork tenderloin rub, I use a combination of:
- Paprika: I prefer regular paprika as opposed to smoked paprika in this Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe as we already have a few smoky elements going on. Smoked paprika is stronger than traditional paprika so you will want to use less if you swap them.
- Brown sugar: is needed to balance the earthy flavors of the rub and tangy lime juice. It also caramelizes when cooked to help create that beautiful crust.
- Garlic powder: is a favorite ingredient in rubs because it delivers all that yummy garlic goodness in concentrated flavor right on the meat in a way clumpy garlic cannot.
- Onion powder: is dehydrated, ground onion that infuses our grilled pork tenderloin with yet another layer of flavor.
- Ground cumin: pairs beautifully with paprika, ancho and chili powder and delivers an earthy, nutty layer.
- Ancho powder: comes from ground dried poblanos and is more mild than cayenne or chipotle powder but still has a deep rich, smoky, mild sweet heat. I use it in several of my recipes such as my Chili Pork Tacos, Blackened Fish Tacos, Baked Ancho Chicken Wings and my Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili, so I promise your ancho chili powder will not go to waste! You can find it located next to the other spices at your grocery store.
- Chili powder: is less spicy than ancho chili powder but more flavorful than just using pepper.
- Salt and pepper: are muststo enhance all of the flavors. Use good old table salt and NOT kosher or freshly ground – otherwise you will need to adjust the measurements.
How to make the juicest grilled pork tenderloin
The JUICIEST pork tenderloin comes from brining your pork. If you’ve never brined your pork before, it will change your culinary life! Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat so it can easily dry out unless you brine it first. In all of my pork recipes, readers have commented that brining is a MUST and are converted as well; even overcooked brined pork emerges juicy – so PLEASE brine your pork for melt-in-your-mouth pork without having to plan ahead with an overnight marinade.
What is brining?
You are probably familiar with brining a turkey, and the same concept holds true to create moist pork. Brining actually changes the molecular structure of the pork and increases the moisture capacity of the meat. First, the salt brine hydrates the muscle tissues via osmosis; second, it changes the cells’ structure so that they can no longer contract when cooking. This means less water will be squeezed out and lost, resulting in juicier pork.
How long does brining take?
Brining pork literally takes 20 minutes – you actually can’t brine it longer than that or it will become mealy. It also uses just a few pantry friendly ingredients – so it’s quick and easy.
More perks to brining:
Brining also brings the pork to room temperature so it: 1) cooks more evenly instead of drying out the outside while waiting for the inside to cook and 2) allows the pork muscle fibers to better re-absorb juices for maximum flavor.
HOW TO Grill PORK TENDERLOIN
Grilled Pork Tenderloin is very easy to make. Here are some tips and tricks for the best grilled pork tenderloin every time:
Step 1: Trim pork tenderloin
- Do I have to remove silverskin? Many packages of pork tenderloin will come with the silverskin removed or most of it removed. If it has any remaining silverskin you will need to remove it because it can become tough and chewy when cooked.
- How to remove silverskin. To remove the silverskin, slip a sharp knife in between the silver skin and the meat then cut it away until free. Take care to just remove the silverskin and not a big chunk of meat!
- Trim fat. You will also want to trim any excess fat as this can also be chewy and cause flare ups.
Step 2: Brine pork tenderloin
- How to brine pork. To brine pork, you will mix warm water with salt in a gallon-size freezer bag until dissolved. Whisk in vinegar, brown sugar and ice, followed by pork. Make sure both of the pork tenderloin pieces are completely emerged in the brine. Brine pork tenderloin for 20 minutes – no longer!
- Rinse pork. Thoroughly rinse pork and pat very dry.
Step 3: Spice rub pork
- Dry before seasoning. Make sure you dry the pork very well after rinsing so the rub can stick to it.
- How to make rub. To make the wet rub, whisk together: olive oil, lime juice, paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, ground cumin, chili powder, ancho chili powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. I know it sounds like a lot of ingredients but it takes minutes to whisk together and delivers rich, complex flavor without knocking you over the head with one note.
Step 4: Prepare Grill
- Clean grill. You should clean your grill grates before and after grilling with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help prevent the food from sticking.
- Grease with oil. Generously grease the CLEAN grill with a high smoking oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil or peanut oil. I just use a wad of paper towels to grease the grill. NEVER use spray oils once the grill is on.
- Heat grill. Heat up the grill with the lid closed cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly; plan on 10-15 minutes. Once the grill is hot, you can adjust the temperature so it is 500 degrees with the lid on. Don’t add the pork tenderloin until the grill reaches temperature or it won’t sear.
Step 5: Grill Pork Tenderloin On Gas Grill
- Sear pork. Add pork and sear for 1 1/2 minutes on all four sides, keeping the lid closed between rotating. Searing the pork at high heat is essential to cut through the wet rub and create a caramelized crust which locks in the juices (prevents the surface of the tenderloin from becoming dehydrated when cooked at high heat) and creates complex flavors due to the Maillard reaction.
- Cook pork. Reduce heat to medium-high (400 degrees F with the lid closed) and continue to grill 1-3 minutes per side or until a meat thermometer reads 145-degrees F in the thickest part of the tenderloin. Pork Tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat so it requires a high grilling temperature in order for the meat to cook before it has time to dry out.
Step 6: Rest Pork Tenderloin
- Let pork rest. Transfer pork to a clean plate and loosely cover with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. The resting time will allow the meat to finish cooking to the optimal temperature and for the juices to redistribute for optimal flavor.
- Clean grill. While the pork is resting, leave the grill running and clean the grates with a grill brush before turning off grill.
- Slice pork. Slice grilled pork tenderloin crosswise into thin pieces before serving with chimichurri.
HOW LONG TO GRILL PORK TENDERLOIN
There are several variables when it comes to how long to grill pork tenderloin such as the thickness of the pork tenderloin and the actual temperature of your grill, but in general most pork tenderloins require 10-12 minutes to cook.
You will spend a total of six minutes searing the pork at 500 degrees on all 4 sides, and then finish cooking at 400 degrees for 1-3 minutes per side. The pork cooks very quickly and can go from undercooked to overcooked in a flash, so make sure to monitor it closely.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin should be removed from the grill when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F and allowed to rest for 5-10 minutes. This means the grilled pork tenderloin will be slightly pink inside which is OKAY.
For years, the USDA stated pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F which means the pork would be white inside, but in 2011, the guidelines changed to reflect research and stated pork is safe to consume at 145 degrees F with a three-minute rest time. This means your pork will now be slightly pink, juicy, and buttery tender!
Tips for How to Cook Pork Tenderloin on the Grill
- Make chimichurri first. The chimichurri is best if allowed to rest for at least two hours, so prepare it first and allow the flavors to meld for as long as you have time for.
- Brine pork. As previously detailed, brining the pork results in the juiciest pork and only takes 20 minutes so PLEASE don’t skip!
- Keep lid closed. Due to the thickness of the pork tenderloin, we need to achieve an oven-like environment in which the pork is cooked from all sides, so make sure you keep the lid closed in between rotating the pork.
- Use a meat thermometer. Pork tenderloin is very easy to overcook so it is important to use a meat thermometer to achieve the correct temperature. The outside may be brown but the inside can still be undercooked. Thermometers are a small investment and come in handy ALL the time and eliminate all of the guess-work. You simply cannot make perfect baked pork tenderloin without one.
- Don’t overcook pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is fairly lean, so take care not to overcook it, or it will dry out. If you overcook your pork tenderloin, it will transform from fork tender to dry and chewy. If it starts to char too much before it is done, you can turn the heat down or move to indirect heat.
- Rest before slicing. Let the Grilled Pork Tenderloin rest 10 minutes before slicing. This time allows time for the redistribution and reabsorption of the juices throughout the pork tenderloin.
- Slice across the grain. Slice the pork across the grain. You want to cut perpendicular to the muscle fibers so they become as short as possible, as opposed to parallel which will result in long muscle fibers and chewy, rubbery meat. You can either slice in ½” slices or my husband loves super thin slices.
Can I make Pork Tenderloin Ahead of time?
You can prep the grilled pork tenderloin up to different stages instead of making all at once:
- Brine: you can brine the pork, rinse and pat dry, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 24 hours ahead of time.
- Rub: you can brine, rinse, dry then cover the pork tenderloin with the wet rub and tightly wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 12 hours.
HOW LONG IS LEFTOVER PORK GOOD FOR?
Leftover grilled pork tenderloin should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, pork is good up to 5 days.
CAN I FREEZE LEFTOVER PORK TENDERLOIN?
Yes! You can freeze pork tenderloin whole, chopped or in slices. Frozen tenderloin should be used within 3-4 months.
What Sauce to Serve with Grilled Pork Tenderloin?
Our favorite pairing with this Grilled Pork Tenderloin is tantalizing Cilantro Jalapeno Chimichurri. The smoky, buttery tender pork with the bright, tangy, sharp fresh herb sauce is a match made in heaven – and takes minutes in your food processor!
I’ve gone with both cilantro and parsley in this chimichurri recipe, but you can swap the cilantro for parsley if cilantro is not your thing. I’ve also used jalapenos in place of red pepper flakes, but you can use all red pepper flakes if you prefer. But please, make this vibrant chimichurri – it elevates this Grilled Pork Tenderloin recipe beyond.
If chimichurri isn’t your thing for whatever reason, you can also smother this grilled pork tenderloin in a number of sauces. The rub makes an ideal springboard for barbecue sauce, honey mustard, balsamic glaze, etc.
What sides to serve with grilled pork tenderloin?
- Corn: Corn Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing or Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Rice: Cilantro Lime Rice or Avocado Rice
- Bread: Award Winning Sweet Moist Cornbread or Cheesy Pull Apart Pesto Bread
- Potatoes: Kicked Up Classy Creamy Potato Salad, Roasted Potatoes or Baked Parmesan Fingerling Potato Fries
- Fruit Salad: Pina Colada Fruit Salad, Perfect Fruit Salad with Honey Citrus Dressing, Watermelon Pineapple Fruit Salad
- Pasta Salad: Creamy Bacon Pea Pasta Salad,
- Green Salad: Wedge Salad, Southwest Salad, Strawberry Salad, Strawberry Broccoli Salad
LOOKING FOR MORE PORK RECIPES?
- Slow Cooker Asian Caramel Pulled Pork
- Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
- Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork
- Cajun Pork with Pineapple Glaze
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sloppy Joes
- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- Maple Cider Ham
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