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Pork tenderloin question

I have a pork tenderloin at home that needs to be cooked. I found an online video that recommended cooking it with apples, onions and garlic. Sounds yummy.

One question: The video recommends cutting shallow holes in the raw meat to create pockets that are then filled with crushed garlic. In theory, this infuses the pork with a garlicky flavor. In practice, wouldn't this just allow the juices to escape and dry out the meat? I would appreciate any guidance on this.



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  1. I've done this before with a pork butt, stuffing with garlic slices and bay leaves. It was fabulous, moist, and definitely infused with flavor. But the butt has more fat. I'd be a little nervous about the tenderloin. Maybe just do a 2-3 knife pokes?

    1. A piece of meat like this is not a balloon, with a skin holding in all the juices. As meat cooks, the proteins uncoil and then relink and shrink. It's that shrinkage that squeezes liquid out of the cells. You keep a lean cut like this juicy by not overcooking it.

      Are you going to oven roast the whole piece, or maybe sear it first on the stove top, and then finish in the oven. I would suggest using a good meat thermometer (preferably one with a remote reading) to take it out at the right time. And don't forget the resting time, which allows juices to redistribute.

      While the garlic in the cuts may help, the cooking time for this meat is not long enough to infuse a lot of flavor. In fact I'd even worry about the garlic not getting hot enough, and retaining a raw taste.

      2 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        I believe Paul's description of the science for meat/heat equation is well done. Personally, I don't like to poke holes in my tenderloin with the hope of evenly infusing it with garlic flavors. I sometimes do, however, cut a tunnel into the end of my tenderloin and pack it end to end with seasoned stuffing. Using this method with garlic cloves to more evenly distribute the infusion of garlic flavor, then removing the garlic (unless someone truly wants to enjoy the garlic with their serving) when slicing for service is workable also.

        1. re: paulj

          You beat me to it, paulj. Dollars to donuts the tenderloin would taste of raw garlic. It just doesn't cook long enough to mellow any form of raw garlic placed inside it. Since I like to pan-sear this cut, then finish in the oven, a garlic rub would likely scorch. What I have done for eons comes out very well (initially I had a recipe but I no longer measure any of it): into a plastic bag put equal amounts (about 1/4 cup) of apple cider (or apple juice), chopped onion, and soy sauce. Some dry or prepared mustard of your choosing - about a tsp prepared. Garlic powder - 1/4 tsp, maybe more? I just shake it in so hard to tell. Same amount of dried thyme or summer savory. Shake it all up and marinate the tenderloin in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Pat it dry, scraping the onion back into the bag. Ground pepper to taste, sear all sides in hot oil in ovensafe pan, then finish for about 15 min in 375 oven. Remove roast to rest, add marinade back to pan on stovetop to deglaze and reduce to a pan sauce, blending in some dairy at the end is optional. This is pretty foolproof and packs a lot of flavor.

        2. Making slits and stud them with garlic will not cause any juice to escape. The heat will cause the meat to expand and seal in the juice. Just think of cooking a steak when the entire muscle is sliced. The heat will trap in the juice.

          1. I do this all the time with the whole pork loin roast, but not tenderloin. My guess would be to open it up, butterflied, then wrap meat around the chopped onions, apples & garlic, then tie it and roast it. The filling will give it a lot of moisture.

            But if you rub the tenderloin with a spice rub, and insert garlic slivers, it shouldn't lose too much moisture. Just don't overcook it.

            1. boy, if i wanted to be sure of a mature, well-cooked and well-distributed garlic taste, i'd make a little pan sauce adding garlic to the apples and onions. i doubt the slits, per se, would hurt, but agree that there won't be time for the taste of the slivers to mature or move.

              1. As everyone here has said...pork tenderloin cooks pretty quickly and the garlic would taste raw & harsh. Why not roast a couple cloves of garlic & then make a few slits & push the roasted garlic in the slits. Your big insurance against dryness is not to overcook ( I cook to 143) and I also usually do a short (2-3 hour) brine of apple juice/kosher salt/brown sugar.

                1. Or you could try this: marinate some crushed garlic in olive or other oil for a couple of hours. Strain the oil and massage it into the tenderloin (or simply marinate the tenderloin in the oil. An addition of fresh thyme sprigs to that marinade would be lovely.

                  In fact Puffins, you've inspired tonigh's dinner as I am currently thawing a pork tenderloin. I'm going to rub it with garlic oil, and transfer it to a zip-loc bag w/ lots of fresh thyme, and then cook it with apple and onions and then make a quick pan sauce.

                  Thanks for the idea.

                  1. I use tenderloins often, whole or cut into medallions, to great success. I find they're easy to work with, and I agree with Paul's advice. All you really have to do with them is sear them well, use a reliable meat thermometer to determine when they're done but not overdone, and (definitely!) allow them to rest before slicing.

                    I agree with others here who think the real issue here is that tenderloins may not cook long enough to soften the raw garlic taste. So I would save inserting garlic slivers for a loin roast or more robust, longer cooking cuts of meat. I have done that before, though, and to answer your specific question, I find that the meat reseals around the garlic during a longer cooking, and no more juices escape from the meat because of it. With the tenderloin, what I would do is simply toss the garlic in with the apples and onions, and I might increase the number of cloves I include (depending on the recipe) but leave them UNPEELED. That gentles out the garlic.

                    One thing you can do with tenderloins is to insert a good quality pitted olive, such as Kalamata, but that's for a different recipe and flavor profile than what you're planning right now.

                    I can't imagine you won't be happy with the finished product. I used the apple/onion combination often and with beef and poultry, too. But pork, especially, was made to be paired with fruit. If you like the recipe, try it in the future by substituting or adding plums, blueberries, cranberries, oranges or pears. They all go beautifully with pork.

                    1. Season well....
                      In a hot cast iron skillet, brown on all sides......
                      Place it in a 400* oven....
                      Pull it when it reaches 140*-145*..This will happen quickly...don't walk away..,.
                      Let rest for 10 minutes....
                      Slice into medallions...
                      Serve with a sauce....optional.....


                      1. Thanks everyone for all the tips! I will definitely brown it before roasting and, as a raw garlic flavor is NOT what I'm going for, I will go ahead and just roast some garlic in the pan with the apples and onions and then make a pan sauce.