As its name implies, the tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of pork, and comes from the full loin. It’s mild in flavor and takes well to rubs, marinades and sauces. Tenderloins range in weight from 10 ounces to 1 1/2 pounds. I prefer the smaller 10-12 ounce tenderloins and look for those when I am shopping for meat.
I love coating the tenderloin with my simple “crusty” barbecue rub of dark brown sugar, salt, pepper and paprika. The sugar in the rub helps to create a nice crust on the pork, and thus the name. After applying the rub, I sear the tenderloin over direct heat on both sides and then move it to indirect heat to finish cooking. Depending on the size of the tenderloin, the entire cooking time will be between 15 and 20 minutes, making it perfect for a quick weekday meal.
If you are using a meat thermometer, cook the tenderloin to a medium end temperature of 145-150 F. Don’t be alarmed if the inside is still a bit pink. This is the way that pork today should be served. If you cook it until it is well done, it will be dry and much less tasty. Once the meat rests for 3-5 minutes, slice it on the diagonal and serve with a generous slather of Jezebel Sauce.
If you aren’t familiar with Jezebel Sauce, think of it as the less popular southern sister to Hot Pepper Jelly. Jezebel Sauce is thought to have its origins along the Gulf coast where it appears in community cookbooks as far back as the 1950s. Growing up in North Carolina, it was served as an appetizer, spooned over cream cheese, and accompanied by crackers. But I always thought that it was begging to be served with pork. Regardless of where it came from, it is very good with crackers and cream cheese but it makes an amazing sauce for grilled pork and sausages.
The unusual flavors of sweet pineapple, zippy horseradish and the heat of dry mustard complement the smoky grilled pork tenderloin. Traditionally, Jezebel Sauce is made with pineapple preserves and apple jelly, but lately, I have had a hard time finding pineapple preserves so I made it with pureed canned pineapple and apple jelly. The texture is a bit looser but I like the tang of the uncooked pineapple.
CRUSTY PORK TENDERLOIN WITH JEZEBEL SAUCE
Start to finish: 20 minutes
2 pork tenderloins (10 to 12 ounces each)
Crusty Barbecue Rub:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon coarse ground pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated/white sugar
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika
Crushed Pineapple Jezebel Sauce:
1/4 cup pureed or crushed canned pineapple
1 jar (16 to 18 ounces) tart apple jelly
1/4 cup white horseradish (not horseradish cream)
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Make rub and sauce before grilling.
For Rub: Mix all rub ingredients together until well combined. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
For Sauce: Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill. Store any extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Coat tenderloins lightly with oil. Sprinkle each with 1-2 tablespoons of the Crusty Rub. Place directly on the cooking grates over direct heat to sear. Grill 2-3 minutes per side.
Once seared, move to the center of the cooking grate and cook for 12-15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time to ensure even cooking.
Remove the tenderloins from the grill, allow them to rest for 3-5 minutes, then slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices and serve with Jezebel Sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 257 calories; 63 calories from fat; 7 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 101 mg cholesterol; 691 mg sodium; 14 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 33 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”