Whether you’re firing up the grill for a summertime feast or prefer the convenience of the oven or stovetop, this quick and easy recipe for The Best Pork Tenderloin Marinade has got you covered!
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One of the best and easiest ways to elevate the flavors of pork tenderloin is through a well-crafted marinade, as it both tenderizes the meat and locks in moisture. My version is simple, yet flavor-packed and strikes the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. It requires just a handful of ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen: orange juice, soy sauce, garlic powder and brown sugar. Best of all, it comes together in a matter of minutes, and once the pork is coated, it requires just a quick 30 minutes of marinating time.
So, gather your ingredients, fire up the flames and prepare to savor a pork tenderloin like no other. And don’t miss my favorite cowboy dipping sauce for pork, steak, chicken and more!
Why It Works
- Marinating pork tenderloin infuses it with a burst of flavors. The orange juice, when combined with soy sauce creates a balanced, savory glaze, while the subtle sweetness of light brown sugar contrasts with the tangy citrus and compliments the earthiness of the garlic powder.
- One of the primary benefits of marinating is its tenderizing effect. The acidic component (in this recipe, orange juice), breaks down the proteins in the meat, making it more tender. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
- Unlike simple seasoning on the surface, marinating allows the flavors to penetrate into the meat, infusing it from the inside out.
- The marinade creates a protective barrier around the meat, preventing it from drying out. This moisture retention ensures that the pork remains juicy and moist throughout the cooking process, avoiding any potential dryness that can occur with lean cuts like tenderloin.
This recipe stars simple ingredients you likely already have in your fridge and pantry. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Orange juice: With its bright and tangy flavor, orange juice plays a starring role in this recipe. Its natural sweetness brings a refreshing and citrusy note to the dish. Pineapple juice or apple juice can be used as a substitute.
- Low-sodium soy sauce: Just like my go-to steak marinade and poultry marinade, low-sodium soy sauce is essential! Using regular soy sauce will result in a dish that’s too salty.
- Garlic powder: Deepens the flavor profile of the glaze, imparting a subtle hint of pungency and earthiness that complements the sweetness of the orange juice and brown sugar.
- Light brown sugar: Adds just the right amount of sweetness and creates a caramelized coating that enhances the overall taste of the pork tenderloin. Honey or maple syrup can be used as a substitute.
- Make the marinade. Place a large sealable plastic bag in a bowl (which makes mixing the marinade easier), whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, garlic powder and brown sugar.
- Add the pork. Cut the tenderloin in half width-wise. Add the two tenderloin pieces to the bag, squeeze out any air and seal the bag shut. Move the tenderloin pieces around in the bag so that they are well coated in the marinade.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Cook according to your personal preference. When ready to cook, remove the tenderloin pieces from the bag and pat them dry with paper towels. Discard the bag and any leftover marinade. The pork can be cooked on a stovetop, in an oven or on a grill. Regardless of the cooking method you choose, ensure that the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F. Additionally, let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute, resulting in a more tender and flavorful final dish.
- Trim Excess Fat: Remove any excess fat or silver skin from the pork tenderloin before marinating. This allows the flavors of the marinade to penetrate the meat more effectively.
- Marinate in the Refrigerator: Always marinate pork tenderloin in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
- Don’t Overdo It: While marinating adds flavor, over-marinating can lead to a mushy texture due to sitting for too long in acidic liquids. I recommend marinating between 30 to 60 minutes.
- Pat Dry Before Cooking: Moisture is the enemy of a solid sear! Before cooking, remove the pork from the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Let It Rest: Similar to cooking steak, allowing the pork to rest for 5 to 10 minutes after cooking allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, making it more flavorful and moist.
- Never Reuse: While it might be tempting to reuse the pork marinade, don’t do it! It can contain harmful bacteria. If you desire a sauce or glaze, I recommend setting aside a portion of the marinade before adding the raw pork and then cooking it separately.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s safe to marinate pork in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. While other cuts of meat and poultry will likely start to break down if marinated longer than 48 hours, pork tenderloin will not break down or get brittle, as it is firm enough to endure a few days in the acidic marinade.
This comes down to personal preference. Piercing the meat before marinating allows the flavors of the marinade to penetrate deeper into the pork. If you decide to pierce the tenderloin, a simple fork can be used to achieve this.
If you’d like to make a sauce, I recommend setting aside a portion of the marinade before adding the raw pork tenderloin. Used marinades that have been in contact with raw food are a potential cause of cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses.
The recommended internal temperature for cooked pork tenderloin is 145°F. To measure doneness, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the pork tenderloin.
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- 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, fat trimmed
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
- Cut the tenderloin in half width-wise.
- In a large sealable plastic bag, whisk together the orange juice, soy sauce, garlic powder and brown sugar.
- Add the two tenderloin pieces to the bag, squeeze out any air and seal the bag shut. Move the tenderloin pieces around in the bag so that they are well coated in the marinade. Refrigerate the bag for 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- When ready to cook, remove the tenderloin pieces from the bag and pat them dry with paper towels.
- Add the vegetable oil to a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add both of the tenderloin pieces to the skillet. Let them cook, undisturbed, until they brown and release naturally from the skillet, about 5 minutes. Flip the tenderloin pieces and continue cooking them on all sides until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Remove the tenderloin pieces from the skillet and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes then slice and serve.
- Remove any excess fat or silver skin from the pork tenderloin before marinating. This allows the flavors of the marinade to penetrate the meat more effectively.
- Always marinate pork tenderloin in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
- While marinating adds flavor, over-marinating can lead to a mushy texture due to sitting for too long in acidic liquids. I recommend marinating between 30 to 60 minutes.
- If you desire a sauce or glaze, I recommend setting aside a portion of the marinade before adding the raw pork and then cooking it separately.
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