When fall begins to peek its timid face around the corner and the promise of crisper air and shorter days tiptoes over the horizon, it is time for Saucy Pork Tenderloin.
I did not grow up eating pork, so it wasn’t until adulthood that I really learned anything about how to enjoy this versatile meat. I know pork chops can be delicious (although I rarely make them at home), and I am a sucker for a giant pork shoulder roast (so many amazing leftovers!), but the cut of pork that I tend to return to regularly for its ease and versatility is pork tenderloin.
Pork tenderloin is easy to prepare because it is relatively small and requires a shorter cook time than most roasts. Pork tenderloin can handle a variety of marinades and cooking methods, making it an all-star at the dinner table. It will also remain juicy if you tend it carefully and take care not to overcook it. (Pro tip, if you find yourself with an overcooked pork tenderloin, just slice it razor thin and it will seem more tender than it actually is.)
Saucy Pork Tenderloin takes the ease of this cut of meat and combines it with a savory honey Dijon sauce that will knock your socks off. To begin, we sear the tenderloin in a pan to develop a crust on the meat and to lay down some flavor pockets in our pan. Then, we remove the pork and cook red onions in the pan until they are melting and supple. Next we add lemon juice, white wine, dijon mustard, and honey while we scrape up the brown bits from the pan to create a flavor powerhouse. As our sauce comes to a simmer, we return the tenderloins to the bubbling brew and allow the heat from the sauce to finish cooking the pork. The sauce reduced and thickens, developing the consistency of a gravy, which makes it the perfect for pairing with a mountain of Mashed Potatoes.
If you’ve never cooked pork and want to make Saucy Pork Tenderloin at home, you might check out the cook-along video in my shop. In it you will not only learn how to create this dish from start to finish, but also will master searing, sautéing, and creating a pan sauce. All of these skills will serve you well in future cooking endeavors.
Saucy Pork Tenderloin
- 2 pork tenderloins (the total combined weight should be around 2 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 red onions, peeled and sliced into half-moons
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup white wine (cooking wine is fine)
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
- Place the pork tenderloins on a baking sheet. If they are wet, pat them dry with a paper towel. Season all over with a total of 2 teaspoons Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
- In a large skillet over almost-high heat (90% power), heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add the pork and sear on each side. Keep the sheet tray handy. The searing process will take up to 2 minutes per side, but pay attention to the meat. It should not burn.
- When the meat is seared on all sides, reduce the heat to medium-high (70%) and remove the pork to the waiting sheet tray. Quickly add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan and add the onions. Stir to separate the onion pieces and coat them in olive oil. Add 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- Cook the onions until they are soft, not at all raw, and just beginning to take on color. They should look wilted and like they need additional cooking. This will take around 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the sauce ingredients. In a small bowl or a glass two-cup measuring cup, combine the white wine, lemon juice, dijon, honey, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- When the onions are beginning to take on color, add the sauce ingredients to the pan taking care to scrape out any salt that has settled in the bottom of the measuring cup. Use a wooden spoon or metal spatula to scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom of the onion pan. Stir everything together to combine and bring the sauce up to a simmer. Once it is simmering, add the pork tenderloins back to the pan, nestling them into the sauce.
- Allow the sauce to continue to gently simmer, and turn the pork every 5 minutes. The pork is done when it registers 140 degrees on an instant read thermometer. The total cook time will depend on several factors, so begin checking for doneness at 10 minutes. It may take up to 20 minutes, but you do not want to overcook this meat. The second that it registers 140 degrees, remove the tenderloins from the pan to the sheet tray.
- Continue to simmer the sauce for at least 5 minutes. You are looking for it to take on a thick, gravy-like consistency without becoming dry. After it has reduced, remove it from the heat and gently stir in the unsalted butter.
- The pork needs to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing, which means your sauce will be finished before the pork is ready to slice. Once the pork has rested, slice it diagonally and serve with the sauce.