Perfect pork is flavorful and juicy, but it is easy to overcook and under season. I used to think I didn’t like tenderloin, but then I learned about grilling and smoking. This recipe is excellent on a grill, but I swear by my pellet smoker. Smoking pork imparts a supremely delicious flavor and the meat stays moist and tender. I smoke everything from apples to cheese, so if you have ever thought about acquiring one, I recommend it. I pep the tenderloin up even further with a mustard rub and pancetta wrap-the end result is so good, you’ll be luckily if you can get it on plates before half of it disappears.
Successful pork tenderloin is a 2-3-part process; brine, marinate, and rub (optional, but we’re using it this time as well as wrapping it in pancetta.) The meat should soak in the brine for at least an hour, and in the marinade for 30-60 minutes. The rub and pancetta go on while the grill or smoker is warming up.
Serves 4-6, or extra makes excellent leftovers
Special Equipment: Kitchen twine for tying on pancetta, meat thermometer
3lbs pork tenderloin (2 tenderloin), trimmed of silver skin Saucy Note: Silver skin is the translucent membrane that covers most of the outside of pork tenderloin. You can remove it yourself with a sharp knife, or have your butcher do it for you. To trim it at home, gently pull the filmy skin away from the meat and slice it away with a sawing motion-if you have one of those curved boning knives, it works very well for this.
1 cup warm water
¼ sugar (brown or white)
4 whole allspice berries
2 whole cloves
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. white vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced or smashed with garlic press
pinch of salt
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. Hot Chinese style Mustard
1 tbsp. Honey
pinch of salt
Trim silver skin if your butcher did not already do so.
Mix the brine ingredients in double-layered gallon Ziploc bags until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add tenderloin, and then add enough cold water to bring the temperature down and cover the pork. Seal bag, pushing as much air out as possible. Place in fridge for 1 hour.
Mix marinade in another set of double-layered bags and let sit at room temperature while meat brines.
After 1 hour, remove meat from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Put in marinade and seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Work marinade around meat with your hands until the pork is well covered. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 hour.
When meat is done marinating, preheat smoker or grill to medium-high heat. Remove meat from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Cut twine into lengths long enough to wrap around tenderloin-you need one strand for every piece of pancetta. Divide twine and pancetta between the two tenderloins, then arrange so you can perpendicularly lay the tenderloin down across them (I say that like it’s super easy, but pancetta is a little persnickety. Even peeled apart carefully, the pieces tend to fall apart a little, but it doesn’t make much difference as long as you overlap the pieces and tie them well with twine.) Liberally spread the tenderloins with mustard all around. Tie pancetta around tenderloin with twine-it won’t go all the way around, which is fine.
Place tenderloin pancetta-side-up on smoker or grill. For our smoker we set it to 375°F. Cook for 6-8 minutes, then rotate 90°, so pancetta is on the side. Cook for another six minutes, then turn pancetta to other side. Cook an additional six minutes, and then turn pancetta side down and cook until internal temperature reaches 145°-160° F. I prefer medium rare pork, so I remove them on the lower end-those numbers are from the National Pork Board, so I promise it’s safe, not to mention completely delicious. The meat will also continue to rise a little in temperature once you remove it from the grill, so unless you like very well done pork, remove it about 5° early.
Cover pork with aluminum foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice thickly, serving each person 2-3 pieces. Accompany the pork with yellow rice and a green vegetable like broiled asparagus or steamed broccoli for a well-rounded meal.