*This recipe is from Adam Perry Lang's BBQ 25; I used it as a test for my review.
Some cuts of meat need help.
Pork tenderloin doesn't have much flavor on its own, so it makes an excellent canvas for carrying other flavors. This is where Adam Perry Lang (APL hereafter) is at his peak. He uses every trick he has to build layers of flavors into this mild cut of pork. You get a browned, grilled exterior, basted with butter, oil and herbs, combined with the salty, sweet flavor of his brine. I complained about how elaborate his recipes can be in my review, but this one is worth every bit of effort.
This recipe also showcases one of the techniques APL uses throughout BBQ 25: Back and Forth. Adam likes to have a baking pan on the grill with a layer of butter, oil, and spices gently simmering in it. Back and Forth is his shorthand for how he uses the baking pan while grilling. He starts the meat on the grill, to get it seared. Then he moves the meat into the baking pan and rolls it in the baste to coat. Then the meat goes back on the grill to sear some more. After a while, it goes back into the pan with the baste. Back and forth. Then, after the meat is well seared, it goes into the baking pan to cook until just about done. Then, one more quick sear on the grill, and back into the baking pan for a last bath in the baste before serving.
This technique is a great idea for thicker cuts of meat, like pork tenderloin, that are not cooked all the way through once they have been seared on the outside. Why cook them over indirect heat when they can cook over indirect heat in their basting liquid?
*I liked this technique enough that I'm going to buy a grill safe pan; I need to decide between cast iron and enameled steel.
- Grill (I used a Weber kettle, this Weber Grill)
- Grill safe baking pan (I used an 9x13 aluminum foil pan)
- 2 pork tenderloins, 1 ½ pounds each
- 2 tablespoon table salt (or ¼ cup kosher salt)
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked Spanish paprika)
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 sprigs fresh marjoram (or oregano, or thyme)
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup butter (½ a stick)
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (a 2 finger pinch)
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1. Brine the pork: Put the brine ingredients in a gallon zip top bag. Mix, crushing the ingredients through the bag, until the salt and sugar dissolve. (Watch out for any sharp ends on the marjoram sprigs; don't poke a hole in the bag). Add the pork tenderloins, zip the bag closed, and let rest in the refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours.
2. Make the baste:Put the baste ingredients in the grill-safe pan. Leave the pan at room temperature to let the butter soften while you prepare the grill.
3. Prepare the grill: Prepare the grill so half of it can be used for cooking on direct medium-high heat. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter* ¾ full of charcoal, and wait for it to be covered with ash, about 20 minutes. Then I pour it in an even layer over half of the charcoal grate. Next, I put the grill grate in the grill, let it heat up for a minute, then brush it clean with my grill brush.
*I highly recommend the Weber Chimney Starter, because it is larger than most chimney starters. It holds 5 quarts of charcoal, which exactly the right size for cooking this recipe.
4. Grill the pork: Remove the tenderloins from the brine, and pat them dry with paper towels. Put the pan with the baste on the grill, over the direct heat. Heat the pan until the butter melts and the garlic starts to sizzle, then move it to the side of the grill that doesn't have direct heat. Put the tenderloins on the grill, over the direct heat. Grill for 3 minutes, until the tenderloins are starting to brown on the bottom. Move the tenderloins into the basting pan, and roll them to coat with the baste. Put the tenderloins back on the grill, with a non-browned side facing down. They will flare up at this point, due to the fat in the baste; if the flames get too high, move them to a part of the direct heat that isn't flaming as badly. Grill for another three minutes. Move the tenderloins back into the basting pan, and roll to coat with baste. Put them back on the grill, with another non-browned side facing down, and grill for another three minutes.
*The tenderloins should have a nice, browned crust over most of their surface at this point.
Move the tenderloins into the basting pan, roll to coat with baste, then move the pan back to the direct heat side of the grill, with the tenderloins still in the pan. Cook the tenderloins in the pan for six minutes, rolling them in the baste every few minutes, and changing the side that is facing down.
doneness of the tenderloins at this point; I recommend measuring with an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the pork. They should be 140F for medium pork (Cooked through with just a suggestion of pink). If medium pork worries you, continue to grill them until they get to 160F. Remove the pork to the basting pan, roll in the baste, then remove the basting pan from the grill.
5. Rest, then serve: Let the tenderloins rest for 10 minutes, then roll them one last time in the baste. Cut the tenderloins crosswise into ½" thick slices, drizzle a little of the baste on top of the slices, and serve.
*Bacon baste: Use half the butter (2 tbsp) and add 8 slices of bacon to the baste. (This was in APL's original recipe. I didn't have any unfrozen bacon.)
*APL Board Dressing: Adam pours some of the baste on the cutting board before slicing the tenderloins.
*I know the "Grill the pork" section of the recipe is very wordy. Here it is, stripped down: Put the pork on one side the grill, over direct heat, and the baste pan on the other side, over indirect heat. Grill the pork for 3 minutes, then roll it in the baste. Flip, grill for 3 minutes, roll in baste again. Flip, grill for final 3 minutes. Move pork to baste pan, move baste pan over direct heat, cook for 6 minutes, rolling pork in baste occasionally. Grill pork for one more minute, or until done. Roll one last time, rest, slice, and serve.
*As I said in the opening, this is a great way to cook pork tenderloin, and I think it would also be a good technique to use with thick boneless pork chops. This recipe made better pork tenderloin leftovers than I'm used to having - rolling it in the baste really seemed to help the flavor.
*Due to the brine, I don't think of this as a weeknight recipe. But...if you have the time to start the brine around lunchtime, the rest of the recipe is quick enough for a busy weeknight.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Adapted from BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang copyright 2010 with permission of William Morrow/An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Adam Perry Lang: BBQ 25
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