Pork tenderloin should sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before grilling. This helps ensure even cooking and allows the interior to come closer to the optimum temperature for grilling before hitting the hot grill grates. Any longer than an hour risks bacterial growth.
Why Let Meat Sit Before Cooking
There are a few reasons it is recommended to let meat rest at room temperature before throwing it on the grill:
- It helps the meat cook more evenly. If meat goes straight from the fridge onto the hot grill, the outside will overcook by the time the inside reaches the proper temperature.
- It allows the center to raise in temperature. The center of the meat will start off colder than the exterior, but resting brings the interior temp closer to the target temp prior to cooking.
- Shortens cooking time. Less time on the grill means less chance of drying out the exterior.
- Can improve flavor. Some chef’s claim the resting time allows flavorful juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
How Long to Leave Pork Tenderloin Out
Most experts recommend letting pork tenderloin sit out for 30-60 minutes prior to hitting the grill. Here are some guidelines:
- Whole tenderloin – 30-45 minutes
- Tenderloin steaks, chops – 45-60 minutes
- Marinated cuts – 30 minutes
- Do not exceed 1 hour
A whole pork tenderloin can be quite thick. Up to 45 minutes gives the very center time to warm from fridge temperature.
Individual chops or steaks from the tenderloin have less thickness to warmup. Allowing up to a full hour gets the meat closer to ideal internal temp.
Marinades work fastest at room temp, so 30 minutes is sufficient for marinated cuts.
In no case should pork sit out longer than an absolute max of 1 hour, as bacteria can start to rapidly multiply above 40°F.
Does Time Out Increase Food Safety Risk?
There is minor increased risk allowing meat to rest at room temp before cooking. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Only leave pork tenderloin out for the recommended 30-60 minutes max.
- Use immediately after resting. Do not let sit out after grilling.
- Keep off countertops where temps may exceed 40°F. Use a tray on the kitchen table instead.
- Refrigerate again if changed plans mean it won’t be cooked immediately.
- Do not rest meats if room temp exceeds 90°F.
Following these tips will limit risk while still allowing advantage of resting.
The USDA also recommends always using a food thermometer to ensure pork reaches safe minimum internal temperatures after cooking.
What Temperature to Grill Pork Tenderloin To
The USDA recommends cooking pork to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F to kill potential bacteria and parasites.
For tenderloin, these are ideal target temperatures:
- 145°F – pork is just pink in center
- 150-155°F – pork cooked through, hint of pink
- 160°F – pork fully cooked, no pink
Use these completion temps along with a meat thermometer to determine when your rested tenderloin is ready to come off the grill.
Tips for Grilling Tenderloin Evenly
To ensure your tenderloin grills up evenly from edge to center, keep these tips in mind:
- Do not overcrowd the grill. Cook just 1-2 tenderloins at a time.
- Use moderate heat. High heat will overcook exterior before the center is done.
- Turn tenderloins every 5 minutes or so.
- Rotate to mitigate any hot spots.
- Allow to rest 5-10 minutes after grilling before slicing into
Properly rested, carefully grilled, and checked with a thermometer, your pork tenderloin will turn out perfectly cooked edge to edge.
Sample Grilling Time Chart
This table provides estimates for grilling time based on tenderloin thickness:
|3/4 inch||8-12 minutes|
|1 inch||12-18 minutes|
|1 1/2 inches||18-25 minutes|
|2 inches||25-30 minutes|
Remember these are just general guidelines and times can vary based on grill temp and type. Always rely on a meat thermometer for doneness.
Try Marinades for Added Flavor
Pork tenderloin is lean and delicate in flavor. Consider using a marinade to amplify taste and moisture.
Some tasty options include:
- Teriyaki marinade – soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger.
- Jerk seasoning – Caribbean influenced blend of spices.
- Herb marinade – oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil.
- Fruit based – pineapple juice, peach nectar, mango.
Marinate for 1-4 hours in the refrigerator. Remove and let rest 30 minutes before grilling.
What Are Some Serving Suggestions?
Here are just a few ideas for how to use grilled pork tenderloin:
- Slice into medallions for pork tenderloin sandwiches
- Dice and add to salads, wraps, tacos
- Slice and serve with chimichurri sauce
- Serve whole tenderloins with an apple mint relish
- Chop and use in fried rice or bibimbap
Grilled pork pairs well with fruit based salsas and chutneys as the sweetness complements the pork.
Allowing pork tenderloin to rest 30-60 minutes at room temperature helps ensure more even grilling. But take care not to leave out too long before cooking to avoid safety issues. Aim to grill the pork to an internal temperature of 145-160°F. Use a thermometer to test doneness rather than relying on time alone. With the right techniques, grilled pork tenderloin can become a delicious addition to many meals.