Tender and juicy pork tenderloin coated in cajun spices, then topped with a shallot and white wine pan sauce. This method makes perfectly cooked juicy pork tenderloin every time. Fast and easy cast iron pork tenderloin recipe makes a great weeknight dinner, and is ready in 30 minutes!
Best way to cook pork tenderloin
Since pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat, you do not want to overcook it. This two part method of searing then roasting pork tenderloin is the best way to keep it tender and juicy! This recipe also uses a blackening technique which gives the pork so much flavor.
Check out Homemade Blackening Seasoning for all the tips, tricks, and explanations about blackened food.
Why you'll love this recipe
- The best method of cooking pork tenderloin! This 2 step method is the absolute best way to cook a pork tenderloin. It is juicy and tender every time.
- Blackened is better. The blackening cajun spice mix plus searing the pork makes a super flavorful outer crust.
- Ready in 30 minutes, making it a quick weeknight dinner.
- Optional pan sauce. You can choose to make the pan sauce or not, but the time it takes to make it is included in the 30 minutes. Plus it's delicious!
What is a pork tenderloin?
Pork tenderloin is a small, tender, and lean cut of meat next to the backbone. It doesn’t get a lot of movement, making it very tender.
Pork tenderloins are usually only 1 to 1 ½ pounds a piece, making them 2-3 servings each. Sometimes they are sold in a pack of two, so if you find one that weighs over 2 pounds, there are most likely two tenderloins in the pack.
Because pork tenderloin is lean and small, they are easily overcooked. I highly recommend using a leave-in meat thermometer to cook your pork to perfection.
Pork tenderloin vs pork loin. While these cuts are similar, pork loin is larger and slightly more tough.
More about pork tenderloin here in this article Pork Loin vs Pork Tenderloin - What’s the Difference?
Ingredients & Substitutions
See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.
- Pork tenderloin - Pork tenderloin are small, usually weighing about 1 to 1 ½ pounds. If you find a pork tenderloin that is closer to 3 pounds, chances are there are two smaller pork tenderloins in the package. You can cook them both together and just double the recipe.
- Avocado oil - I love avocado oil for searing at high temperatures since it has a high smoke point. You can also use vegetable oil for a neutral flavor. Using clarified butter or ghee works as well, but this will add a buttery taste (which isn’t a bad thing in most recipes!). You can still use olive oil if that’s what you have on hand, but it tends to smoke more.
- Blackening seasoning - You can buy blackened seasoning mixes at the grocery store or make your own homemade blackening seasoning. You can also substitute for Cajun seasoning.
- For the pan sauce - This pan sauce is optional, but a great way to use up those delicious pan juices! You can substitute a shallot for about ¼ cup of finely diced onion. If you don’t want to use wine, substitute for chicken or vegetable broth. I love the combination of white wine plus white balsamic vinegar, but you can go for a different flavor and use red wine with regular balsamic vinegar. I always recommend using fresh garlic over the jarred stuff!
Make a big batch of homemade blackening seasoning so you have some on hand for blackening chicken, fish, pork, shrimp, beef, or vegetables!
A cast iron skillet is a kitchen work horse!
It heats evenly and retains it heat for a long time, making it great for searing meats and blackening foods. It's also oven safe up to 500°F (260°C).
This is the Lodge 12 inch cast iron skillet I use.
How to cook pork tenderloin
Pork tenderloin can be a tender and juicy cut of meat, but you have to prepare it properly.
The best cooking method for pork tenderloin is to sear it in a hot cast iron skillet, then finish cooking it in the oven.
This cooking method ensures that the outside of the pork tenderloin develops a flavorful crust, while the inside stays juicy and tender!
STEP ONE: PREP
Trim off any excess fat or silver skin and pat the pork dry with paper towels.
STEP TWO: SEASON
Season pork evenly with blackening seasoning and gently press into pork.
STEP THREE: SEAR
Sear pork in a hot skillet until a browned crust forms on each side.
STEP FOUR: ROAST
Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and cook until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C). Remove pork from the oven and let rest.
STEP FIVE: PAN SAUCE
Sauté the shallots in the pan, then deglaze with wine. Simmer until it reduces by half, then add white balsamic and garlic. Stir in cold butter until a sauce forms.
PRO TIP: A leave-in meat thermometer is one of my MOST used kitchen utensils!
The long cord is oven safe, so you can leave it in the protein while it cooks. You'll never overcook your meat again!
STEP SIX: SERVE
Cut pork tenderloin into thick slices and serve warm topped with pan sauce.
Pork tenderloin temps
Don’t be fooled by the pink color of a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin! Pork is not like chicken, and does not have to be cooked to 165°F (74°C).
The USDA recommends pork to be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), tested at the thickest part of the meat.
Read more about safe internal cooking temperatures for meat.
Pork at 145°F (63°C) will be tender, juicy, and perfectly cooked.
The problem is that pork tenderloin cooks quickly, so removing it from the oven promptly is important.
The other issue to consider is pork (and other proteins) will continue to cook after they are removed from heat. Especially when using cast iron skillets, since they retain their heat so well. If you leave the pork in the pan, it will continue to cook even more.
To keep your pork perfectly juicy, remove the pork from the oven AND the skillet once it reaches 140°F (60°C). Transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Leave the thermometer in until it's done resting. You will be able to ensure the internal temperature of the pork reaches 145°F (63°C) before it starts cooling down.
Cooking pork tenderloin to 160°F (71°C) is considered “well done” and will yield dry pork.
- Pat it dry. Use a paper towel to blot up any excess moisture on the surface of the pork to get a better sear.
- Don’t skip the sear. Searing the pork gives it the blackened crust and creates more flavor.
- Use a thermometer! Using a leave-in thermometer is the absolute best way to ensure your pork doesn’t get overcooked.
- Remove it from heat promptly. As soon as your pork reaches 140°F (60°C), remove it from the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board so the hot cast iron pan doesn’t continue to cook it. It should continue to rise to 145°F (63°C).
- Let it rest! Always let pork rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into it. This helps the juices redistribute into the pork rather than leaking out on the cutting board.
For more tips on blackening proteins, check out Homemade Blackening Seasoning.
Storage & make ahead
How to store leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
How to freeze: I don’t recommend freezing this recipe after it has been cooked. You can stock up on pork tenderloin when they are on sale and freeze them until you’re ready to use.
Make ahead: I don’t recommend making this recipe ahead of time, as pork tenderloin is best when freshly cooked. It only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, so it doesn’t take long.
How to reheat pork tenderloin
The best way to reheat pork tenderloin is to do it quickly in a cast-iron skillet at a high temperature.
Slice the tenderloin in thick pieces, at least ½ ? inch. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is fully heated, place the pieces of pork down and leave them for about 1-2 minutes. You can add a little butter or oil to keep the pork moist. Flip to heat from the other side for another minute until warmed through.
Don’t overheat, or you will continue to cook the pork and it will become dry.
What to serve with pork tenderloin
I like serving this cajun pork tenderloin with blackened green beans and sautéed sweet potatoes, or a big dinner salad.
For a complete list on the best side dishes for pork tenderloin, check out What to Serve with Pork Tenderloin.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is better to remove the silverskin from a pork tenderloin before cooking it. The silverskin can be tough, and doesn’t cook down. Remove it by slipping a small knife just under the silverskin, and running the knife under it along the pork tenderloin. Try not to remove too much of the pork meat itself.
If you sear the pork tenderloin first in a cast iron skillet, then it is better to finish cooking it at 350°F (175°C). This way gives the pork a nice crisp sear on the outside, and lets the inside cook a little slower so it stays juicy. If you don’t sear the pork first, it may be better to cook it at 400°F (205°C) so the outside can get crisp.
No, you don't have to use a meat thermometer to cook pork tenderloin, but I highly recommend it! Because pork is a small and lean cut of meat, it can overcook quickly. Using a leave-in thermometer ensures you can take it out of the oven at the perfect temperature so it doesn’t get overcooked.
If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, a stainless steel skillet will also work. Just make sure your pan is oven safe. Cast iron skillets are better at retaining heat and getting a perfect sear, so they are preferred for this recipe. If you don’t have a heatsafe skillet, transfer the pork to a baking sheet after searing to finish roasting in the oven.
The best way to know if pork is cooked properly, is to use a food thermometer. You can use a leave-in thermometer which stays in the pork while its cooking, or use an instant read thermometer to spot check temperatures towards the end of cooking. Fully cooked pork at 145°F (63°C) should be juicy and slightly pink but opaque.
More blackened recipes
Blackened Cast Iron Pork Tenderloin Recipe
- sharp knife
- cutting board
- PREP: If possible, remove pork from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking. Trim off any excess fat or silverskin. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C), with a rack at the middle position. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
- SEASON: Season pork with blackening seasoning (use one tablespoon per pound of pork) and press into pork. If using a leave-in meat thermometer, insert it now into the thickest part of the meat.
- SEAR: Add oil to the skillet to warm, then place pork in the hot skillet. Sear for about 3 minutes to form a browned crust, then flip. Sear for another 3 minutes.
- ROAST: Transfer skillet to the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until pork reaches an internal temperature of 140°F (60°C). Remove pork from the oven. While the pork is roasting, prep the ingredients for the pan sauce.
- REST: The internal temperature will continue to rise (to about 145°F (63°C)) as pork rests. Rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting.
- PAN SAUCE: Remove the pork from the skillet and let rest on a cutting board while you make the sauce. Set the pan over medium heat and add shallots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until softening. Deglaze with the white wine. Scrap the bottom of the pan as you go. Let the liquid simmer for a few minutes and reduce by about half. Add white balsamic vinegar and garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in cold butter until melted and sauce comes together.
- SERVE: Slice pork and serve topped with white wine pan sauce, and fresh herbs.
- If your package contains 2 pork tenderloin, you can cook them both together. Just space them out in the pan and double the recipe. (Packages of pork tenderloin weighing closer to 3 pounds will most likely have 2 tenderloin in them).
- Servings depends on the size of the tenderloin. Allow for ½ a pound of pork tenderloin per person (or 227 grams per person).
- The Homemade Blackening Seasoning used in this recipe makes this blackened pork tenderloin mild-moderately spicy. If you want it less spicy, make the blackening seasoning with less cayenne pepper. Use 1 tablespoon of seasoning per pound (450 g) of protein. Store bought mixes may be saltier, so season accordingly.
- Use a thermometer! Using a leave-in thermometer is the absolute best way to ensure your pork doesn’t get overcooked. As soon as your pork reaches 140°F (60°C), remove it from the oven, and transfer it to a cutting board so the hot cast iron pan doesn’t continue to cook it. It should continue to rise to 145°F (63°C).
- You can swap out the white wine and white balsamic vinegar for red wine and regular balsamic vinegar.