Cast iron utensils have been American favorites since colonial times. Although iron does not transfer heat as capably as aluminum or copper, it offers some practical advantages. Cast iron is slow to heat up, compared to other metals, but once it arrives at a working temperature it retains its heat superbly. That makes it an excellent material for skillets and griddles, which are often preheated before they are used. Cast iron remains at a searing temperature longer than other metals, making it ideal for quick-cooking meats like steaks, chops or a pork tenderloin.
Trim any large pieces of surface fat from the tenderloins. Most tenderloins have a partial sheath of tough connective tissue, called "silverskin," on top. Remove this by sliding the tip of a sharp knife underneath the layer, and sliding the knife to the end of the tenderloin. Angle the blade upward, against the silverskin, to avoid unnecessary waste.
Season the tenderloin lightly with salt and pepper. If desired, rub the tenderloins with a dry seasoning mixture, or immerse in a marinade. Cover and refrigerate for three to four hours, or as directed in your favorite recipe.
Remove the tenderloins from the refrigerator, if applicable, and wipe away any excess marinade. Pat the surfaces dry with clean paper towels. Cut the tenderloins in half across the width, if necessary, so they will fit in the skillet. Use two skillets if necessary.
Oil the skillet lightly, and place it over a medium-hot burner. When the oil is simmering and almost hot enough to smoke, place the tenderloins in the skillet. Sear them carefully on all sides, until well browned.
Reduce heat, and continue to cook the tenderloins, turning regularly, until the internal temperature of the tenderloin reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the loin. Use a probe thermometer or a calibrated instant-read thermometer for accuracy.
Cover the tenderloins and let them rest for five or ten minutes. Serve with your favorite side dishes.
For a classic haute cuisine version of this technique, stuff the tenderloin with prunes soaked in Armagnac or other good-quality brandy.
When the pork is done, pour 1/2 cup of full-bodied white, red or port wine into the hot pan. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula, so that all the browned-on cooking juices come off the pan and into the wine. Simmer until the wine has reduced to a few thick tablespoons, and spoon the resulting sauce over the pork.
Observe all appropriate food safety precautions when handling raw pork. Sanitize your cutting boards and utensils after use.
- "Professional Cooking, 5th Ed."; Wayne Gisslen; 2003
- "Larousse Gastronomique: The Encyclopedia of Food, Wine and Cookery"; Prosper Montagne; English edition 1961
- "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Revised Second Edition"; Harold S. McGee; 2004
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.