Have you ever read a recipe that called for a pork tenderloin and you bought a pork loin instead thinking they were the same thing? Frustrating isn't it, when your glaze burns and your meat isn't cooked through at the time the recipe said? Or, worse, done it in reverse and cooked a pork tenderloin to death in a roasting pan.
I didn't know there was a difference for quite a while either. However, the last year or so Kroger (where I normally shop) has been running sales every 3-4 months on pork. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get it as low as $1.99 a pound. When the pork goes on sale, I stock up on several 3-5 pound pork loins and several pork tenderloins that weigh in around a little over a pound. For the pork loins, I ask the butcher to cut half my selection as chops and the rest as 2 pound roasts. An average weight for tenderloins is 1-2 pounds. If you find them much over 2 pounds, there are generally two pork tenderloins in the package.
|Six pound pork loin on the left. Two 1.30 pound pork tenderloins on the right.|
So...what's the difference? The pork loin - the larger of the two cuts of meat - is the large muscle that runs along the spine. The tenderloin is the smaller muscle that runs along the under the spine. It doesn't get used as much so it's more tender.
Obviously since the two cuts are much different in size, cooking applications vary. In general the pork loin should be cooked for 20 minutes per pound in a 350* oven. I also cook 2 pounds in my slow cooker on low for 5 hours. (My slow cooker runs hot. You'll need to experiment with your brand and model).
A 1-2 pound pork tenderloin can be cooked in the oven at 350* for 20 minutes total. We've also had good success grilling a tenderloin on a charcoal grill for 20 - 30 minutes. I do not suggest using a slow cooker with a pork tenderloin. The meat is much too tender and cooks too quickly. The internal temperatures of both should be 150* when done.
While I've made a roast with pork loin on occasion, I especially like to cook it in the slow cooker, then shred it for tacos, barbeque sandwiches, or to mix with gravy and pour over mashed or baked potatoes. Pork tenderloin is good sliced and served as it is. Leftovers are delicious diced in fried rice.
I asked some of my blogger friends what their favorite recipes for pork loin, pork tenderloin, and pork chops were. Check out some of their responses. I can't wait to try them all!
In the Kitchen with Jenny's Roasted Pork Loin
Love Bakes Good Cakes' Pineapple Peach Chipotle Pork Tacos
The Kim Six Fix's Maple Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
Marlys This and That's Seared Gingerbread Tenderloin with Onions and Mushrooms
Hi! It's Jilly's Rosemary Honey Dijon Pork Chops
Everything Happens for a Reason's Best Pork Chop Recipe Ever