Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub is an entrée that’s fast and simple enough for a weeknight meal, but delicious enough to serve to dinner guests.
It’s so easy, too! Just trim the pork tenderloin, stir together a spice rub and pat it on. Roast the pork just until it’s moist and tender inside. The zippy spice rub can be as hot – or not! – as you like.
Pork tenderloin vs. pork loin: what’s the difference?
Even though they sound very similar, there’s a big difference between the two. A pork tenderloin is a small cut (approximately 1 lb. whole) from inside the rib section toward the hip area of the pig and is always boneless.
A pork loin is much larger and runs along the animal’s back, attaching to the outside of the ribs. The loin is the main center mass of meat in bone-in as well as boneless pork chops. It’s also cut into roasts of various names including center cut pork roast or pork loin roast.
Tenderloins are usually sold in the United States as whole pieces in single or double packs. I often purchase two double packs (4 tenderloins total) at Costco and then freeze them individually.
I regularly purchase whole pork loins and cut them myself into roasts and chops, then freeze them in meal-sized portions. A whole pork loin on sale can be a terrific bargain and only takes a few minutes to cut up to suit your likes.
How to trim away silver skin
Most all tenderloins have a membrane on them know as “silver skin” that should be trimmed away. You know it when you see it because it’s heavily striated and has a silvery look to it. It’s very tough and hard to chew and digest. This one has a little fat on top of the silver skin.
Removal is very simple, but easy to goof up without a little technique. Trying to cut away the silver skin by starting at the end will only leave you with a mangled tenderloin. With this technique, you’ll start in the middle of the silver skin and cut it away in strips, not all of it at once.
A sharp knife is key!
Using a sharp (sharp, sharp, sharp!) flexible boning knife, slip the tip under the silver skin, keeping the knife parallel to the tenderloin. It doesn’t matter which direction you go. Gently, but firmly with long even strokes, cut horizontally in one direction until you get to the end of the silver skin. Angle the knife blade up toward the membrane, not toward the meat. The silver skin is tough, you won’t cut through it, but you will cut through the meat if you don’t angle the knife upward.
If the silver skin travels down into the meat, leave it alone, it disappears in there. We’re only trimming off the tough surface stuff.
Turn your knife around to cut in the opposite direction to fully remove the strip of silver skin. Grab the loose end of the strip and put tension on it by pulling it in the opposite direction of your knife blade while you cut away the remainder of the strip using the same technique. Don’t forget to angle your knife blade upwards. You’ll repeat this a few times to remove all the silver skin.
Don’t worry about small bits of fat here and there, they will melt away during cooking. If one end of your tenderloin is very thin, tuck it under as I have done here to more or less make it thicker. You can do that with most any protein; it does a good job of keeping the thin end from drying out.
If you want to see how tough that silver skin really is, hold each end of a trimmed piece and try pulling it apart. Good thing you just learned how to remove it from your lovely pork tenderloin, eh?
Cocoa in a spice rub? Don’t mind if I do…
Your taste buds will never know that there are baking spices in this rub, because all they will detect is yummy. The flavor of the rub is smooth and interestingly spicy with as much heat as you want to add.
Cocoa, cinnamon and cloves combined with chili, garlic and cayenne make a smooth and zippy combo. You can’t detect the spices individually, they make a lovely harmony together. And it most certainly does not taste like chocolate!
Easy tenderloin preparation
Stir together your spice rub in a small bowl. Pour a little oil into your hand and rub it over the tenderloin. Coat the tenderloin thoroughly with the spice rub.
Place the rubbed tenderloin on a rack in a roasting pan. If you don’t have a rack, no worries, just roast it on a greased rimmed sheet pan.
Roast at 375° for approximately 25-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145-150°. I like to use a digital instant-read thermometer such as this one. Let the tenderloin rest for 10-15 minutes before carving into slices about 1/2″ thick or so.
Why is it important to rest roasted meat?
Good question! As meat cooks, the juices percolate inside and are the most active at the end of the cooking period. Resting allows the juices to calm down and return to the center of the meat. If meat isn’t rested and is cut too soon, the juices end up all over your cutting board instead of inside the meat where they belong. Always calculate resting time into your dinner cooking plan.
What to serve alongside?
My Coconut Rice with Pineapple is the perfect creamy and slightly sweet side dish. Add a green vegetable and a salad and dinner is done.
Pork Tenderloin with Cocoa Spice Rub
- 1 pork tenderloin, approx. 1 lb., trimmed of silver skin
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 2¼ teaspoons cocoa powder, (regular, not dark)
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Trim tenderloin of any silver skin on the surface. (See notes.) Rub the meat with oil.
- In a small bowl, stir together spice rub ingredients. Thoroughly coat the oiled tenderloin with the spice rub, rubbing it into the meat. If one end is thin, tuck it under.
- Place tenderloin on a rack in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes until a thermometer reads 145-150°. Rest for 10-15 minutes then carve into slices that are ½" thick or more.
- One tenderloin will make about 4 servings of two thick slices. You be the judge of your crowd and how much meat they like to eat.
- See the whole post for complete silver skin removal instructions. In short: Slide the tip of a very sharp knife under the center of a section of silver skin. Keeping the knife parallel and angled upward a little, slide knife along the meat, cutting away the silver skin, but not cutting into the meat. When you’re at the end of that strip, reverse your knife to the other direction and pull on the cut away section of silver skin to create tension. Continue cutting the strip off. Repeat until it’s all removed.
- Leftovers are great reheated, stuffed in a taco or cold on a salad or sandwich.
- Delicious served alongside Coconut Rice.