Photo: Victor Protasio

Meet the under-sung hero of weeknight meals.

May 04, 2017

When it comes to superstar dinner options, pork chops reign supreme. They cook quickly, and are versatile and inexpensive. But they’re not the best cut of pork for your buck. The under-sung hero of weeknight meals is the tenderloin, (often shortened to just “pork loin” at the grocery store or butcher).

While it pork loin has earned its place as a show-stopping main at dinner parties, it also deserves a spot on your weeknight menu. Here’s why:

1. It cooks quickly.

Boneless cuts of meat—whether they’re beef, pork, chicken, or lamb—cook quicker than bone-in. Because tenderloin is boneless, it cooks in a snap. A 1-pound pork loin will be table-ready in 20-25 minutes.

2. It’s naturally lean.

This cut doesn’t have much fat, but it’s not tough, either. Because the tenderloin sits inside the pig, it’s not a “worked” muscle (for example, a pork butt or shoulder). This means tender texture, without getting dry.

3. It’s versatile.

Pork loin can be roasted, glazed, grilled, stuffed, or stir-fried. It can take on all sorts of flavor profiles, from smoky paprika to spicy Vietnamese seasonings. It can act as a stand-alone main dish, or it can play a supporting role in a salad. In other words? If there’s something you’re craving, pork loin can help make it happen.

4. It takes on a marinade quickly.

Because it’s boneless and relatively thin (compared to, say a fresh ham), flavors permeate it quickly. Toss it in a marinade when you get home from work, and an hour later, it’s ready to be cooked. Make it even faster by slicing the pork into medallions or kebab pieces before seasoning.

5. It makes great leftovers.

Cooking the pork loin whole will ensure it stays juicy and tender. Letting it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it helps, too. If you haven’t devoured every last piece at dinner, the leftovers are stellar. Thinly-sliced pieces make great sandwiches and taco-fillers, or you can cut it into bite-sized pieces for frittatas, soups, and fried rice.

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