How to Cook a Pork Tenderloin With Spice Rub in the Oven

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Dry rubs create a crust of flavor on pork tenderloin.
Dry rubs create a crust of flavor on pork tenderloin. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Pork tenderloin is a naturally tender, juicy cut of meat -- just as the name suggests -- so it doesn't need the additional moisture from wet marinades. Instead, a dry rub of spices applied to the outside of the tenderloin before roasting provides accenting flavors without overshadowing the succulence of the meat. Likely, the spice aisle in your grocery story has dozens of pre-mixed dry rub spice blends, or you can mix your own blend of spices to customize the flavor.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper towels
  • Assorted spices
  • Baking pan
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Aluminum foil

Preheat your oven from to 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the recommended cooking temperature for pork tenderloin. Adjust this temperature as desired, remembering to adjust the cooking time to compensate for the temperature difference.

Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels. It might sound logical that moisture on the outside helps spices stick to meat, but excess moisture creates steam between the meat and spices, and often causes the spices to soften and fall off the meat. Without the excess moisture, the spices are better able to absorb into the meat.

Rub the dry spice mixture generously all over the pork tenderloin. If you don't use a packaged spice mixture, make your own, with practically any spice combination you wish. Typical spices in dry rubs include brown sugar, black pepper, white pepper, salt, paprika, cumin garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper for heat, if desired. Experiment with different spice combinations to find a flavor profile you prefer.

Set the tenderloin in a baking pan and roast until the internal temperature reaches 140 F, which will probably happen in about 20 minutes. As a general rule, pork roasts require about 20 minutes per pound; tenderloin is a small strip from a whole pork loin that only weighs about one pound on average. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the tenderloin when taking the temperature. Cover the roast and allow it to rest for about three minutes, while the juices redistribute and the temperature rises up to 10 more degrees.

Tips & Warnings

  • The USDA recommended minimum internal temperature is 145 F, up from the previous recommendation of 160 F. This results in a tenderloin with a slightly pink center. If you prefer pork to be cooked through, remove it from the oven at 150 F and then tent it with foil, while the temperature rises up to 160 F. The extra cooking time can dry out the meat.

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