When someone walks into Pit Fiend BBQ for the first time and they reach the meat cutter, the most common question we hear is, “What is your best meat?” Undoubtedly, we have to mention the brisket, which we all agree is the most popular item, however, right after that we have to mention the pork tenderloin. The tenderloin is probably the most overlooked meat option we have at Pit Fiend BBQ. It may stem from some people’s preconceived notions of what a tenderloin is, or how it's prepared. We have even heard, “I thought that could only be fried.” In reality, it is a lean, tender, and extremely flavorful cut of smoked pork that we encourage everyone to try on their next visit.
Pork tenderloin comes from the muscle in the central spine of the pig. The main reason it is so tender is because, unlike other muscles, it is not used for movement, but rather posture, so it never develops the toughness that other muscles do. Pork shoulder, in contrast, is much larger and used in movement, so in order to get it to the desired tenderness, it requires a significantly longer cook, which is on par with beef brisket, around twelve hours. The tenderloin only requires about forty five minutes to an hour to cook, just enough to acquire the smoky flavor and reach internal temperatures of 145 degrees. Another important characteristic of the tenderloin is how lean it is. Pork is notorious for its fatty cuts, like pork belly, and plenty of people equate the presence of fat with flavor. They are not wrong in thinking that; fat does equal flavor, but the absence of it does not have to mean it lacks flavor. At Pit Fiend, the secret to our tenderloin being so flavorful is the brine and rub. We brine it for twenty-four hours in a blend of water, molasses, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and our custom blend of pickling spices. Right before going in the smoker, we coat it in our delicious coffee rub, which brings together all the flavor imparted by the brine, and is commonly the first thing people notice when trying it.
Flavor and tenderness are enough reasons to want to give this underdog-cut a try and love it, but there are other reasons why it is so beloved amongst the Pit Fiend staff. Because it is so lean ,the tenderloin tends to lack the qualities that give people what is commonly referred as “the itis” (tiredness after eating) which makes it a perfect option for lunch when you still have most of the day ahead of you. Secondly, since the tenderloin is a thin, cylindrical cut of meat it means that it makes for an excellent snack to share over a beer, or as an appetizer before heading to dinner. A quarter pound tends to come out to five or six slices, which is enough to whet the appetite of a small group of people for a very accessible price.
Even if tenderloin isn’t the reason you come to Pit Fiend BBQ it is always worth getting a little taste so you may find out on your own why it is a staff favorite. At the very least, if you show some interest, your meat cutter is sure to take one out and hand you a sample.