How to Cook a Pork Tenderloin Sous Vide
I am now an official "sous vider" if there is such a title. My friend Chef David Nelson introduced the idea of sealing some food into a vacuum pouch and cooking it in a water bath at extremely low temperatures.
The results are amazing and foods like steak, pork and chicken are cooked to perfection. You pick the internal temperature you want your ingredient to reach and that's where it finishes.
Now David, I and a bunch of other home cooks are exchanging our sous vide experiences on a Facebook group I started called What I Cooked For Dinner Last Night.
I've even posted a new page with a chart of temperatures and times plus flavor enhancers based on what we've been learning from cooking sous vide. I'll be updating this chart as we learn more.
2 Flavor Enhancers
One of the cool aspects when cooking sous vide is the variety of flavor enhancers you can add to the vacuum bag you are cooking in. I used two different marinades in this recipe but I could have added a dry (or wet) rub to the pork to give it some extra flavor.
The marinades included Trader Joe San Soyaki, a unique teriyaki sauce, and Stonewall Kitchen's Honey Barbecue Sauce.
What I didn't try and will next time I sous vide a pork tenderloin is brining. This week I learned from Chef David to try brining a whole tenderloin for 2 to 4 hours or pork chops for an hour before cooking.
This works with sous vide, grilling or pan frying but be sure to rinse the brine off before cooking or the meat may be too salty.
Time & Temperature
My Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Temperature = 140°F Cooking Time = 2 hours
If you search online for sous vide pork tenderloin, you'll find lots of recipes with various times and target temperatures. Which ones you use really depends on how you like your pork - rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well or well done.
I stay away from rare, medium-well and well done when it comes to pork and aim for medium-rare to medium.
How do these temperatures equate to °F? That depends on who you ask.
My meat doneness chart has a medium pork roast at 140°F but I've seen other sites say 130ºF - 135°F is ideal medium.
If you go to Foodsafety.gov site, you'll see they suggest a safe minimum cooking temperature for pork is 145°F with 3 minutes of resting time but that will bring up the internal temperature 3 to 5 degrees. To me that is more medium-well.
Another great aspect to cooking sous vide is there is no "resting" time. When you roast, grill or pan fry most meats, you let them rest after they are done cooking to allow the juices in the meat to redistribute throughout the entire cut.
During this time the meat continues to cook and the internal temperature goes up.
Many home cooks don't take this into consideration so they cook the pork tenderloin to their target temperature and by the time they get to cutting and serving, the internal temperature can rise 3° to 5°F. With sous vide cooking, there is no need for resting.
Because the meat is not cooked at extremely high temperatures like when you throw it on a hot grill, the juices are already distributed. If you wanted, you could serve it right from the vacuum bag....but you wouldn't because it doesn't look too appetizing.
Because you are cooking pork in a low temperature environment, the heat is not high enough to give it that nice brown crust we all appreciate. In fact it will look sort of gray and anemic as the photo above shows.
No worries, a quick sear on a hot grill, hot frying pan or blast from the blowtorch like Searzall will provide a nice looking and great tasting brown crust to the exterior.
The browning should be quick so make sure your grill or fry pan is hot and ready to go. You don't want to make the effort to sous vide cook a pork tenderloin to the perfect internal temperature only to sear it on the grill for 5 minutes and overcook it.
A quick browning for 1 - 2 minutes should do the trick and not overcook the edges.
Sous Vide Equipment
Sous Vide Machines
There are several styles of sous vide products ranging in price, size and features. Personally I like the sous vide circulators that can be used with your own pots and containers compared to the sous vide water ovens that are completely self-contained and more expensive.
Within the group of circulators, I have the Anova brand but you can also find a Sansaire and Nomiku. I suggest you do your homework on which unit offers the features you are looking for and which unit gets the best ratings.
Although you can use Ziploc bags to remove the air from the plastic bag using a technique called the "Water Displacement Method" using the pressure from the water to force the air out of the bag, I like using a vacuum sealer.
Saying that, the Ziploc bag method is much cheaper - you don't have to buy the machine or the FoodSaver bags which are much more expensive than Ziploc bags. Since I already own a Foodsaver and use it to store leftovers, cheese, steaks for the freezer, I don't mind paying a little extra for the bags.
Searzall (optional but fun gadget)
Basically, an attachment to an everyday propane blowtorch that turns it into a “hand-held, supercharged instant-power broiler”.
Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Recipe
- 2 pork tenderloins with the fat and sinew trimmed
- Flavor enhancer dry rub, wet rub, homemade or commercial marinade, bbq sauce, salad dressing, salt & pepper
- Set up your sous vide equipment and bring the water temperature up to the desired temp. For pork tenderloin, I went with 140°F but suggest you do you own research to decide if this is a safe temperature for you.My Anova Sous Vide Circulator has an Bluetooth app so I can set up the time and temperature on my phone and it tells me when the water is at the desired temperature and a timer to tell me when the food is done. They even have a more expensive wifi Circulator where the app can be used anywhere you have wifi access.
- While the water is heating up, add the pork tenderloins to separate Foodsaver bags (or Ziploc bags), add a flavor enhancer and vacuum seal shut.
- As soon as the water is at the correct temperature, clamp the bags to the side of the water pot making sure the bags are fully submerged and not touching the Anova circulator.
- Set your timer for 2 hours and walk away or start preparing your side dishes and dessert.
- When the tenderloins are done, remove them from the bag, pat dry with a paper towel and brown them on the grill, in a frying pan or with a Searzall. When the exterior develops a nice crust, transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve.
- Plate with side dishes and serve.