Grillers overlook the loin

Joe Gray
Chicago Tribune (TNS)

You’ve got the grill hot. The burgers are ready. Or some marinated flank steak. After all, beef is the meat most of us reach for when we grill. Way down the list: pork tenderloin. The forgotten cut? As a change-up from burgers, steaks and hot dogs, pork tenderloins offer a lot: a flexible canvas (the mild flavor takes well to marinades, glazes and sauces), ease, speed and tenderness.

If you don’t grill the cut often, a slew of new grilling books this season offer smart ideas. Among our favorites: pounding the meat thinner to generate more surface area to build flavor from the grill and marinade (from “Master of the Grill” from America’s Test Kitchen), and making an easy stuffing to tuck into butterflied tenderloins (from “The Smoking

Bacon and Hog Cookbook” by Bill Gillespie).

Cranberry and Goat Cheese-stuffed Tenderloin

Adapted from “The Smoking Bacon and Hog Cookbook” by Bill Gillespie. Borrowing from a “Master of the Grill” tip, you can pound the tenderloins to 1/4-inch thick so you have more surface to fold over the filling.

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 30 minutes

Makes: 6-8 servings

2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating the meat

1 medium shallot, chopped

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1 cup (about 5 ounces) goat cheese, softened

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking by placing hot coals on one side while keeping the other clear for indirect heat.

Butterfly the tenderloins: Make an incision halfway through each tenderloin, along the entire length, so they open like a book. Be careful not to cut all the way, through. Season the inside with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet; cook the shallots, cranberries and apricots until softened, about 5 minutes.

Spread half the goat cheese in the center of each tenderloin. Spoon half the filling on top of each. Close each tenderloin; tie with kitchen string at 1-inch intervals. Coat exterior with olive oil (or use cooking spray); season with salt and pepper.

Place tenderloins directly over coals; close the cover. Cook, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the tenderloins; cook, 3 to 5 minutes. Move the tenderloins to the indirect-heat zone. Close the grill; cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150 degrees, about 20 minutes. (If using a gas grill, brown both sides over direct heat as above, then move to a zone without flame beneath to finish.)

Transfer tenderloins to a board; allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting in 1/2-inch slices.

Grilled Garlic-Lime Pork Tenderloin Steaks

Adapted from “Master of the Grill” from America’s Test Kitchen.

Prep: 30 minutes

Marinate: 45 minutes

Cook: 10 minutes

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

2 pork tenderloins, 1 pound each, trimmed

1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/4 cup juice (2 limes)

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons fish sauce

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 teaspoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Flake sea salt, optional

Slice each tenderloin in half crosswise to create 4 steaks total. Pound each half to 3/4-inch thickness. Using sharp knife, cut 1/8-inch-deep slits spaced 1/2 inch apart in crosshatch pattern on both sides of steaks.

Whisk lime zest and juice, garlic, honey, fish sauce, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle oil into mixture until smooth and slightly thickened. Transfer 1/2 cup lime mixture to small bowl and whisk in mayonnaise; set aside sauce. Add steaks to bowl with remaining marinade and toss thoroughly to coat; transfer steaks and marinade to a zipper-lock bag, press out as much air as possible and seal bag. Let steaks sit at room temperature, 45 minutes.

Prepare charcoal grill for two-zone heat.

Remove steaks from marinade (do not pat dry), and place over hotter part of grill. Cook, uncovered, until well browned on first side, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip steaks and cook until well browned on second side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer steaks to cooler part of grill, with wider end of each steak facing hotter part of grill. Cover and cook until meat registers

145 degrees, 3 to 8 minutes longer. (If using a gas grill, brown both sides over direct heat as above, then move to a zone without flame beneath to finish.) Transfer steaks to a carving board; let rest, 5 minutes.

Microwave reserved sauce until warm, 15 to 30 seconds; stir in cilantro. Slice steaks against grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Drizzle with half of sauce; sprinkle with sea salt, if using; and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.