Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Sous vide your way to the juiciest pork tenderloin ever.

Sliced sous vide pork tenderloin cooked medium rare and seared to form browned exterior.

J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Slow, precise cooking gives you perfectly even results.
  • Searing over high-heat gives the pork loin a nice crisp crust.

Small enough to cook relatively quickly, but large and elegant enough to make a centerpiece roast, pork tenderloin is the kind of dish to pull out when you're feeling extra fancy on a weeknight. Cooking it sous vide is the most foolproof way to get it on the table with consistently great flavor and a buttery, ultra-tender texture.

Why Cook Pork Tenderloin Sous Vide?

It may seem obvious to say it, but pork tenderloin is the beef tenderloin of the pork world, and it comes with all of the same features, both good and bad. On the good side is the fact that it's extremely tender—the tenderest cut of meat on the hog. On the bad side? Well, as a muscle that's rarely used during the pig's lifetime, it's extremely mildly flavored, to the point of being nearly bland. It is also very lean, which makes it difficult to cook evenly—lean meat conducts heat faster than fatty meat, which leads to a greater chance of overcooking. Moreover, because of its leanness, overcooked tenderloin is particularly unforgiving: dry, chalky, and tough to swallow.

Cooking sous vide solves both of these problems. Flavor-wise, it's easy to add aromatics or spices to the sous vide bag along with the pork, building that flavor right into the meat. (You can reinforce the flavor with more aromatics when you subsequently sear the roast.) As for texture, with sous vide cooking, overcooked meat is a thing of the past. Sous vide allows for perfectly even, edge-to-center cooking with complete control, whether you like your pork pink or gray.

What Temperature and Timing Should I Use?

When you're working with quick-cooking meats, like steaks, pork chops, or pork tenderloin, the texture and juiciness of the finished product are directly related to the temperature to which it is cooked. Pork starts to firm up and expel moisture around 120°F (49°C) or so, with its firmness and dryness increasing as the temperature goes up. With sous vide cooking, you have complete control over exactly how cooked your pork ends up, so pick a desired temperature and go!

Labeled image showing varying degrees of pork doneness when cooked sous vide..

J. Kenji López-Alt

Recommended Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Temperatures
Temperature and Time  Doneness Result
130°F/54°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium-rare Buttery-tender; very juicy
140°F/60°C for 1 to 4 hours  Medium Firm but still tender; moderately juicy 
150°F/66°C for 1 to 4 hours  Medium-well Fully firm; moderately juicy 
160°F/71°C for 1 to 4 hours Well-done Dry, with a firm, tacky texture

Is Pink Pork Safe?

While eating any meat rare poses health risks, particularly for the elderly, pregnant, or very young, these days pork is just about as safe to eat rare as beef is. That is, so long as you are working with properly stored, cleanly cut meat and searing the exterior before serving, the risk of illness from consuming rare pork is very minimal.

With sous vide cooking, you have another advantage: pasteurization. At 130°F (54°C), bacteria are actively being destroyed on the surface of that pork. Every moment that it's in the cooker, it's becoming safer to eat. At higher temperatures, the rate of destruction is even faster. Because of this, sous vide is a great introduction to the wonderfully juicy world of rare pork.

What About Brining?

Generously seasoning a pork tenderloin with salt and pepper before cooking sous vide.

J. Kenji López-Alt

Brining—the process of submerging a piece of meat in a heavily salted bath—can help meat retain more liquid as it cooks. However, I find that meat that's been brined tastes a little watered-down, and with the gentleness of sous vide cooking, there's really no need for it. The other downside to brining, particularly with pork, is that it can give the pork a ham-like texture and flavor. If anything, I prefer a bit of light dry-brining. By salting the meat, bagging it, and letting it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, you get similar juice-retention effects without the watering-down of flavor that traditional brining can bring.

Can I Add Aromatics to the Bag?

Sealing a sous vide bag with seasoned pork loin in it before cooking sous vide.

J. Kenji López-Alt

Yes! Aromatics added to the bag can give the pork great flavor. Just be aware that sous vide cooking tends to concentrate the flavor of spices and herbs, so go light. Fresh sprigs of whole herbs, like thyme, rosemary, or oregano, are great, as are alliums like garlic and shallots, or spices like paprika, cumin, coriander, and black peppercorns (either whole or ground). Feel free to experiment.

What's the Best Way to Sear?

Once your tenderloin comes out of its sous vide bag, it is technically completely cooked, but it will not be very appetizing. Without some degree of high-heat cooking, it won't have any of the wonderful brown color and flavor that come with traditionally roasted meats. You need to add that sear after cooking.

Patting sous vide pork tenderloin dry before searing it.

J. Kenji López-Alt

The best method for searing indoors is to start by drying off the surface of the pork with paper towels. It takes a huge amount of energy to evaporate surface moisture, and until that moisture is gone, no browning can take place. After drying, I use a heavy skillet, high heat, and a combination of oil and butter. I start by heating up the oil until it's almost smoking-hot, carefully adding in the pork, then cooking it, turning occasionally, until it's browned on most sides. I add butter just for the last few minutes of cooking in order to prevent the milk solids dissolved in it from burning excessively (a little bit burnt is okay!).

For extra flavor, I add aromatics to the pan at this stage—shallots and oregano or thyme are a great match for pork—tilting the pan and using a spoon to baste the pork with the flavorful fat.

How About a Sauce?

To be honest, pork cooked sous vide is so darn juicy on its own that it doesn't really need a sauce, but, if you'd like one, you can build a simple pan sauce by emptying out the skillet, sautéing some aromatics, deglazing with some booze and the liquid left in the sous vide bag, then mounting it all with some butter and mustard.

Editor's note: This guide was produced for Serious Eats as part of our partnership with Anova, the makers of the Anova Precision Cooker.

Recipe Facts

4.5

(13)

Active: 20 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 2 to 3 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound (450g)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh herbs, such as fresh thyme, oregano, or rosemary, divided (optional)

  • 2 garlic cloves, divided (optional)

  • 2 small shallots, sliced, divided (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable, canola, or rice bran oil

  • 1 tablespoon (15g) unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Using a sous vide immersion circulator, preheat a water bath to the desired finishing temperature according to the chart above and in the notes.

  2. Season pork generously with salt and pepper. Place in sous vide bags along with half of herbs, garlic, and shallots (if using) and distribute evenly. Seal bags and place in water bath for time recommended in chart.

    Adding vacuum sealed pork tenderloin to a water bath to cook sous vide.

    J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. To Finish: Turn on your vents and open your windows. Remove pork from water bath and bag. Discard aromatics from bag; reserve liquid from bag if making optional pan sauce (see note). Carefully pat pork dry with paper towels. Add vegetable, canola, or rice bran oil to a heavy cast iron or stainless steel skillet, place it over the hottest burner you have, and preheat skillet until it starts to very lightly smoke. Lay pork in skillet, using your fingers or a set of tongs. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned on most sides, about 2 minutes total.

    Laying a sous vide pork tenderloin into a hot, oiled skillet to sear before serving.

    J. Kenji López-Alt

  4. When pork is mostly browned, add butter and reserved half of garlic, shallots, and herbs (if using) and cook, tilting pan and using a spoon to baste pork with the flavorful butter, until pork is well browned on all sides, about 30 seconds longer.

    Photo collage showing steps to searing sous vide pork tenderloin and basting it with butter, herbs, and shallots.

    J. Kenji López-Alt

  5. Transfer pork to a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and pour the drippings on top. Allow to rest for 1 to 2 minutes, then slice and serve.

Special equipment

Immersion circulator, rimmed baking sheet, wire rack

Notes

Recommended Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Temperatures
Temp and Time  Doneness  Result 
130°F/54°C for 1 to 4 hours  Medium-rare  Buttery-tender; very juicy 
140°F/60°C for 1 to 4 hours  Medium  Firm but still tender; moderately juicy 
150°F/66°C for 1 to 4 hours  Medium-well  Fully firm; moderately juicy 
160°F/71°C for 1 to 4 hours  Well-done  Dry, with a firm, tacky texture 

If you'd like a simple sauce with your pork, add one tablespoon of minced shallot to the skillet and sauté until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Add a cup of dry white wine or vermouth and let it reduce by half. Add a dollop of whole grain mustard, the liquid reserved from the sous vide bag, and a tablespoon of butter. Swirl until the sauce is emulsified, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve sauce off heat.