Porktastic: Carolina-Style Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Smoky Southern Slaw

Melanie writes: I have lots of recipes for cooking pork tenderloin in the oven but nothing for the grill. Any suggestions for grilling the other white meat? My family is pretty open to anything. I’m thinking maybe rice to go along with the pork.  My kids are super easy and eat everything, though one of my daughters only eats veggies when they’re raw (she’s kind of a budding activist at age 9).

Tony’s take: So this is a nice question because it’s relatively easy and that makes me feel good about myself and life in general. The truth is that more than any other cut of pork, tenderloin was made for the grill. The cut’s chief characteristics – that it’s tender and relatively lean – make it a good fit with the quick cooking and high heat of the grill. Like a steak, it’s just a 3-4/min per side deal where you flip once and then pair with some sort of sauce or glaze. Your raw-veggie daughter has me thinking that it might be nice to make a crunchy slaw to go with the pork; just grill off some red onion to give the slaw some smokiness (hopefully your daughter won’t object). Toss the onion with the thinly sliced cabbage, some cider vinegar, and sugar. And this slaw, in turn, would work well with a quick take on Carolina pulled pork: pair a slightly spicy, slightly sweet Carolina-sauce with the tenderloin. Thinly slice the grilled pork (as opposed to “pulling it”), toss with this lightly spicy sauce (powered by Frank’s hot sauce), and then set over the slaw with the rice. If your kids don’t like spicy, leave some of the sliced tenderloin plain (it has a light spice rub which still makes it plenty interesting). And you’ll be on your way to learning to love grilled pork tenderloin. Then come back and visit Cook Angel again soon because I could do grilled pork tenderloin recipes every day of the year and that would make me happy and confident.

Serves 4 Prep time: 20 minutes  Cook time: 10 minutes

What you need: Ingredients: Pork tenderloin (1 1/2 lbs.- 1 large or 2 small), red onion (1 medium), S+P, spices (chile powder, cumin, garlic powder), granulated sugar, Frank’s hot sauce, honey, white vinegar, green cabbage (about 1 lb.), olive oil.

Equipment: Grill, tongs, large and medium bowls, cutting board, chef’s knife

How to do it: Get things prepped: Light up the gas grill to medium high or prepare a medium hot charcoal fire. Make a spice rub for the pork tenderloin by mixing  1 tsp. chile powder, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. granulated sugar, 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. garlic powder. Sprinkle about 3/4 of this mixture all over the pork. Sprinkle the remaining spice rub over slices of the red onion (cut the onion into 1/4-inch disks – you can thread them onto metal skewers so they don’t fall through the grill grates if you like). Drizzle the pork and onion with some olive oil, about 1 Tbs. for each, using your fingers to spread it around evenly. Make the sauce by whisking together 1/4 cup Frank’s hot sauce with 3 Tbs. granulated sugar, 2 Tbs. white vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, toss about 8 cups thinly sliced green cabbage (from about 1 lb cabbage or half of a medium head) with 2 Tbs. white vinegar, 2 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs. granulated sugar, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, about 1 tsp. and 1/2 tsp. respectively. Let sit at room temperature so the cabbage starts to wilt while the pork cooks.

Grill the pork and onion. Cook the pork until it has good grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip (or roll the pork over) and cook until the other side is nicely browned and the pork is mostly firm to the touch and medium well, 3 to 4 more minutes; it should register 145F on an instant-read thermometer or be just a little pink when you slice into a thicker piece (you can cook it t0 well done, though the meat will lose some of its juiciness). Transfer the pork to a cutting board to cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, grill the red onion until it has good grill marks, but doesn’t burn, 4 to 5 minutes (transfer to a cooler zone of the fire if it does start to burn). Flip and cook until the other side browns, too, and the onion starts to soften, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to the cutting board to cool along with the pork.

To serve: Thinly slice the pork. Coarsely chop the grilled red onion and toss with the cabbage. Season the slaw generously with salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar to taste. Mound the slaw on dinner plates, top with the sliced pork, drizzle generously with the sauce, and serve with steamed rice.

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