The Meatwave

Orange, Sage, and Garlic Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Orange, Sage, and Garlic Rubbed Pork Tenderloin View Recipe

It's been a little over a year since my infamous pork disaster, a pork tenderloin that neither cooked well or tasted that great. I think that experience left me skittish on the whole tenderloin thing, not even attempting a second shot at something that I know should be delicious. I figured it was high time to lay my fears aside and take another go at it, and the result this time not only quelled any self-doubt, but also have left me wanting more.

Pork Tenderloin

I have to admit, this pork tenderloin was born more out of desperation than any need to prove to myself that I can do it. The stage was set when I decided I'd like to do a Mother's Day grilling piece over at Serious Eats. Pondering what one would grill for Mother's Day and drawing blanks, I decided to ask the source directly and sent my Mom an email asking what her ideal Mother's Day grill feast would entail. Her first reply was exactly what you'd want to hear from any good Jewish mother, "Pork!" She was referring directly to a pulled pork I made her a few years back, but seeing as that might not be the best representation of this holiday, I used it as a point of interpretation to find a suitable Mother's Day recipe.

Pork Tenderloin

When I think of Mother's Day, I don't necessarily think grilling. Instead a brunch affair seems to be what's implanted in my mind. So I had two goals set for this dish, pork and brunch, which collided as a recipe for an orange, sage, and garlic rubbed pork tenderloin. The smells and flavors of orange and sage seem uniquely "brunchy" to me, and I don't know if it's just because it was on my mind, but the aromas did trigger flashbacks of brunches with my Mother while building the rub.

Pork Tenderloin

Feeling a sense of accomplishment already in the right choice of recipe, I set out to grill this beauty of a tenderloin with unbridled optimism. I think this helped me achieve further success, as everything seemed to go right this time around. The pork cooked exactly as the recipe had stated, and looked absolutely beautiful when sliced.

Pork Tenderloin

The final test had come that would define whether I had triumphed over something that was once so disastrous for me. I took a first bite, heavenly. In that bite the smells that had brought me back to times with my Mother transferred perfectly, creating the same sensation through taste. I took a second bite, bland and uninspired. The rest of the meal carried on in that matter, alternating between the beautiful and disappointing. I see the problem as two-fold, first the rub may not have been applied evenly enough, causing some pieces to be perfectly seasoned and leaving others with nothing much at all. Secondly, the fire may have burnt away some of the thinner pockets of rub, further contributing to the problem. Both of these problems can be easily fixed though, either by applying more rub or reapplying during the cooking process. Although not yet perfect, the pork tenderloin left me with renewed faith in my ability to cook this cut of pork and already has me planning my next attempt.

Print Recipe

Orange, Sage, and Garlic Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

  • Yield 2 to 3 servings
  • Prep 5 Minutes
  • Cook 20 Minutes
  • Total 25 Minutes


  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated zest from 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1lb), trimmed of silver skin


  1. Light 1 chimney full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, mix all ingredients for the rub in a small bowl. Rub the trimmed tenderloin with the mixture. When the charcoal is all lit and covered in gray ash, pour out and spread the coals over half of the charcoal grate. Cover and let the grill heat up for 5 minutes.
  2. Cook the tenderloin uncovered, directly over the coals until browned on all four sides, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Move the pork to the cool side of the grill, cover, and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees in the thickest part of the tenderloin, about 5-10 minutes longer.
  3. Transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces and serve.

Adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Guide To Grilling And Barbecue

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