What makes the best pork tenderloin brine and how long does pork need to brine, anyways? I’ve got the answers for both wet and dry-brining.
I’ve done the extensive testing so you don’t have to! Learn how to brine pork tenderloin for the tastiest, juiciest pork with my guide. Have a different cut of pork? Get the results for How to Brine Pork Chops and How to Brine Pork Loin as well.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
What Is Brining?
There are two types of brines – wet and dry. A standard wet brine is when you soak meats in a salt water solution. A dry brine skips the water and instead you sprinkle salt all over the outside of your cut of meat and put it in the fridge. Both methods are wonderful to achieve moist, tender, well-seasoned meat.
We tested both dry-brining and wet-brining to see what was best for pork tenderloin. The goal was to find out what was best, while also being the most convenient. Since it’s a thin piece of meat, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s possible that the wet brine could penetrate and work very quickly, as it does when brining chicken breasts and when brining chicken wings. But, since a dry brine works so well on smaller cuts of tender meat, like when you dry-brine a steak, that could be the way to go here.
What Goes In A Brine?
The wet brine for this pork tenderloin testing was our standard brine recipe, which is essentially 4 cups of cool water mixed with 4 tablespoons of Morton’s kosher salt (measurements for other kinds of salt are given below). The dry brine was 2 teaspoons of Morton’s kosher salt sprinkled all over each pork tenderloin.
As with our chicken breast brine testing, adding other ingredients to the brine didn’t really affect the flavor of the meat, especially when it was only wet-brined for 1 hour. A scoop of garlic powder added to the salt and water solution after the salt has dissolved will give it a nice mild garlic flavor. If you want more flavors in your brine, my best suggestion is to make a flavor slurry brine, like this turkey brine recipe. To do this, you’re actually pureeing herbs, onions, and garlic with the water and salt. That puree is very highly flavored and truly does penetrate the meat.
How To Make A Brine
To make the brine for pork tenderloin, all you need to do is mix together the salt and the water. It’s a large amount of salt though so it can take a minute or two for it to dissolve completely. Just keep stirring until it’s less cloudy and there’s no more salt undissolved at the bottom.
There’s no need to use warm water, in my testing I’ve found that cold water has a better effect on the meat.
How Long To Brine Pork Tenderloin
I tested 9 pork tenderloins to compare the difference between wet-brining and dry-brining, and to determine the perfect amount of time needed for the best tasting pork.
After brining, I cooked them side by side with the same baking method. I lightly oiled them (olive oil cooking spray) and baked them at 300°F for 30 minutes. (Note that I usually bake pork tenderloin at 350°F, but I really wanted to make sure that the edges of the tenderloins didn’t dry out so that we had consistently plump meat to try.) They were at 150°F on an instant read thermometer when I took them out.
For my testing, I was comparing against an unbrined pork tenderloin that I salted immediately prior to cooking.
For the wet brine testing, I used the same standard brine recipe for all, but left the tenderloins in the brine for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours to see the differences.
For the dry-brining, two teaspoons of kosher salt were used on each tenderloin and they were also left to brine in the fridge for 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, and 3 hours.
Chart: Pork Tenderloin Flavor And Texture Changes After Brining
|Unbrined||0 minutes||Juicy with nice seasoning on the outside from salting right before cooking. Most convenient, no planning ahead. Third choice!|
|Wet Brine||30 minutes||A bit tough, brine did not have chance to penetrate. Seasoning was better when unbrined. Don’t recommend.|
|Wet Brine||1 hour||Tender and juicy, with nice seasoning throughout. First choice!|
|Wet Brine||2 hours||Very tender, not quite as juicy. Maybe a tad too salty.|
|Wet Brine||3 hours||Definitely too salty, also kind of chewy. Not good.|
|Dry Brine||30 minutes||Reasonably good seasoning, fairly juicy meat.|
|Dry Brine||1 hour||A bit too salty and not juicy.|
|Dry Brine||2 hours||Great seasoning, average for juiciness and tenderness.|
|Dry Brine||3 hours||Wonderfully juicy and tender, nice amount of saltiness. Second choice!|
We had three taste-testers and they were in agreement for most of the conditions. The preference for all three people was for the pork tenderloin that was wet-brined for 1 hour. Second choice was for the dry-brined for 3 hours.
I have since done an extra test of dry-brining for 4 hours and I will say that it’s also quite good. I want to do a side-by-side of the wet-brined 1 hour and the dry-brined 4 hours. And I probably will. But since the goal was to also find convenience, I’m going to go ahead and say that wet-brined for 1 hour is the best.
How To Cook Pork Tenderloin After Brining
If you’d like to bake pork tenderloin like I did for testing, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the tenderloin from the brine and pat pork dry (but don’t rinse). Add any additional seasonings you’d like, if you’re using a seasoning blend make sure there’s no salt in it.
Bake uncovered for 20-27 minutes, until the internal temperature is 145°F. Let rest for 5 minutes and then slice. Other ways to cook your pork tenderloin after brining include:
- Grilled Pork Tenderloin
- Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin
- Bacon-Wrapped Baked Pork Tenderloin
- Garlic-Butter Pork Tenderloin
Podcast Episode About Brining Pork Tenderloin
Listen to me explain briefly about how to brine pork tenderloin, along with some other great tips, by clicking the play button below:
This recipe follows the wet brining method that gave me the best results, for more options see the post above.
- 4 cups cool tap water
- 4 Tbsp. Morton’s kosher salt*
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder (optional)
- 2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb. each)
- Measure the water and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir until salt has dissolved. Stir in the garlic powder, if using.
- Add the pork tenderloins, making sure that they are both fully submerged. Refrigerate the tenderloins in the brine for 1 hour.
- Remove from the fridge. Take tenderloins out of brine. Discard brine. Pat tenderloins dry but do not rinse. Bake tenderloins, grill them, or use in one of these pork tenderloin recipes, but be sure to not add any additional salt.
* For the salt, you can instead use 6 Tbsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 3 Tbsp. table salt or 3 Tbsp. of any other salt with table-salt-sized grains.