BBQ pork tenderloin is outstanding and is the best grill pork tenderloin—period. Moist, tender, and the most wonderful sweet-spicy taste of Memphis BBQ.
This is the most common recipe people will claim as their all-time favorite from my site. It had a special spot on my site for years as "My One Must Try Recipe." And I called it the best meal I had ever grilled at the time and it probably still is. It really is that good.
I'm claiming a dream sequence for this one. I only had a few hours of sleep the night before; I lay down for a few minutes with dinner on my mind. I had a pork tenderloin in the refrigerator for dinner but no plans. I should do another one for my grilled pork tenderloin series, but I had done no research.
So, what to do with that tenderloin? I really would like more of my Memphis BBQ sauce, but on what? Just grill the thing and dump sauce on it?
But out of my drowsiness came the memory of wanting to try dry rub Memphis ribs sometime. I have seen them over and over on the various cooking show. Well, my half-awake self-decided to use the rib rub on the tenderloin. I obviously have my best ideas when I'm not really with it.
Start with well-trimmed pork tenderloin. You need to get th,e silverskin and any other membranes off so the brine and the dry rub can do their thing.
The tenderloin refers to the psoas muscle along the lower back. It is chicken tenders in the chicken or beef tenderloin (filet mignon) in cattle. The psoas is generally most tender cut since it is not used for movement. Please be sure you have a pork tenderloin and not a pork loin.
Brine for a few hours to make that already moist and tender meat cut with a fork. I'm suggesting a very simple brine of salt and some brown sugar. We will pick up most of the flavors in the rub.
The brine is optional but will increase the tenderness some and prevent drying on the grill. If you use the brine, make the rub without the salt.
Memphis BBQ is sweet and spicy. Very similar to Kansas City or St. Louis BBQ. But my favorite is Memphis.
I like to add the dry rub for a few hours and allow it to penetrate, and flavor the meat. Then I suggest adding a bit more just before cooking.
You can vary the rub for your taste if you want, but I highly recommend the rub as written. Also, I generally make up 2-3 times as much as I need for later use. It will last for up to 6 months sealed airtight and preferably in a dark place.
There is a range for the cayenne pepper. I suggest most people will prefer the lower end of the range. Skip if you want, but Memphis BBQ usually has a touch of mild heat in all that great spice.
Almost any gas grill will do. We want a grill surface temperature of 450° to a maximum of 500°. For most grills, that is a little over half power.
For help on grill surface temperature, please see my A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill.
Let the tenderloin rest at room temp for 30 minutes before grilling. This allows you to get to the correct internal temperature easier without overcooking the spicy crust.
Charcoal should be fine. Just don't crank up the heat all the way and watch the temperature.
Of course, preheat, clean and brush with vegetable oil to prevent sticking due to the sugar in the rub.
Pork tenderloin is not round, flat, nor even square — it is a triangle, so there are three sides. Whether cooking on a grill or in a pan, cook three sides and don't force it into a shape that is not natural.
There are some things you can skip in this technique, but each of them contributes to the outstanding final results. You will decrease results a tiny bit with each omission. The possible omissions are the brine, the rub waiting time, and the rest at room temperature before grilling.
Rubs and Sauces
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Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Start with a simple brine. 4 cups cold water, 4 tablespoons table salt, 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Mix well in a one-gallon food storage bag.
Trim pork tenderloin of any silver skin, lose fat and membranes.
Add the tenderloin to the brine and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
Mix the Memphis dry rub: 2 tablespoons paprika, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt - only add if not brining.
When the tenderloin is done brining, rinse under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. This will remove the brine salt from the surface.
Place on a piece of plastic wrap about 6 inches longer than the tenderloin. Rub all sides of the tenderloin well with the rub reserving about ¼ of the rub for later.
Roll the tenderloin tightly in the plastic wrap, seal the ends and refrigerate for 1 -2 hours. Longer is OK.
Remove from refrigerator, unwrap and rub with the remainder of the rub on all sides and allow to rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Preheat grill. You want a surface temp 450°- 500°. That is medium-high on most grills. Clean and oil the grill well. This last step is important, or it will stick.
Grill for 5-6 minutes per side and then decrease the heat a little and continue to flip about every 5-6 minutes until internal temp of 150°. About 25 minutes in total. Remember that a pork tenderloin has three sides.
Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Serve with Memphis BBQ sauce.
The Best BBQ Pork Tenderloin – Memphis Style
- 1 ½ pound pork tenderloin
- 4 cups water
- 4 tablespoons table salt
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt - only add if not brining
- Start with a simple brine. 4 cups cold water, 4 tablespoons table salt, 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Mix well in an one-gallon food storage bag.
- Trim a pork tenderloin of any silver skin, loose fat and membranes. Add the tenderloin to the brine and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
- Mix the Memphis dry rub: 2 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, ½ teaspoon dry mustard, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt - only add if not brining.
- When the tenderloin is done brining, rinse under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. This will remove the brine salt from the surface.
- Place on a piece of plastic wrap about 6 inches longer than the tenderloin. Rub all sides of the tenderloin well with the rub reserving about ¼ of the rub for later.
- Roll the tenderloin tightly in the plastic wrap, seal the ends and refrigerate for 1 -2 hours. Longer is OK.
- Remove from refrigerator, unwrap and rub with the remainder of the rub on all sides and allow to rest at room temp for 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat grill. You want a surface temp of 450°-500°. That is medium high on most grills. Clean and oil the grill well. This last step is important or it will stick.
- Grill for 5-6 minutes per side and then decrease heat a little and continue to flip about every 5-6 minutes until internal temp of 145°-150°. About 25 minutes total. Let
- Let rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting.
Your Own Private Notes
- Be sure you have a pork tenderloin and not a pork loin.
- 1 teaspoon table salt = 1 ¼ teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- I like to make more rub and save for later. Store airtight in a dark area for up to 6 months.
- You can skip the brine, the time with the rub, and the rest to room temperature but all these things add something to the final results.
- Dry rubs and the sauce you use should complement each other. I suggest my Memphis sauce or another sweeter sauce like a Kansas City or St. Louis sauce. Not a Carolina vinegar-based sauce.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor note: This is a republishing of one of the best recipes on this site. It is a bit more work but not hard and so worth the extra work. Originally published May 2, 2010, and then redone with new pictures May 2, 2013. It was in need of a rewrite and re-editing of pictures. Now updated again with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.