Published May 1, 2009.
A glaze is a perfect way to enhance this bland cut—if you can get it to stick. For help, we borrowed a technique used by professional painters.
When done right, nothing can quite match pork tenderloin’s fine-grained, buttery-smooth texture, but even when perfectly cooked, too often it’s still sorely lacking in flavor.
We wanted to find a way to incorporate New England’s signature ingredient, maple syrup, into a thick, sweet, fragrant glaze.
We couldn’t produce great glazed pork tenderloin without first nailing down the basic cooking technique for achieving perfect plain pork tenderloin. After some hits and misses, we settled on the stovetop-to-oven method. We seared them in a skillet so they developed a deep brown crust before transferring them—on a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet—to finish cooking in a gentle oven. The rack turned out to be essential: It elevated the meat away from the hot surface of the pan and prevented it from overcooking. With pork that was succulent and tender throughout, we tackled the glaze.
To counter the sweetness of maple syrup, we used an equal amount of mildly bitter molasses and added a bit of mustard. For complexity, we stirred in a shot of bourbon, which brought notes of smoke and vanilla. With pinches of cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne pepper and after reducing to the proper consistency on the stovetop, the glaze was good to go. But the question of how to apply it still lingered.
While painting the glaze onto the pork, we noticed that the slick surface of the seared tenderloin was doing nothing to help the syrup stick. It occurred to us that glazing tenderloin was not unlike painting a wall. To ensure that paint adheres properly, you prepare the surface with a coat of primer. Our “primer,” cornstarch mixed with some sugar, did the trick. The sugar melted and caramelized as the meat seared, creating a deep brown crust with the texture of sandpaper, perfect for holding a glaze.
We now had a surefire way of making the glaze stick to the meat, but the final coating simply wasn’t thick enough. For a solution, we looked back to the painting analogy. With wall paint, one key to good coverage is waiting between coats to allow time for each layer to dry. After applying our first coat of glaze, we let the meat roast in the oven until it was nearly done. We then applied a second coat. When the tenderloins were done cooking, we painted a third coat on top of the now-dry second coat. Finally, after letting the tenderloins rest, we glazed them one last time. Slicing into this roast revealed success: a thick maple glaze coated the meat.list of recipes