3 Ways to Cook Pork

From the WebMD Archives

If the word "pork" brings to mind fatty indulgences like bacon and ham, think again. "The beauty of pork is that over the years farmers have bred it to be leaner and leaner," says Debra Krummel, PhD, RD, a University of Cincinnati nutrition researcher. "You can now find pork that is just as lean as chicken breast."

The leanest option is pork tenderloin, which has very little saturated fat and won't affect your blood cholesterol levels significantly, Krummel says.

Pork is one of the richest food sources of thiamine, a B vitamin that helps the body produce energy from food. It’s also a good source of zinc, a mineral needed for immune system function. Plus, protein (whether it's in pork or other foods) helps keep hunger at bay.

Cooking Tips

Pork tenderloin is versatile, so you can make it the main dish for an elegant dinner or grill it up at a tailgate party. But because it's so lean, prepare it with care.

"I think some people get turned off because they overcook it, or they don't marinate, or they don't use a moist cooking method, and then it tastes like shoe leather," Krummel says.

She recommends using an instant-read thermometer and cooking the meat just until the internal temperature reaches 160 F as a surefire way to keep the tender in your tenderloin.

Pork Piccata

This simple but elegant recipe takes pork tenderloin on a trip to Tuscany with the classic Italian flavors of olive oil, lemon, and capers.

Makes 4 servings


1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound

3 Tbsp flour

2 tsp lemon pepper

2 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 to 6 slices lemon, very thin

4 Tbsp capers, drained


1. Slice tenderloin into 8 equal pieces. Place pieces between sheets of plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/8-inch thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin.


2. Dust cutlets lightly with flour, and sprinkle with lemon pepper.

3. Add olive oil to nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Quickly saute cutlets, about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

4. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet; shake pan gently and cook 2 minutes, until sauce is slightly thickened.

5. Garnish with lemon slices and capers, and serve.

Per serving: 194 calories, 24 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 73 mg cholesterol, 311 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 29%

Pork Tenderloin Mango Pitas

Pork in pita pockets is a natural for a lunch box treat or simple weeknight dinner. Packed with healthy veggies, the exotic taste of mango, and a kick of salsa, they are filling on their own but are great with a salad or bowl of soup.

Makes 6 servings


1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound

cooking spray

1 red pepper, coarsely chopped

1 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 cups shredded cabbage

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)

1 mango, peeled, sliced

6 (4-inch) whole wheat pita pockets, warmed

6 Tbsp salsa


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray ovenproof nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat.

2. Add pork to skillet and sear 2 to 3 minutes per side until brown.

3. Transfer to oven and roast 15 to 18 minutes until meat thermometer reaches 160 F.

4. Remove from oven, and let rest 5 minutes. Slice into bite-size pieces.

5. Place pork, fruit, and vegetables into pita pockets and top with salsa.

Per serving: 232 calories, 21 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 49 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 315 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 15%

Pork Tenderloin With Spicy Rub

The combination of ingredients in this rub delivers a lively flavor with very little salt. Serve the pork tenderloin with long-grain brown rice and a tossed green salad.

Makes 4 servings


1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1 pound


1 Tbsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Make the spice rub: In small bowl, thoroughly combine paprika, salt, brown sugar, sugar, chili powder, ground cumin, and black pepper.

3. Rub enough of the mixture on the tenderloin to lightly coat the entire surface. Store remaining spice rub in a sealed container for future use.

4. Place tenderloin in shallow pan and roast 30 to 35 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160 F.

5. Remove pork from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Slice tenderloin and serve.

Per serving: 147 calories, 23 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 36 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 73 mg cholesterol, 3 g sugar, 349 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 24%

The opinions expressed on this page are of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on August 18, 2014



Debra Krummel, PhD, RD, endowed chair of nutritional sciences, University of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: "Thiamin," "Zinc."

News release, Cornell University.

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.