|Pork Tenderloin Cutlets in Cracker Jack Salad at JCT Kitchen, Atlanta|
If you’ve been scanning restaurant menus for chicken and fish to find healthful dishes you can widen your gaze. Pork which often gets overlooked as a leaner entrée possibility has officially joined the list. Pork tenderloin is now certified with the American Heart Association’s “Heart Check” mark indicating it qualifies as an extra lean heart-healthy protein. Bacon may be getting a lot of culinary attention lately and a rack of baby back ribs slathered in barbecue sauce can rack up 1000 calories, but, there’s more than one way to serve a pig. In fact, ounce for ounce pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast. A three ounce portion of pork tenderloin contains less than 3 grams of fat and 120 calories. Isn’t it great when you can please desire for flavor and good health with the same meal? “Pork tenderloin is very popular on our menus,” says Chef de Cuisine Brian Horn of JCT. Kitchen & Bar. “It goes well with so many other flavors.” On JCT.’s lunch menu the “Cracker Jack Salad” features thinly pounded pork tenderloin cutlets topped with an arugula salad lightly dressed with Georgia apple vinaigrette and garnished with the crunch of spiced caramel popcorn.
Not Your Grandma’s Pork Chop
Over the past couple of decades, changes in feeding and breeding techniques have produced leaner pigs. According to the National Pork Board, today's pork has 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fat than 21 years ago. Pork tenderloin may be the trimmest of them all, but the loin cuts, including pork chops and roasts are the next leanest with 147 calories and a smidge over 5 grams of fat per three ounce serving. “For those who love the great taste of pork, the new certification is a wonderful reminder to incorporate more heart-healthy foods into their diet without sacrificing flavor,” says Pamela Johnson of the National Pork Board.
In the Pink
Recipes for preparing pork have changed too. Last year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made it official that pork can be safely cooked to medium rare, at a cooked temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute rest time to continue cooking. This is fifteen degrees less than the previous recommendation and means the meat will be slightly pink in color. Because pork is leaner today, it’s important not to over cook it so the meat is juicy and tender. So slightly pink is considered very safe by the USDA. Chef Dean Dupuis of South City Kitchen says five years ago if he served pork a little pink in the middle his customers would send it back but, “It’s not as bad as it once was when everyone freaked out.”
Pork’s Nutrition Power
While cured pork products such as bacon and ham are relatively high in sodium, fresh pork is naturally low in sodium.
Pork tenderloin and other loin cuts are excellent sources of protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorous and niacin and good sources of potassium, riboflavin and zinc.