Perfect and easy pork tenderloins


There were a few dishes that I had not discovered until I met and married my Farmer Boy.  Fried hot dogs and potatoes, creamed dried beef on fried potatoes and the kind of cheesecake that you make like a cream pie with cream cheese and whipped topping. I also had not discovered homemade breaded pork tenderloins.

Tenderloins are an Iowa food tradition and identity. It kind of goes along with being the #1 pork producing state in the nation. They are served at almost every local diner. You can find them in most reputable gas station hot food cases over the meal hours. Some restaurants are better known as the winner of the Iowa Pork Producer’s Annual contest for the best tenderloin in Iowa than for any other dish they serve. Some folks will road trip just to try a new place’s version. I believe tenderloins are to Iowa what sour dough bread is to San Francisco, cheese curds are to Wisconsin, beignets are to New Orleans and poutine is to Canada.


Breaded pork tenderloins are certainly a favorite at the Hillcrest Farm table.  Tenderloins are right up there with sunny side up fresh brown eggs and raspberries still warm from the summer garden. They are one of several dishes I learned to make once I married the Farmer Boy simply because I knew he really liked them. When the Minis were little I would cut the tenderloins into strips that were little people friendly and would bread and fry them just like the big ones. We called them Pork Fries in this form. They were dipped in ketchup or ranch and devoured.  I knew when the kids were leaving their babyhood behind because they would ask for the tenderloin on a bun and added onions, pickles and mustard to their sandwich.


This week we entered a new phase of the adored tenderloin… the Mini-Me tweaked the recipe.  She thought that adding bacon to the breading would make it the next best tenderloin ever… We tried it. She made it along side of me. It was pretty good, but I can tell she thinks we can make it even better… They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


I’m giving you two versions for really good tenderloins. I’ll let you know that either method is great for pork tenderloins that are on sale in the meat counter or that package of Minute Steak that came with your quarter or half of locally produced beef.


Perfect Pork Tenderloins

The groceries:

6 boneless Pork Loin Slices (you can use butterfly boneless chops if your meat counter doesn't sell pre-tenderized pork loin slices)

1 C All Purpose or Bread Flour

1 t salt

¼ t Black Pepper

¼ t Garlic Powder

¼ t Cayenne Powder

¼ t Smoked Hungarian Paprika

2 Fresh eggs

½ C Milk

1 Sleeve each of Ritz and Saltine crackers, crushed fine


The Process

Pound the pork slices with the crosshatch side of a meat mallet until the slices are no less than ¼ inch thick.


Combine the flour and spices with the tines of a fork in a shallow dish or pan. 


Whisk the egg and milk together and pour into a separate shallow dish.


Combine the cracker crumbs in a 3rd shallow pan.


Take pounded pork slices and thoroughly coat with the flour mixture. Then dip both sides in the egg mixture.  Carefully coat both sides with the cracker crumbs.



Pork My Farmer's Wife

The one in the middle has just been flipped, the others are not
quite ready to flip. You can see the texture of the crumb coating, you don't
want the crumbs to be powder, but not huge chunks either. These
are just right.  I felt a little like Goldilocks writing that.

Fry in small batches in ½-1 inch of good quality vegetable oil over medium high heat.  They will only take 3-5 minutes per side since they are so thin. 


Keep warm in a 200 degree oven.  I place in a glass baking dish that has been lined with paper towels to drain some of the oil.


Serve warm with fresh buns, onion, dill pickles, ketchup and mustard for an authentic Iowa Tenderloin.



Cheater Tenderloins…for those days you just don’t feel like doing all 3 steps

2 C Krusteeze Complete Buttermilk Pancake mix

1 t Lawry’s Seasonin

Toss the ingredients in a ziplock bag. Dredge the pounded meat slices in the dry ingredients and fry in oil. 



Can serve either version with peppery white sauce and mashed potatoes for a chicken fried steak kind of meal. Welcome to Iowa food bliss.  :)

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