Bar Towel Tenderloin


Introduction
Credit for this recipe/technique goes to Antonio, the executive chef at work. It may fall into the novelty category since it is fun to do and can be used to make your friends scratch their heads and then marvel at the results, but it does turn out a lovely piece of meat. This is a variation on the "fish cooked in a salt crust" technique, and can be used with a camp fire also, as you will see.


Ingredients


The Process
The first thing you will need is a bar towel. Pictured below is a package of towels purchased from Sam's Club. You can buy them wherever you can find them, but whatever you do, make sure they are 100% cotton! Don't be fooled into buying something that might say "100% cotton loops". We found such towels, but then noticed that the towel itself was 14% polyester. You want an all cotten towel:
Bar Towel Tenderloin
You will need some bar towels.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
They need to be 100% cotton.

The next things you will need are salt and some pork tenderloin. In this cook, we used about 2 pounds of kosher salt, but in hindsight, we'd recommend using the entire 3 pound box. As you will see, you will be forming a salt layer around the tenderloin and you don't want to have any thin spots. More is better in this case. As for the pork, we bought four pork tenderloins at Sam's Club. As you can see below, they come packaged two to a cryovac package. We used two of the tenderloins just as they come out of the package. We used the larger of the two packages you see in the photo below and it weighed about 2 pounds.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
You will need a 3-lb box of kosher salt.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
You will also need pork tenderloin.

Now, take your towel and get it wet. Wring it out so that it is relatively damp. Dump the salt (we'd say use the whole 3 pounds) onto the towel and spread it out into a rectangle that will be wide enough to accommodate the length of your pork tenderloin.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
Wet your towel.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Pour the salt onto the towel.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Spread the salt into a rectangle.

Take your tenderloins and coat them with your favorite rub. We didn't do it in the following photos, but we would suggest that you tie the two tenderloins with butcher string to keep them both together as one big piece of meat. You don't really need or want a layer of salt getting between the two pieces. Then place your meat on the salt as shown below. Carefully roll the towel, meat and salt up into a roll. Your goal here is to form a shell of salt around the meat that is relatively uniform in thickness, and that also covers the ends. Finally, tie the ends with butcher string, and for safety's sake, tie a piece of string around the middle to keep it from falling open.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
Coat your meat with your favorite rub.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Place the meat on the salt.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Carefully roll the meat/salt/towel into a roll.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Tie the ends and middle with damp string.

Now for the fire. You want a fire that is as much like a nice big hot camp fire as possible. So you want plenty of charcoal because you will be burning hot and with the lid open. You also want to make sure that your cooker and your fire is big enough that the entire rolled tenderloin is sitting on hot coals. Here's how we do it.

Lay a bed of charcoal in the bottom of the cooker. Then start a full chimney full of lump charcoal. Wait until the chimney is completely lit and full of raging hot coals.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
Start with plenty of charcoal.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Start a full chimney of lump charcoal.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Wait for the chimney to get completely started.

Once you have the chimney roaring away and ready to go, dump the chimney full of lump charcoal onto the bed of charcoal in your cooker. Spread it around and then wait until you have a relatively uniform raging hot fire all across the top of the charcoal.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
Dump the chimney full of charcoal on top of the charcoal in your cooker.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Spread the hot burning charcoal and then wait until you have a large uniform fire.

Place the rolled towel, salt and meat directly on the burning charcoal. Careful! It is quite hot! Leave the lid open as we are cooking campfire style.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
Place the rolled towel directly on the burning charcoal.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Leave the lid of your cooker open as this is a campfire!

After 15 minutes, your roll should look like the photo below. Carefully turn the roll over. You may see that the towel has completely burned away in places, so you can see the salt crust.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
After 15 minutes, this is what it will look like.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Carefully turn the roll over.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Here you can see the towel has burned away and a salt crust has formed.

Carefully remove the roll from the fire after 30 minutes. As you can see below, ours broke open in moving it. Again, we only used 2 pounds of salt and felt that 3 pounds would make for a thicker more durable shell. Once you have it on a baking sheet, just crack it open and take the meat out.

Bar Towel Tenderloin
The shell broke open after moving it to a baking pan.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Notice how the meat shrunk inside its salt crust.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
Here is what's left of the shell after cracking it and getting the meat out.

After you get the meat out of the salt shell, you can clean any remaining salt off the meat and then slice!

Bar Towel Tenderloin
The two tenderloins out of the salt.
Bar Towel Tenderloin
After slicing, moist, tender, juicy!


Summary of the Process
So here's a summary of the entire process:

  1. Take a 100% cotten bar towel, wet it and lay it out on the counter.

  2. Spread 3 pounds of kosher salt into a rectangle on the towel.

  3. Rub and tie 2 pork tenderloins together.

  4. Place the meat on the salt and carefully roll the towel, salt and meat into a roll.

  5. Tie the ends and the middle with damp butcher string.

  6. Build a large hot fire.

  7. Place the towel/salt/meat on the fire, leaving the lid to the cooker open.

  8. Let the meat cook for 15 minutes, carefully turn it over, cook for 15 more minutes.

  9. Carefully remove the meat from the fire and place on a large baking pan.

  10. Crack the salt shell and remove from the meat. Brush any remaining salt off the meat.


Observations, Notes, etc.

  1. Like we say, next time, we'll use more salt and try to make a more durable crust.
  2. Also, next time, if we do this with two pork tenderloins, we'll tie them together before rolling in the salt.
  3. You can also do this with pork loin or any long skinny piece of meat about 2 pounds in weight. Larger pieces would obviously require longer cooking times.
  4. Antonio tells us you don't need to really turn the roll over half way through the cook. Next time, we won't.


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