How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

A Rare Case: What’s the Best Degree of Doneness for Beef Tenderloin?

I used to be one of those people who would “wave the steak toward the fire and serve it to me.” The rarer, the better. However, instead of letting my slight machismo get the better of me, I began to question what was in my mouth, and I’m willing to bet that anyone who was under the impression that rarer things were always better could be persuaded otherwise.

These days, I really think that when cooking red meat, the amount of fat it contains should be directly correlated with the doneness to which the meat is cooked. Rich, fatty cuts, such as prime-grade prime rib, are best prepared to a minimum of medium-rare, and frequently even up to medium-rare; this is the temperature at which the abundant intramuscular fat begins to soften and spread its flavor and lubricant throughout your mouth. *.

*In fact, even ardent lovers of rare meats consistently chose the medium-rare or medium prime rib over the rare in blindfolded taste tests I carried out. This could also be the reason why Americans tend to prefer their meat medium-rare while French people prefer their very lean beef cooked rare. There’s no logical explanation for why British people cook their lean beef over-done.

However, lean tenderloin has no intramuscular fat, so cooking it past medium-rare will only dry it out. Tenderloin should be perfectly pink from edge to edge, with maybe a hint of translucent rare meat in the center. Naturally, for flavor and texture, we still want a really nice dark crust on the outside.

What Is a Beef Tenderloin?

The most tender beef cut is the tenderloin, which is found inside the loin. This is where the tenderloin’s very tip, or pointy end, is used to make filet mignon. Tenderloin is an extremely lean cut because it contains very little fat. Because of all of that, one of the priciest beef cuts is tenderloin.

When properly cooked, it will melt in your mouth. Furthermore, since you’re shelling out a good amount of money for meat, you want to be sure you’re cooking it properly.

Making the Cut: Choosing the Perfect Beef Tenderloin

However, we must first determine which cut of meat we are working with before we can turn on the oven. A whole tenderloin weighs roughly four to five pounds. A whole tenderloin is shaped unevenly, with a fat bulb on one end and a thin, tapering tail on the other. To ensure that it cooks evenly, you will need to fold the thinner end back and secure it in place.

How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

This works well for feeding a large group of eight to twelve people, but if you’re feeding a smaller group of four to six people, you should use a center-cut tenderloin, sometimes called a chateaubriand.

How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

The center portion of the tenderloin is shaped like a smooth, even cylinder, which makes cooking it much easier. (If you would like to discover how to cut a tenderloin yourself and save some money, see our guide here.) ).

How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

Tying a tenderloin up at even intervals helps prevent it from sagging and becoming misshapen during the cooking process. This can be done very easily by learning how to tie butcher’s knots, though plain old square knots will also work.

To achieve that, most tenderloin recipes (as well as those for most steaks and roasts) call for searing the meat at a high temperature first, followed by finishing it at a relatively low temperature. By now, you must be aware that the whole “sealing in the juices” thing is a myth with no real basis in reality. Therefore, even though the conventional hot-then-cool method functions fairly well, it is actually more effective if the process is carried out in reverse.

I created a method known as the “reverse sear” while I was employed at Cooks Illustrated (you might want to skip ahead a little if you’ve heard me talk about it a million times). These days, I use it for everything when I want perfectly cooked meat with a great crust, like prime rib, pan-seared steaks, and pork chops.

How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

You end up with a piece of meat that has a very small temperature gradient when you begin the process by putting the raw meat on a rack in a low-temperature oven (I went with 225°F because that was the lowest temperature my oven could hold) and slow-roasting it until the center hits just a few degrees below your desired final serving temperature (I aim for 125°F for rare or 130°F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer). From edge to edge, the meat will be almost perfectly cooked.

How Long To Cook 4 Lbs Of Beef Tenderloin

You can also extend the amount of time that low-and-slow cooking allows you to cook meat between the ideal doneness and overdoneness.

All you need to do is sear the meat after it’s done. When cooking a steak, I usually do it in a big skillet over the stove. You can use the same method if your tenderloin is small enough, basting it with butter, shallots, and thyme to add more flavor and richness. Additionally, butter browns more quickly than oil because of the additional milk proteins.

However, what happens if it’s too big to fit in a skillet and you’d rather bake it in the oven?

Initially, I believed that I could cook a tenderloin in the same way as my prime rib—by simply placing it in an oven set at 500°F (260°C) for a short while to sear the outside. When I tried it, the meat came out with a large, fat layer of overcooked meat around the outside and barely browned meat.

The problem, of course, is that fat content again. The nice, thick layer of fat that coats the outside of a prime rib can aid in its even and quicker browning. Because of this insulation, it also cooks more slowly, so even after 10 minutes at 500°F, there is hardly any gray, overcooked meat visible. Conversely, 10 minutes at 500°F in the oven results in a lean tenderloin that is cooked almost to the center, well beyond medium!

Therefore, I set out to find ways to accelerate the browning process so that the tenderloin wouldn’t overcook. It took a two-pronged approach to get there.