How To Make A Whole Beef Tenderloin

How To Cook A Whole Beef Tenderloin

It’s surprisingly simple to make beef tenderloin and doesn’t take much time at all. This implies having more time to spend with loved ones, watching Hallmark, or cuddling with your dog—my personal favorite! In addition, there’s just something so elegant and fancy about filets, or beef tenderloins.

I teamed up with Goodstock by Nolan Ryan, a local company here in Austin, for this post. Goodstock provides not only quality beef but also prioritizes animal welfare. Not only are their cattle pasture-raised and finished on high-quality grain, but they utilize the Dr. Temple Grandin Responsible Cattle Care Program to ensure their commitment to humane animal handling is upheld throughout the entire supply chain. Goodstock ships their meats nationwide but also has a boutique butcher shop in Round Rock, TX that offers lots of great gifts that are exclusive to the shop like their branded magnetic cutting board that keeps your knife from slipping off.

I include an optional step in the recipe where the tenderloin is aged for a whole night in the refrigerator. This slightly dries out the meat and enables the edges to develop a delicious crust, similar to what you’d get at a fine steakhouse. Don’t worry if you can’t spare the time for this step; the tenderloin will still come out delicious.

My Dry Brine Turkey, which I made for Thanksgiving and it turned out really well, is very similar to the process of dry aging. Although it may seem a little counterintuitive, the drying out process gives the meat a crispy skin or exterior, and the salt in the rub penetrates the meat to give it more flavor and moisture when it’s cooked. Even though the actual process takes several hours or even overnight, no human intervention is required. So you too can have this delicious tenderloin with a little forethought!

Serve your tenderloin with these Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Crispy Parmesan Herb Potato Stacks.

How To Make A Whole Beef Tenderloin

What Temperature Should Beef Tenderloin Be?

The worst thing you can do is overcook a pricey cut of beef. Ideally you should cook it to a nice medium-rare or medium. The higher the internal temperature, the more tough the meat will become. My biggest suggestion is to use a digital probe thermometer for accurate cooking.

Here is a good chart to go by.

  • RARE – 115°F – 120°F
  • MEDIUM RARE – 120°F – 125°F
  • MEDIUM – 130°F – 135°F

PRO TIP: After removing from the oven, the internal temperature will continue to rise by roughly 5 to 7 degrees.

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 To Make A Whole 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 To Make A Whole 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 To Make A Whole 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 To Make A Whole 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 To Make A Whole 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.