How to Cook Beef Tenderloin

How to Cook Beef Tenderloinmagone /123RF

Tenderloin is a leaner, cleaner cut of beef. Cooking it requires a balance of time, temperature, and moisture to produce a tender result.

Is your mouth watering yet? Meat lovers worldwide love beef tenderloin due to the lean cut as it carries the traditional beef flavor no matter how you cook it. 

So, how do you cook beef tenderloin? The preference is within each individual and their personal opinion. The most common ways are cooked by grilling, stovetop, oven, or broiler to get the temperature internally to 145ºF with a three-minute rest period. 

Since the meat is lean and the whole cut, the temperatures are lower than ground meats and poultry. We will discuss each process of cooking technique and add some interesting facts and tips to make your cooking experience exciting.

All About the Cut of Beef Tenderloin     

As mentioned earlier, beef tenderloin is known globally and favored in many nations, and each country has a different name for this product. Here in America, we call it the “eye fillet.” Australia calls it “filet,” France calls it “filet mignon,” and South Africa and the UK calls it “Fillet,” with two “Ls.” 

The cut of beef tenderloin comes from the loin of the cow. It is best explained by Mark Bittman, food journalist, former columnist at The New York Times, and author of “How to Cook Everything.” 

Bitman stated, “Tenderloin: A highly valuable section behind the rib. Actually, it’s two sections: the top (shell) and the bottom (tenderloin). The tenderloin may be sold brisket flank (and part plate of sirloin) whole or cut into large lengths (which make fine roasts) or cut into small, thick steaks called filet mignon. It’s supremely tender but not that flavorful, so much improved by sauces.”

Beef tenderloin got its name due to it is the most tender part of the cow. When cooked correctly, it is a delicacy and almost melts in your mouth. Three significant cuts come from the tenderloin, which are: 

  • The center cut;
  • The butt;
  • The tail. 

The Center Cut

This cut delivers the well-known filet mignon. The diameter of the eye is consistent throughout the cut and is perfect for controlled portion cut steaks. This means if you cut the tenderloin the same size, each steak will weigh in at the same amount. 

The Butt

Cutting steaks from the butt-end tenderloin will yield thin steaks. The eye is large, and it will be challenging to cut thick steaks as the size is not as consistent as the center cut. 

The Tail

This is the cut that is not recommended for steaks due to the varying size. It is best used for beef Stroganoff and recipes which require smaller pieces of meat. 

To look into the best cuts and how they are used, we can take food writer Jill Norman’s statement from “The Cook’s Book.” She stated, “Restaurants tend to use prime cuts of meat and fish—such as tenderloin and chops, Dover sole and sea bass—that are cooked only briefly. Anything only just cooked or, in the case of red meat, undercooked, preserve its tenderness and fine texture. The element lacking in this luxurious, last-minute cuisine is any intensity or depth of flavor from the meat or fish being used. Strong flavors come only from prolonged and thorough cooking.” 

Recommendations on How to Cook the Best Beef Tenderloin

Our best recommendation goes without competition that everything tastes better on the grill. Here you get the best of both worlds, cooking outdoors and the smoky charcoal or gas burner flavor. Tenderloins can be cooked under the hottest flames quickly and remain tender. 

Let’s look at what the American butcher Tom Mylan wrote in “The Meat Hook Meat Book.” He stated in his book, “Cuts like tenderloin, without a lot of connective tissue to seize up and get chewy, can be cooked extremely hot and quick under a broiler or on a grill, even sitting directly on top of burning charcoal.” We all agree that these experts can deliver the best advice with many years under their belts.

Grilling Beef Tenderloin 

There are three ways to grill tenderloins:

  • Directly on the grill;
  • In a cast-iron skillet on the grill grates;
  • Directly on the charcoals.

Whichever you go for, it boils down to three simple steps.

Step 1: Get the Grill Hot

If using a gas grill, light all the flames on high heat. Many prefer the flavor of charcoal grills, and you want to make sure the heat is evenly spread across the grill. 

Note: The best way to tell if the grill is hot enough is to give it the three-second test by holding your hand over the grill. If your hand cannot take the heat after two or three seconds, it is hot enough. 

Step 2: Season the Meat

Most people find salt and pepper is sufficient. It is your steak, so have fun with it and use your favorite seasonings. 

Step 3: Cook the Tenderloins

We recommend cutting the tenderloins into one-inch steaks to make life simple. Ensure the grill is as hot as it can go and slap the steaks on the grill or in the cast iron skillet. To get the internal temperature up to 145ºF, rotate after two minutes, then flip over and rotate after two minutes.

Note: Medium cooked will have four minutes on each side for a total of eight minutes cooking. Remove the steaks when done. 

Oven-Only Cooked Beef Tenderloin

There are two ways to use an oven for cooking tenderloin steaks. The first way is this with the oven-only method, and the other way is using the oven for cooking the tenderloin and the broiler to sear the meat. 

Step 1: Preheat Oven 

The oven needs to be preheated to 450ºF for a good 30 minutes. 

Step 2: Prep the Tenderloin

Season the meat to your liking (when in doubt, kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper will do) and top the beef with butter.

Step 3: Bake and Remove

Bake the meat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the meat when it is done and leave it to rest for about ten minutes. In that time, the meat will finish cooking in its residual heat, and the juices will settle.

Stovetop Beef Tenderloin

It is best to use a thick, heavy-bottomed carbon steel or cast-iron skillet when cooking over a stove to get the best browning on your tenderloin. This method is also the closest to grilling. 

Step 1: Preheat Skillet and Season Steak

Do this step at the same time while you wait for the skillet to heat up. As long as your skillet is well-seasoned, which gives it a non-stick like coat, you do not need to add any oil to it.

Step 2: Cook Side One of the Meat

Place the steaks on the skillet and press down. Leave the steaks in place for three to four minutes.

Step 3: Flip Steaks

Flip the steaks, then cook for two to three minutes.

Step 4: Remove and Let Rest

Take the steaks off and set them aside for two minutes, then serve.

Pan-Seared, Oven-Baked Beef Tenderloin

This cooking method, known as oven-searing, makes the best of both worlds: searing adds flavor while finishing in the oven keeps the juices flowing while cooking. 

Step 1: Heat Oven and Skillet

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and heat the carbon steel or cast iron skillet on high. Add cooking oil to the skillet (seldom go for butter as, at a high heat, it will burn).

Step 2: Sear or Broil for 2 Minutes

On the stovetop, sear the tenderloin for 2 minutes on each side. You could, alternatively, skip the stovetop altogether and put the tenderloin under the broiler for 2 minutes.

Step 3: Transfer Meat

Place the meat in the oven for five minutes. Remove when done and cover with foil for seven minutes. 

Mistakes to Avoid

Never cook a cold tenderloin. Always take out of the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking, as it ruins the cooking time if cold.

Always check that the grill, oven, or burners are in their medium-high to high settings (depending on how powerful your range). Browning and caramelization work best when meat comes into sudden contact with intense heat.

Do not overcook—or your meat will burn, coming out charred instead of browned and tasting acrid instead of savory. It will also make it dry and touch to chew. Follow the time limits.

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