Beef tenderloin is a tender cut of meat perfect for grilling and slow cooking. Discover everything you need to know about this delicious beef steak, from meat preparation to cooking techniques.
Beef tenderloin is a cut derived from the beef tenderloin and IS also called eye steak, sirloin steak, sirloin steak and filet mignon. Beef tenderloin sits between the sirloin and the top sirloin and goes through the short sirloin region. The name loin derives from the word tender, as beef tenderloin is the most tender cut of meat.
Let’s look at beef tenderloin in detail to find out what it does and how it’s prepared in different ways.
What is beef tenderloin?
Beef tenderloin is the muscle that sits between the main cuts of short loin and sirloin, and can be enjoyed whole or cut into smaller fillets. It is long and rounded and weighs between four and six pounds in an adult cow.
This tender cut of meat tastes best cooked, either smoked on the grill or slow roasted in the oven. It can also be cut into two-inch steaks before being cooked on a charcoal grill.
Filet mignon comes from one side of the tenderloin all the way down to the short loin and is famous for being one of the most delicious(and expensive) cuts of meat. A piece of filet mignon can be divided into steaks up to two centimeters thick.
Beef fillet has a high fat content(approx. 25%), which makes it particularly tender. However, beef tenderloin is not only the most tender cut of beef, it is also the most expensive. The high fat content shows up as a clear marbling. Marbling is visible to the naked eye as it forms multiple thick and thin streaks of white fat throughout the muscle.
The high fat content in the muscle keeps it juicy when cooked. It can be prepared in different ways. However, fillet of beef should not be cooked for a long time, as it can become soft and crumbly inside the pot if it is cooked for a long time. The high fat content also contributes to the taste.
Which part of the cow is the beef tenderloin?
The tenderloin is near the cow’s loin, between the tenderloin and the top roast beef. It ends where the fillet ends and runs lengthwise through the fillet to the short loin. Tenderloin is easily distinguished as it has a higher fat content and richer marbling compared to the roast beef.
Filet of beef versus filet mignon
While all filet mignon comes from beef tenderloin, not all filet mignon is filet mignon. Beef tenderloin is a prime cut of beef that IS divided into filet mignon, chateaubriand, oxtail, seared muscle, and strings. While the entire portion of meat is tender, the filet mignon is particularly tender despite the lean beef.
Filet mignon has only 17% fat compared to 25% in beef tenderloin. However, the lower fat content does not make the filet mignon tough or dry. Since it is roughly the center of the muscle, the muscles themselves are sensitive.
While the filet mignon cut is preferred on individual steaks, chateaubriand and tail are preferred for roasts. Butchers and chefs also prefer to make a thick cut between the sixth slice of filet mignon and the tail.
This cut is sometimes referred to as a small roast, and as the name suggests, it is used for roasting. Some butchers and chefs also cut the chateaubriand, or head of beef tenderloin, into steaks.
When purchasing beef tenderloin, it is important to consider two factors. The first factor is the number of people you will be cooking for. As a general rule of thumb, you should buy about half a pound of beef tenderloin per person. Meat shrinks as it cooks, but this rule explains the shrinkage. However, you can pair the main meat dish with hearty side dishes if you’re worried it won’t be enough.
The second factor to consider is the recipe you plan to follow. The recipe will help you decide which beef tenderloin subsection to buy.
For BBQ recipes, buying oxtail or filet mignon would be a good option. For whole roasts, you can purchase the tail. On the other hand, if you want to serve individual steaks, you can also get filet mignon as separate steak cuts or as a whole. If you’re only cooking for two, buying individual filet mignon steaks is perfect.
The head is usually sold in smaller cubes or strips in supermarkets. With the Chateaubriand cubes you can prepare tender and juicy skewers. But you can also get the whole Chateaubriand from the butcher and roll the dice yourself.
In the supermarket, the different sub-divisions of beef tenderloin are mentioned by the names tail, filet mignon, muscle roast and small roast. But also Chateaubriand can be called loinhead in some places.
These beef fillet cuts can be labeled as cut or uncut. Uncut beef fillet portions have plenty of fat around the meat. They might be a little cheaper than the trimmed portions, but you still need to get rid of the excess fat.
If you cook beef tenderloin raw without removing excess fat, the cooked meat will end up with a layer of undissolved fat on the sides, which can affect its flavor or make it even more tender to the point of flaking during cooking.
Since beef fillet already has a high fat content, it is best to buy it cut up. Buying it uncut could also mess up your calculations for the number of people and decrease the amount of meat cooked later. Some places also sell trimmed fillet of beef marked “peeled”.
When buying beef tenderloin or other cuts of beef, make sure the meat is fresh and comes from cows raised using ethical farming practices. Look for a purplish-red hue in the flesh to ensure freshness. If you doubt the freshness of beef in supermarkets, you can get it at the butcher.
Excess fat and silvery skin around raw beef tenderloin can be easily removed with the help of a sharp, thin knife. You will also need to trim the strings and muscles from the roast portion during this process.
After all the silver skin and fat has been removed, you are left with a large piece of fillet that can be grilled individually. If you don’t want to fry it in one piece, you can cut it into subsections including the tail, chuck roast, filet mignon and chateaubriand, or head. You can also choose to skip the small fry and keep a bigger chunk of tail.
When prepared as a roast, beef tenderloin can be cut into pieces the same way you would cut a raw piece. Because it’s a large muscle, a longitudinal cut will result in you cutting against the fiber. Cutting against the grain is the correct way to cut any meat. This allows the meat to retain its shape and texture.
Beef tenderloin is the tastiest cut of beef and is difficult to substitute. However, the rib eye comes close despite having a higher fat content. The higher fat content in the rib will make you tweak the recipe a bit. However, most chefs and foodies prefer pork tenderloin when beef tenderloin is not available.
How to smoke beef tenderloin
Beef tenderloin is best grilled whole as the rich fat content allows the meat to slowly melt and tenderize over a long period of time.
For the best smoked beef tenderloin , set the smoker oven to 120°C(250°F) and heat the tenderloin until it reaches an internal temperature of 54°C(130°F). This is usually around 3 hours. Remove from heat and brown over high heat for 2-3 minutes before serving immediately.
Ideal to serve
Because beef tenderloin is a tender and expensive cut of beef, it should only be reserved for grilled recipes like pot roasts and steaks. However, it can taste great when prepared using any method and paired with warm, savory side dishes.
Tastes great with various fried vegetables. Roasted tomatoes and potatoes go well with particularly tender, juicy steaks. You can also serve with rice or beans.