People have been eating beef -- particularly beef tenderloin -- since pre-historic times. It is, by far, the best cut on the cow. Consumption skyrocketed around 8000 BC when they began domesticating cattle. America was introduced to Longhorn cattle in 1543 when the Spanish explorers brought it over, and we've been enjoying it ever since. This food has now become a staple in the American diet.
The summers I spent out on the patio with my family would have been incomplete if it weren't for the delicious steaks my dad made. From our ancient ancestors to modern dinner parties, beef will never go out of style. But the meat you select and the way you cook it is the key.
Over time, humanity's love of meat hasn’t changed much but the style in which we prepare it has. Over the years, people have perfected various recipes for preparing beef, and one of the stars of the show is beef tenderloin.
What Is Beef Tenderloin?
As you may have guessed by the name, the tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef. It also comes with the benefit of having limited fat for people who want to consume less of it. The tenderloin sits beneath the ribs and by the backbone and has three parts: the “head,” the “center cut,” and the “tail.” If you visit a steakhouse and order a beef tenderloin, you’ll more than likely get a center cut.
Why Is The Tenderloin So Tender?
All cuts of beef are muscles and how tender the cut is will depend on how much use the muscle tissue got before that. The tenderloin is in an area that doesn’t get much exercise, compared to other muscles in the body, which is why it’s so tender.
What Else Is Beef Tenderloin Called?
Cuts of steak have different names in America versus other countries, and even within the United States, various businesses refer to it by different names. You might hear a beef tenderloin referred to as “filet medallions, “tenderloin steak,” or “filet mignon,” among others.
Most restaurants, grocery stores, and butcheries today call the entire tenderloin “filet mignon.” But no matter which of these names you hear the beef tenderloin referred to, you can rest assured that it’s going to be the most tender cut available.
Beef Tenderloin Versus Prime Rib
Both of these are popular cuts, but how do tenderloins and prime rib differ? While the tenderloins are on either side of the backbone, the prime rib, also called the rib roast, is located between the 6th and 12th rib. The tenderloins are also further back than the prime rib cuts.
Slicing a cut of prime rib is how you get rib eye steaks, which have a comparatively high fat content and make the most flavorful steaks. Slicing a tenderloin gets you filet mignon, a leaner and more tender steak. Both cuts can be either roasted whole or cut into smaller steaks and grilled.
Health Benefits Of Beef
In recent times, red meat has gotten a bad rap in some circles, but is beef really unhealthy for you? Contrary to what some people believe, our digestive systems are equipped to handle meat just fine and indigenous cultures do so without any issue. The question of health, when it comes to red meat, is about the quality.
The meat we eat today isn’t the same as the free-roaming, grass-eating animals that our ancestors ate. Instead, we’re eating grain-based, factory-farmed meat full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Also, many modern types of meat are full of preservatives. Just make sure you’re choosing high-quality sources for your beef, and you can enjoy the following health benefits.
Nutrients In Beef Tenderloin
Red meat is a good source of carnosine and creatine which can impact brain and muscle function. In fact, people who don’t eat meat are often found to be lacking in these essential nutrients.
Beef is also an excellent source of phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, zinc, and protein. A single 3-ounce serving can provide 20 percent of the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. It can also offer between 10 and 19 percent of your daily value of riboflavin, iron, vitamin B6, and niacin.
Why Do You Need These Nutrients?
The nutrients mentioned above are vital for the proper functioning of your body. Protein gives you energy, helps to build skin, cartilage, and bone, and is a crucial part of enzymes, blood, and vitamins. Zinc helps your body recover from illness and wounds, while phosphorus helps your body form healthy bones.
You need iron to carry oxygen to your muscles and cells, inhibiting fatigue and vitamins B12, B6, and niacin are all essential for proper nervous system function and energy.
Get A Variety Of Protein In Your Diet
Beef is a great source of protein and other nutrients, but it’s important to include a variety of sources in your diet including nuts, poultry, and fish. Just keep in mind that you should eat beef in moderation for optimal health, up to a few times a month.
So, What Do I Need To Know Boost My Beef Tenderloin Recipes?
Here are our 4 tips to elevate you recipes for that nutritional powerhouse.
1. Choose A Good Beef Tenderloin
Sometimes, the hardest part of preparing meat is choosing the right kind. With beef tenderloin, you want to be extra careful because it’s a more expensive cut than others. Whether you’re shopping at the grocery store or butcher shop, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Look For Grass-fed Beef
When meat has the “grass-fed” label, it means that the farmers raised the cattle on a diet of natural grasses instead of grains. Grass-fed cattle are healthier because grass is what they eat by design. Grain leads to health problems for the animal. Eating the correct diet leads to a healthier steer overall, with better functioning muscles and better cuts of meat.
Which Cut Is Which?
The person slicing the meat will separate a beef tenderloin into three different cuts: the head, center cut, and tail. You typically won’t see all three of these cuts unless you’re buying an entire tenderloin from a big-box store or butcher. The head cut is usually pounded for Carpaccio or cut into steaks and larger tenderloins often still have the tail.
How Much Should You Plan To Serve?
Although this can vary from guest to guest, plan to serve about 6 ounces of meat per person, which is two servings each. Beef tenderloin is lean and boneless beef cuts are expensive, so serve each guest some hearty sides, and this should be enough.
Should You Get Trimmed Or Untrimmed Beef?
Usually, grocery stores sell tenderloin both trimmed and untrimmed with the price per pound varying based on this. Untrimmed beef tenderloin typically costs less and has the silver skin and fat still intact. If you know how to use a filet knife, this can be a worthy way to save a bit of money. For the rest of us, the butcher can trim (and possibly tie) the roast, so you don’t have to worry about it.
2. Know How To Cook Beef Tenderloin
As a general rule, you should roast tenderloin between 12 and 14 minutes per pound if you want a rare steak, between 14 and 16 minutes per pound to get a medium-rare steak, and between 20 and 25 for well-done. A medium-rare roast will require about two and a half hours to cook all together, so make sure to plan accordingly.
In the following sections, we are going to assume the reader is working with never-frozen meat fresh from the fridge. Here are some other tips to observe for a great beef tenderloin:
Prep The Meat
Cooking beef tenderloin can be fairly easy but will require some special preparation. If you’re using an untrimmed cut of meat, start by trimming off any silver skin or fat. Season the beef (this is especially important for tenderloin since it’s lean and has less natural flavor than cuts with more fat).
Beef tenderloin is at risk of uneven cooking, so tie it up to prevent this. For an entire cut of tenderloin, fold under the tail and cut it off or tie with some string for even cooking.
Grill Or Roast The Tenderloin
Browning (or searing) the meat will caramelize the surface, enhancing the savory flavor. Some find that meat without a proper sear lacks flavor. Although this step isn’t absolutely necessary, many steak preparers find it a crucial part of the process. Due to the additional flavor it will add, we highly recommend it.
In a large skillet, heat your oil at a medium-high temperature, then quickly brown the meat on all sides. Next, move the roast to a shallow roasting pan on a rack. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and insert an oven-safe thermometer into the meat.
Cook it uncovered until done according to the times listed previously. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, covering it with foil and letting it sit for 15 minutes before you slice and serve it.
Instructions For Grilling Beef Tenderloin
If you’re using a charcoal grill, put a drip pan into it and arrange your medium-hot coals around it, then test for heat above the pan. Once you’ve reached medium heat, place the meat on the rack, then cover and grill.
Give 45 minutes to an hour for a two to 3-pound roast, and an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to a four or 5-pound roast at 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintain the heat by adding more charcoal if needed, then cover and let it sit for 15 minutes before you slice and serve it.
3. Choose The Right Marinade
To marinate your beef tenderloin, first, start by rinsing the meat with cold water, and then patting it dry with a paper towel. Next, mix some white vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large glass container. Use the amounts you prefer for your personal preference. You can also try out other marinade recipes and tweak them until you find what you prefer.
Place your beef tenderloin in your marinade mix, turning it over with tongs to coat the meat evenly. Cover the glass dish with foil and place it in the fridge for between eight and 24 hours. If possible, uncover the meat once an hour and turn it over, using a turkey baster to spread the solution evenly.
Other Tips For Marinating
If you prefer not to use vinegar, you can use another acidic ingredient in your marinade instead. Citrus juice, soy sauce, pineapple juice, or papaya juice can all work. Just make sure you use an enzymatic ingredient to get a juicy, tender final result.
You can add whatever spices and herbs you want to your marinade, including cayenne powder, paprika, curry, oregano, or basil. If you’d rather use vegetable oil than olive oil, that’s also fine. Don’t use more of your acidic ingredient than oil in the marinade since this can cause your meat to turn out dry.
4. Pair It With The Best Side Dish
Whether it’s a special occasion or just a friendly gathering during the week, it’s hard to beat beef tenderloin. But while the meat may be the main event, some well-chosen sides can truly complete the meal. The two most classic options are potatoes or other vegetables. There are many different ways you can prepare each to complement tenderloin beef amazingly. Let’s take a look at these below.
Fried, baked, boiled, or mashed, potatoes are always great as a side with beef. You can cook them while your steak is in the oven or on the grill, or make them ahead of time to make prep easier. Baked potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, or even roasted sweet potatoes are all tasty ideas for a beef tenderloin side dish.
A coleslaw or salad is a common choice to serve with beef. But if you’d like to try something a bit fancier, consider a different type of vegetable. You can make some roasted rutabaga, balsamic vinegar mushrooms, or garlic-roasted broccoli.
Ready To Cook The Perfect Steak?
I’m sure that reading all about ways to improve beef tenderloin has worked up your appetite. Eating beef is an excellent, delicious way to get enough protein, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients so you can stay strong and healthy. Don't be afraid to play around with various marinade recipes. Experimenting like this will help you find the perfect blend to satisfy your taste buds and please your guests. Now you have all of the necessary information to cook the ideal meat! Enjoy.