To cook the perfect beef tenderloin, it helps to know a bit about the cut of meat itself. The tenderloin is a long, cylinder shaped muscle that runs along the spine (one on each side) of the cow. It’s the muscle that Filet Mignon are cut from. Because of its location (far from the legs), is does relatively little work, which is one of the main reasons it’s such a tender cut of meat. It’s also (again relatively speaking) a very lean cut. Largely because of the lack of fat, the meat also has a mild flavor. The fact that beef tenderloin is already so tender, and very lean, heavily influences the best ways to cook it.
Lean beef, is best cooked quickly, to rare or medium, if you want to maximize the tenderness & juiciness. Of course, if you want to cook further…go right ahead, it’s your steak, and no judgement here. Because of its mild flavor, developing a hard sear (aka a dark golden crust) on the outside, gives the beef tenderloin additional flavor, and provides a nice texture contrast for the tender center.
So, given all these elements, my preferred tenderloin cooking method, is to sear the outside over very high heat to create that sear, and finish cooking in a hot oven. You can actually follow these same steps on a hot grill; just close the grill lid to create the oven effect.
How to Cook Beef Tenderloin
- You don’t need to marinate or flavor the tenderloin at all, but sometimes, as I do this this video, I’ll rub mine with garlic and an herb like rosemary about 3 – 5 hours before cooking; and hold it in the fridge
- Take the beef tenderloin out of the fridge about hour before you’re ready to cook it, and allow it to come up to room temperature
- About 20 minutes before cooking, season the tenderloin on all sides liberally with salt and pepper
- Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees
- Heat a large, enough oven-proof pan (can you also use a pre-heated grill) over high heat, until you start to see a few wisps of smoke
- Add some oil (grapeseed is great) to the pan, and lay in the beef tenderloin to sear on the first side
- Allow it to sear for about 5 minutes until very browned, without turning it over or touching it – leave it alone to sear, rather than fiddling with it.
- After getting a deep sear, turn the tenderloin 180 degrees to sear the other side; again for about 5 minutes, and again, without touching or turning.
- Once browned rotate again, and repeat until all sides have a deep sear
- You may have to adjust the heat to keep the pan from scorching
- Once browned, move the beef tenderloin into the pre-heated oven to cook until desired doneness
- Depending on the size of the tenderloin, the oven, the pan and your preferred temperature (rare to welldone) it could take from 15 – 40 minutes in the oven.
- After about 10 – 15 minutes the tenderloin should be rare; the best way to tell when it’s done is using a meat thermometer. I like 125 for med-rare. About every 10-15 degrees further, you move from med-rare to medium and then to well done.
- You want to take the beef out when it’s about 5 degree cooler, than where you want it, as it will continue to rise a bit when out of the oven.
- Once cooked, remove the beef tenderloin from the oven, and allow it to rest for about 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving
- During that time, you can use the pan drippings to make an awesome steak sauce.
- Open a big bottle of Cabernet, and enjoy!