This detailed tutorial on how to make a whole roasted beef tenderloin breaks down all the important information and essential steps for serving filet mignon to a crowd. This post contains affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase. Your support is greatly appreciated!
When I used to work as a personal chef, a big part of my job was catering small, intimate dinner parties ranging anywhere from 2 to 20 guests, and more often than not, filet mignon was on the menu.
That's because it's a people pleaser. I always opted to roast the loin whole as opposed to cooking individual steaks because it's practically foolproof. Knowing how to properly roast a whole beef tenderloin is a great technique to have in your back pocket for any kind of entertaining. It's elegant, but approachable, and always gets rave reviews from the crowd.
In this post I'll teach you how to select, trim, tie, roast, cut, and serve a whole beef tenderloin, aka filet mignon. It can seem like a daunting task if you've never done it before, but I promise I'll make it as easy as can be. You got this!
How to Buy a Whole Beef Tenderloin?
Let's first address the elephant in the room: Yes, this is a very pricey piece of meat. A whole beef tenderloin can run you anywhere from $60-$300 depending on the size, quality, time, and place of purchase. The average cost for a whole, untrimmed USDA Choice Angus beef tenderloin usually falls roughly between $10-$20/lb, again, depending when and where you purchase it. When you get into the organic, grass-fed, or Prime category, expect to pay a lot more. Catch them on sale, and you can pay considerably less. In fact, the days right after a holiday like Christmas is when you'll usually find whole tenderloins on sale, making them a great option for New Years Eve.
How much should I buy? I bought this 7.09 lb loin (which is on the small side) at my local Shoprite supermarket for $12.99/lb, for a total of $99.19. After trimming, that will feed about 6-8 hungry people, or more if served as part of a buffet with other food. You should budget about 1 lb per person before trimming if serving at a sit-down dinner, and slightly less if part of a buffet. Always err on the side of more, as it's always better to have leftovers than not enough.
To Trim or Not to Trim?
Some folks choose not to trim and tie their roast, but I'm a firm believer in doing it. The upside to roasting untrimmed is that it looks bigger and ultimately will feed more people, but the downside is that most people will wind up trimming the fatty parts off themselves, leaving good meat on the plate and essentially wasting the hard-earned money you spent on this precious hunk of beef.
Trimming the meat will leave you with a smaller loin to work with, but I find it cooks more evenly and results in consistently round, extremely meaty pieces of steak with virtually nothing to cut off. When entertaining, this is especially important because it means no one is forced to awkwardly spit out a bunch of fat and connective tissue into your fancy cloth napkins.
What do I do with all those trimmings?
Well, my friends, this was perhaps my favorite part of always serving fillet mignon in my catering days. I would keep all the trimmings and then grind them into the best damn burger meat on the planet. It's very fatty, very flavorful, and very delicious. You can freeze the trimmings and save them for a later date, as chances are you'll hit your red meat quota for a little while. (I use this meat grinder and I like it very much). Pro Tip: Meat grinds easier when it's partially frozen.
This step can seem a little bit intimidating, especially when dealing with such an expensive protein, but I promise it's really not that hard. Allow me to walk you through it.
How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin?
*Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that you can always ask your butcher to do all of this for you, including grinding up the trimmings. Sometimes they will charge a fee for this, but a lot of the time they won't (always ask first). Personally, I like to be in control so I do it myself, but sometimes you just don't have the time or patience, and there is absolutely no shame in having your butcher do the heavy lifting. It's their job!
First, remove the meat from the packaging. I do this over the sink because there's usually a lot of liquid that comes out. Give it a rinse if you wish (I skip it), and then pat it very dry with several paper towels.
Next, locate the chain. The chain is a long piece of meat, fat, and connective tissue that runs down the side of the loin. You can see a noticeable separation between the main round section of meat and the more marbled, sinewy section to the side. We need to take that off. See accompanying photos below.
You should be able to separate the chain with your fingers and actually pull it off completely, but you can use your knife to help out as needed. Don't throw it away! Save all these trimmings in the freezer for enjoying at a later date.
Now you'll need to remove the silver skin, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's impossible to chew through and really takes away from the eating experience. This part can be a bit tricky, but just take your time. Use the sharpest knife you own - a boning or fillet knife is particularly useful. Turn the blade away from you, angle it slightly up, and slice along the very top of the meat, being careful to take as little of the flesh underneath as possible.
You'll find that the silver skin continues down into the meat around the fat end of the loin. Use your knife to get in there and trim it out as best as possible without hacking it up too much. It's okay to leave a little bit behind, but do the best you can. If you want to skip this step altogether, that's fine tool.
How to Tie and Season the Meat
Tying the loin with butcher's twine is important to keep it nice and compact so that it roasts evenly. There are all kinds of different techniques for tying a roast, but I find just keeping it simple is the best way. Take some butchers twine and loop it around one section, then tighten it to be firm, but not super tight, and tie it in a basic knot. Repeat every few inches.
Now it's time to season the meat. First rub all over with olive oil, then plenty of Kosher salt (do NOT be shy) and freshly cracked black pepper - the fresh part is very important. Let the meat sit like this for at least an hour at room temperature, or any longer in the refrigerator (up to over night).
How to Roast
My preferred technique for roasting a beef tenderloin is called the "reverse sear" - Low and slow at first, then a quick broil (the sear) at the end to brown the exterior. I find this gives the meat an incredibly juicy and evenly cooked center with a nice crust on the outside. I give more detailed instructions in the recipe below.
Time? Forget about it. Rely on temperature only. I can't stress this part enough: You need - and I mean NEED - a good quality probe thermometer (I like this one) to tell you exactly when your meat is at the perfect temperature. Properly roasting a tenderloin does not come down to sorcery or really even skill. It is all about having the right equipment, which will make your life soo much easier. Why would you spend over $100 on a piece of meat only to guess when it's finished cooking? Invest in the thermometer and you'll be so glad you did.
That said, you want to budget at least 2-3 hours for roasting and resting, but time will ultimately depend on the size of your loin.
The Reverse Sear Technique
Let your meat sit out at room temperature for an hour prior to roasting. This will help it to cook more evenly. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F, then plop the loin on a sheet pan. If the sheet pan is too small, you can cut the tenderloin in half, but try to avoid this if possible so you don't wind up with extra end pieces (no one really wants those). You can also opt to tuck that tail piece under and tie it it to stay secure.
Insert the thermometer into the center of the meat- not the skinniest part, not the thickest part, but somewhere right in the middle. Make sure the tip of the probe is in the center of the flesh and not near the edge, as this will cause you to undercook the meat. Program the thermometer for your desired temperature, place the sheet pan on the center rack of the oven, close the door, and let it do it's thing.
Medium rare is the best temperature to shoot for unless your crew likes it different. This is how my friends and family all like it. The skinnier pieces will be a little more well-done and the thicker pieces will be more rare so there's usually something for everyone.
Once your thermometer tells you that your meat is at the right temperature, remove the probe, then move the pan up to the top rack of the oven and turn on the broiler. At this point, don't take your eyes off of it. Allow the meat to get nicely browned on top, about 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then use a pair of tongs to turn it ¼ of the way. The goal is to let it brown on all four sides. This will add lots of flavor and give it a more attractive appearance.
*Important Note: DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT line your pan with parchment paper or else it will burst into flames the minute your turn on that broiler. Not that I know from experience or anything. Tin foil is okay if you insist.
REST. REST. REST.
This step is super important. Don't even think about skipping it. Throw some foil over that bad boy and let it sit for a good 15-20 minutes or more - never less - before slicing. Otherwise all of the juices will leach out, leaving you with dry meat sitting in a puddle of juice.
The following temperatures take into account this "reverse sear" cooking technique, which requires broiling after the temperature is taken (otherwise the extreme high heat from the broiler will throw off and damage the thermometer - I know this from experience). These numbers are lower than what you'll typically see because they account for a little extra cooking during the broiling stage, in addition to the carry-over-cooking that happens while the meat rests. Understood?
Rare: 115-120 degrees F
Medium-Rare: 125-130 degrees F (this is what I recommend)
Medium: 135-140 degrees F
Medium-Well to Well-Done: Don't waste your hard earned money on filet mignon if you're going to cook it to death. #sorrynotsorry
How to Serve
After letting the meat rest, you can cut it into thick steaks or thin slices depending on however you'd like to serve it. The meat can be served fresh and hot with one of the sauces I mention below, or it can be chilled, sliced thin and served the next day for sandwiches. I love it with lots of horseradish.
For an elegant sit-down dinner, you can't beat the French classic, bordelaise. It's a rich sauce made from shallots, red wine, pan juices, and butter. Always a crowd pleaser. Slice the meat into thick steaks, about 1 ½-2 inches, and serve it with a nice pool of bordelaise right on the plate. (recipe included below)
For a buffet, I like to go with something green and bright, like chimichuri. This iconic Argentinian sauce is made with garlic, parsley, vinegar and olive oil. It's one of our favorites because it really cuts through the meat and wakes up your mouth. Slice the meat into ½-inch medallions and serve it with the sauce on the side. (recipe included below)
So there you have it! I hope this tutorial was informative and inspiring. Leave all your burning questions in the comments below and I'll be happy to help troubleshoot if need be. Happy roasting!
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This detailed tutorial on how to make a whole roasted beef tenderloin breaks down all the important information and essential steps for serving filet mignon to a crowd.
- 1 whole beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied*
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Probe thermometer
For the Bordelaise Sauce:
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 4 large shallots, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons flour
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 cups beef tenderloin pan juices and beef stock*
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Chimichuri Sauce:
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, big stems removed, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Let your meat sit out at room temperature for an hour prior to roasting. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F, then place the loin on a sheet pan.
- Rub all over with olive oil, then rub generously on all sides with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Insert a probe thermometer into the center of the meat.
- Roast on the center rack of the oven until your desired internal temperature is reached. Rare: 115-120 degrees F. Medium-Rare: 125-130 degrees F (this is what I recommend). Medium: 135-140 degrees F.
- Remove the probe, then move the pan up to the top rack of the oven and turn on the broiler. Keep a close watch until it's nicely browned on top, about 30 seconds to a minute, then use a pair of tongs to turn it ¼ of the way. Repeat until browned on all 4 sides.
- Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for at least 15-20 minutes or longer. Slice and serve as desired with either bordelaise or chimichuri such.*
Make the Bordelaise Sauce:
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots with a pinch of salt, then cook until softened and just starting to turn golden, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in flour, then whisk in red wine and beef stock. Bring up to a simmer and cook until thickened and reduced by half.
- Set a fine mesh strainer over another saucepan, then strain the mixture, being sure to press down to extract every last bit of liquid. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as desired. Whisk in butter, then serve immediately.
Make the Chimichuri Sauce:
- Combine the shallots, garlic, and red wine vinegar in a medium bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Whisk in the olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
- Alternatively, this sauce can be made in a food processor.
- *See post for instructions on trimming and tying as well as serving suggestions.
- *If making Bordelaise, first deglaze your roasting pan with about ½ cup of water and scrape up all the brown bits. Strain into a liquid measuring cup, then supplement the rest of the way with beef stock.
Keywords: beef, meat, tenderloin, filet mignon, roasted, entertaining