Beef tenderloin is a classic choice for either a special dinner or an everyday lunch. It’s also being considered a tender piece of meat that can be eaten with a wide variety of sides. But, for best result, you should avoid these 5 common beef tenderloin cooking mistakes.
Cooking can seem intimidating if you don't know some basics. Even when you start to learn this and that, you may realize there are still so many things you don’t know! Why am I telling you this? Because I used to think that I knew enough things about cooking beef.
I used to roast beef tenderloin with no emotions. I ate it even if it was overcooked or if it had small white wires that I couldn’t chew. I didn’t know at that time the pleasure of eating it cooked to perfection. But, after you eat a nice well-seasoned medium-rare piece of meat, your expectations grow. At least that's the way it happened to me.
A beef tenderloin is cut from the loin of the beef, which is the most tender part. That’s why it’s used so often in the kitchen. When it’s whole, it has two ends: the butt and the ‘tail’ - the smaller, pointed end. But the tenderloin can be cut for either roasts or steaks.
When you cook for yourself and your special someone, it’s easy enough to make some steaks. Steak tenderloin can be cooked for a romantic dinner as well as for a regular lunch. But when you have guests, you roast the entire piece of meat. Beef tenderloin is a classic choice for either every day or a special meal. But, when you’re a beginner cook, it’s not that easy to make it properly. So, what were the beef tenderloin cooking mistakes I was making?
5 beef tenderloin cooking mistakes to avoid
1. Not trimming it properly
Beef tenderloin has a thick layer of white-silvery connective tissue running along its surface. It’s called ‘silver skin’ and never becomes tender, it doesn’t matter how you cook it. When you buy the whole tenderloin, you can have it either ‘unpeeled’ (with the fat and silver skin on it), ‘peeled’ (the fat is removed, but silver skin remains), or as PSMOs (‘pismos’, which is short for peeled, silver skin removed, and side muscle left on).
If you buy it PSMOs style, then you don’t have to do much. But that means the meat will be more expensive, because the butcher does most of the work, and it’s less of an effort for you.
If you choose the cheapest option – unpeeled – you can do the work: use a thin, flexible knife to cut and remove all of the silver skin and the fat of the tenderloin.
2. You’re not tying up the meat
The three main parts of the beef tenderloin are the butt, the center, and the tail. When you buy steaks, they’re cut from the center of the tenderloin, because they’ll have more or less the same diameter. But if you want to roast the whole beef tenderloin, what are you going to do with the tail, which is thinner, and cooks faster (resulting in an overcooked piece of meat)? The answer is tying up the meat.
When you cook beef tenderloin, the shape of the meat is important. If the thickness and size differ from one steak to another or from one end to the other of the meat, that’s not a good thing. Thinner pieces will overcook, while thicker pieces will end up too rare.
When cooking a whole beef tenderloin, tuck its end under itself and then tie the whole thing up so that it is the same thickness all the way around.
3. Not seasoning it well
On its own, beef tenderloin isn’t very flavorful. Not seasoning or lightly seasoning the meat means that it’ll be tasteless and uninteresting.
Salt your tenderloin generously all over its surface and leave it to stand at least 40 minutes to an hour before cooking. That will bring its moisture out to the surface, and the salt will penetrate the meat. It’s better to use kosher or sea salt.
For extra flavor, use dried herbs, spices, or crushed garlic. Unlike salt, use them right before you start cooking.
4. Overcooking it
The tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of meat, but it has no fat in it, and that means overcooking it will result in a dry, tough meat. That's one of the most common beef tenderloin cooking mistakes.
Some say beef tenderloin is best served rare or medium rare, but that’s only up to you. The best way to cook your meat properly is to use a thermometer to make sure it doesn't get cooked past 130°F/54°C in the center (for medium-rare).
If you prefer your meat less well done or more well done, keep in mind that: 120°F/48.8°C = Rare; 130°F/54.4°C = Medium rare; 140°F/60°C = Medium; 150°F/65.5°C = Medium well, 160°F/71.1°C = Well done.
For steaks cooked on the stove, use a skillet heated over a medium-high heat, and sear the steaks for 1 minute on each side. Then lower the heat to medium and cook for an additional 4 to 5 total minutes, flipping the steaks occasionally, for medium rare or well done.
5. You’re not letting it rest
When cooking it, it’s important to avoid beef tenderloin cooking mistakes. So remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook it and let it come up to room temperature. But it’s equally important to let it rest after cooking it.
When the beef is cooked to your taste, take the baking tray out of the oven, transfer the beef to a board, and let it rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tin foil and a tea towel and set aside. If you cut your roasted tenderloin right after it's been cooked, all of the delicious juices will flow out on your plate or on your cutting board, instead of tenderizing the meat. If you cut your tenderloin too soon, it’ll be dry and have less flavor.
Your steaks should also rest, but only for a few minutes in a warm place. The juices will be reabsorbed into the meat, and that will give it flavor and softness.