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During the holidays, we like to pull out all the stops and cook up the flashiest, most indulgent (and delicious!) main courses. We've partnered with Beef. It's What's For Dinner to share some of our favorite ways to beef up our holiday dinners—and turned to one our favorite meat experts, Molly Stevens, for her tips on how to achieve meat perfection.
In the world of meat, beef tenderloin is the paragon of elegance and grace. This fine-grained roast is lean, luxuriously tender, and delicately flavored—and tenderloin is also surprisingly unfussy when it comes to cooking and serving. Whether you're looking for a well-seared crust, an evenly-cooked piece of meat, or a method that lets you step away from the oven and focus on side dishes, there's a tenderloin technique that's right for you. Your decision of how to roast and serve beef tenderloin should be determined by your desired results, your schedule, and the occasion—and we've got all the tips you need, no matter what you prefer.
If you're in a hurry (and you're a confident cook), high heat roasting—400°F and up, or 375°F and up in a convection oven—gives you a gorgeously browned crust with a distinct eye of rare to medium-rare meat in the center. High-heat roasting will give you some variance of doneness across the roast, so it's a good option if some people like their beef super rare while others like it more well done. (If everyone at your table likes their beef cooked to medium or medium-well doneness, opt for low-heat roasting; otherwise, you risk overcooking the end bits and the outside.) When it's time to carve, serve the center slices to those who relish rare meat, and reserve the end slices for the medium-well folks. The challenge of high-heat roasting is that it requires diligence, because the roast can go from perfectly done to overdone in a matter of minutes—so keep your eyes on the prize (and the oven).
A few tips for high-temperature roasting:
- Don't include a lot of other seasoning (such as herbs and spices) when seasoning the beef, because they tend to burn in the hot oven.
- Don't go past medium-rare when high-heat roasting, because the high oven temperature will quickly push the internal temperature to well-done.
- The internal temperature will continue to climb about 5 to 10 degrees as the roast rests, so take this into account when gauging doneness.
- Carve the roast into relatively thick slices (1/2- to 1/3-inch) to maintain juiciness.
Low-heat roasting— 225°F to 300°F, or 200°F to 275°F in a convection oven—will produce a roast with rosy interior that's evenly cooked all the way through, but you won't get much in the way of a well-seared crust. This method is ideal if you or your guests prefer beef cooked to medium, because the gentler oven heat insures that the roast maintains its moisture even when cooked past medium-rare. It also produces less variance in doneness temperatures than the high-heat method—meaning that the whole roast will generally be the same temp when it's finished cooking—so there's less of a roll-of-the-dice as you carve.
A few tips for low-temperature roasting:
- Low-heat roasts benefit from seasoning with herb and spice blends and pastes to make up for the fact that there won't be a dark crust. At the holidays, I like the combination of lavender and rosemary, or rosemary and fennel seeds.
- The internal temperature of the roast will not rise more than 2 or 3 degrees during resting due to the lower oven temperature, so take this into account when gauging doneness.
- Low-temperature roasted tenderloin may be sliced thinly without risk of drying out.
- Consider serving low-temperature roasted beef tenderloin at room temperature or even cool, as the gently cooked meat doesn’t suffer from being cooked ahead.
General Tips for Both Methods
- Trim away any large patches of fat and remove or clip any silverskin so there aren't long continuous bands that would shrink during roasting and cause the filet to bow.
- Tie (aka truss) the roast to help it cook more evenly—and so you'll have neater, rounder slices when it comes time to carve. With a whole tenderloin, start by tucking the thin tail under so that the roast is an even thickness the entire length, then tie the roast using a series of individual loops of twine (not the one continuous length that butchers use, because the individual loops are much easier to deal with when carving). The loops should be snug, but not so tight that the twine cuts into the meat.
- Season the roast anywhere from 4 to 24 hours before roasting with salt (and other seasonings) to improve the flavor and texture of the beef.
- Just before roasting, rub the surface with little olive oil to help prevent the lean meat from drying out and to encourage browning.
- Let the roast sit at room temperature for an hour before roasting.
- Avoid using a high-sided roasting pan that might shield the roast and interfere with browning, and instead roast on a flat roasting rack on heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan.
- Always let your roast rest for about 15 minutes before carving. Whether you tent the roast with foil or not depends on if you're roasting at low heat or high heat.
How do you like to cook a beef tenderloin? Let us know in the comments!
We've partnered with the Beef. It's What's For Dinner to share some of our favorite ways to beef up our holiday dinners.