5 Ingredients or Fewer

Steven Raichlen's Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Grilled in Cloth (Lomo al Trapo)

June 25, 2021
6 Ratings
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

This method, traditional to Colombia, combines two genius techniques to great effect: grilling in the coals and salt-crusting. Each does wonders for beef tenderloin, which Raichlen admits is "normally a pretty boring piece of meat." Adapted slightly from Planet Barbecue. (Workman Publishing Company, 2010) —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 center cut piece of beef tenderloin, meticulously trimmed of all fat and silver skin (about 6 inches long and weighing 12 to 16 ounces)
  • 2 cups salt (we used Diamond Crystal kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Special equipment: 1 piece of clean cotton cloth, approximately 16 inches square, dipped in cold water and wrung out slightly
  • Twine (optional)
  1. Arrange the cotton cloth on a work surface on the diagonal (like a diamond), so that one corner points down toward you. Spread the salt out on top of the cloth to form a layer 1/4 inch thick that extends to within 1 inch of the edge of the cloth. Sprinkle the oregano evenly over the salt.
  2. Place the beef tenderloin on top of the salt at the far end of the cloth. It should run parallel to the center axis (and to your shoulders). Roll the cloth and salt around the tenderloin, starting in the far corner. The idea is to make a compact roll. Now take the points of cloth at each end of the resulting cylinder and tie them together on top of the tenderloin. Alternately, secure the roll with twine.The idea is to form a tight cylindrical packet. You should do this right before your charcoal or gas grill are ready.
  3. Charcoal grill method: Light the coals in a chimney starter and rake them out into an even layer at the bottom of the grill. You will not need a grill grate. Lay the wrapped tenderloin right on the coals, knot side up. Grill for exactly 9 minutes. Using long handled tongs, gently turn the tenderloin package over and grill for exactly 8 minutes. Do not be alarmed if the cloth burns; it's meant to. In fact, the whole shebang should look about as appetizing as a fire-charred log.
  4. Gas grill method: Preheat your grill as hot as it will go. There is no need to oil the grill grate. Arrange the cloth-wrapped tenderloin on the grate, knot side up. Grill until the bottom is charred black, about 9 minutes. (The grill should be covered.) Using long-handled tongs, urn the package over and grill until the other side is jet black, about 8 minutes.
  5. Use an instant-read thermometer to test the tenderloin for doneness, inserting through the cloth and the salt into the center of the meat. When cooked to rare, the internal temperature will be about 125 degrees F; to medium-rare, 140 to 145 degrees F.
  6. Transfer the charred tenderloin to a metal platter or rimmed sheet pan and let rest for 2 minutes. Lift the tenderloin with tongs and tap it hard with the back of a large, heavy chef's knife. The burnt shell should crack and come off. Using a pastry brush, brush any excess salt off the tenderloin. Transfer the tenderloin to a clean platter, cut it into 2 to 4 pieces and serve at once.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Scott Basye
    Scott Basye
  • Steve
  • Kerri Lynch Uribe
    Kerri Lynch Uribe
  • Melissa Case
    Melissa Case
  • LizTerry
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

35 Reviews

agnuvo June 25, 2021
Almost every recipe for this I can find specifies a beef tenderloin. I was curious to see if this cooking method would work for other cuts of meat and even vegetables. So far I have tried a beef eye of round, several pork tenderloins, a boneless leg of lamb an ear of corn, a russet potato and a sweet potato. Since I have been able to find no recipes online for any of those other objects, I had to make a guess for the cooking times for each of them. The results have been mixed but I can definitely report that once I've done more trial-and-error testing to determine the optimum cooking times for each item, this would appear to be an ideal method to cook just about anything. Each of the pork tenderloins I've done so far has been simply divine. I've soaked the cloth (I use cut up pieces of old bed sheets) in both wine an beer and seasone the salt with mince fresh garlic, sprigs of fresh rosemary, oregano, chili flakes pepper and thyme in various combinations and given it about 6 to 8 minutes per side on the hot coals and each time it has been nothing less than magnificent. Hands down, the best method of cooking a pork tenderloin I have ever tried. The eye of round, because it is a tougher cut of meat, was somewhat tough, as expected but the flavor was superb and cut into slices and sauteed for a moment in a pan on the stove to tenderize and served with mashed potatoes & gravy was magnificent. The lamb, wrapped in a beer soaked cloth and the salt seasoned with garlic & fresh mint sprigs ended up being a good bit under cooked at ten minutes per side. Next time I'll try 15 minutes per side, but here again, the flavor was phenomenal and I finished it in the oven with fine results. Most interesting was the vegetables. With nothing but a guess to go by for the cooking times, I did them all at the same time (wrapped separately) for 15 minutes per side. The ear of corn (husks removed) ended up being over done and partially charred. The part that was un-charred though was amazing... such beautiful flavor ! I'll try 10 minutes per side next time and it should probably be just about perfect. The sweet potato ended up being perfectly done - 15 minutes per side was optimal. The russett potato was slightly under done in the middle and probably would have been perfectly baked with 3 to 5 more minutes per side. In short, everything I've tried so far has either been perfect or probably could be perfect with getting the optimal cooking times nailed down.
Scott B. June 25, 2019
What is 'cotton cloth'?
Steve July 9, 2016
Would this work with a cut like Tri-Tip?
Pilar O. November 20, 2015
Hello dear friends, I'm Colombian and this dish is very traditional in my country, (We call this Lomo al Trapo) just use your fireplace load with quality wood and put your tenderloin with cloth drench in wine, sea salt, tie! Open perfect Malbec (Argentinean wine) and enjoy! Happy Holydays...!
Kerri L. June 16, 2015
hi there, i am in colombia and i heard the original cooking method is on wood embers, which i plan on using, has anyone done this and will that change the flavor of the beef?
Mike S. September 6, 2015
I cook rib eye steaks and tried tip directly on the wood coals. It's called caveman style here in Texas!
Clau December 29, 2014
Any suggestions where to buy the cotton cloth in Toronto?
Kristen M. December 31, 2014
I don't know stores in Toronto, but any old dishcloth that you're ready to part with will work. I've even seen people cut the leg off of an old pair of jeans!
danielle September 22, 2014
Be careful not to wet the dish cloth too much! Also, no one seemed to comment on how long to let the beef be salted/seasoned before hitting the gill. I have used the salt method many times before and found that any length of time over 20 min gets way too salty. I did add garlic and rosemary which was very nice.
Melissa C. February 23, 2014
Oh. My. GOODNESS. I made this last night--did a whole tenderloin for a crowd--and it was absolute perfection. I used sprigs of fresh oregano and the flavor they lent to the meat was divine. A wonderful recipe; thank you!
littlesister December 21, 2014
Hi, I'm thinking of doing this for a crowd as well, using a 7lb tenderloin. Wondering how you adjusted your cooking time based on the weight. Should I just cut into into several pieces instead? Any suggestions welcomed!
LizTerry January 1, 2014
Loved this! My sister lives in Hong Kong and someone did something like this. She told me bout the method and I found this recipe. We did it with fresh rosemary instead. Great method.
BBQKingWannabe July 22, 2013
Another traditional method involves soaking the cloth in red wine prior to cooking which sounds god as well!
eatwell April 7, 2013
We tried this last night and it turned out beautifully, despite our gas tank running out about 5 minutes into the cooking process which we didn't notice until we went to flip. Just changed the tank and resorted to our meat thermometer! It was beautiful. Wish we would have known to cook a bigger piece of meat in one dish cloth. We separated a three pound tenderloin into three packets and the biggest problem we had was deciding which dish cloths to live without! What a fun dinner party recipe!! :-)
lem August 30, 2012
can this been done in an oven?
Kristen M. September 3, 2012
I haven't tried it in an oven, but please let us know if you try it! It would take longer, but it might work well. See gas grilli method above (step 4) for pointers and be sure to keep an eye on the internal temperature (step 5).
barr August 19, 2012
I made this last night and have to say it was really good. It gave flavor to a cut of meat that is usually just a textural experience. I used huge branches of oregano from my garden and it infused the meat with a heady flavor.
ChefDan August 17, 2012
Could I do this with a pork tenderloin? How would that change the cooking time?
Kristen M. September 3, 2012
Sorry for the delay, ChefDan. I haven't tried it with a pork tenderloin, but I'd start with half the time and start checking for an internal temperature of 140 degrees F. Let us know if you try it!
Rebecca M. August 15, 2012
This tenderloin was the most amazing piece of beef i ever made. i prepared a much larger piece almost 8 pounds and cooked it on a gas grill on high. The temperature of the grill read 475 degrees. It took the tenderloin 35 minutes to medium rare. Red in the center. It was perfect. I also substituted the oregano for fresh rosemary and the flavor infused beautifully. I will definitely make this again. Thanks for the recipe!
biscuit August 14, 2012
Do you need to use a chimney starter? We have a Big Green Egg and have never used (so therefor purchased) a chimney starter.
Kristen M. August 14, 2012
If you can get hot coals, you're set!
Victoria P. August 12, 2012
Should I close the lid when using a charcoal grill? You only mention the lid when using a gas grill.
Kristen M. August 12, 2012
No need to close the lid on a charcoal grill (we didn't).
sharii August 12, 2012
I don't like oregano. What other spice would work well?
Kristen M. August 12, 2012
Another commenter mentioned cutting slits in the tenderloin and pushing in sliced garlic, which sounds great. Anchovy could be added that way too. Lots of other herbs or spices could work -- I might try smoked paprika or dried marjoram.
Rima August 12, 2012
This sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing! Do we wet or dampen the cloth first?
Kristen M. August 12, 2012
Yes, thanks for asking! Just added a detail that had gone missing to the recipe.
JenJack August 12, 2012
If you wanted to serve 6 people, could you use a slightly larger tenderloin? Or should I just make 2 smaller packets? Thanks!
Kristen M. August 12, 2012
Yes, go ahead and use a slightly larger (longer) piece of tenderloin in one packet -- it shouldn't change the cooking time, but I'd check with an instant read thermometer to be safe. Have fun!