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Beef tenderloin is a super tender, lean cut of beef that is usually served whole or cut into filet mignon or Chateaubriand and served as a fancy steak. It's the most tender cut of beef and it only needs to be heated through. It is one of the best steaks to cook with sous vide because any overcooking starts to turn it chewy.
The beef tenderloin, or eye filet, is a long, tender muscle with cuts that are often favorites at steakhouses. These include filet mignon, Chateaubriand, and tournedos. You can also sous vide the entire beef tenderloin for a more dramatic presentation.
All of the steaks cuts (filet mignon, Chateaubriand, and tournedos) are cooked the same way. Because they are so tender, beef tenderloin cuts are usually just heated through, and are more sensitive to overcooking than any other cut of meat. Depending on the thickness, it will usually take 1 to 3 hours to heat through, and you can grab the exact time from my sous vide beef charts.
Tenderloin is very lean, which means it will overcook quickly. Because of this, I recommend going a few degrees lower than your usually preferred temperature, so it can raise slightly during the sear.
This also means that tenderloin cooked sous vide is usually much better than when cooked through traditional methods since the elimination of the "bulls-eye effect" makes a bigger difference. The sear is also slightly less important with the tenderloin since there is very little fat to render.
This leanness also means that the tenderloin cuts can be less flavorful than other steakhouse cuts. This is one reason why many classic tenderloin preparations involve rich sauces of some kind. My personal favorites are the Blue Cheese Crust or Blue Cheese Mousse, Peppercorn Cognac Cream Sauce, or the Port Demi-Glace.
Tenderloin is often the most expensive cut of beef, and I personally never buy it due to the high price and lack of flavor. However, my father hates fat and he always gets filet mignon for special occasions and loves it.
There are many different ways you can finish tenderloin and the steaks cut from it, and most of the best sous vide searing methods work great. Regardless of the method, you will want to dry it off really well with paper towels or dish towels.
Filet does overover cook quickly, so it often helps to chill it in an ice bath for 5 to 10 minutes before searing. This will give you some additional time to sear it before it starts to over cook.
The most common way to sear a filet mignon or Chateaubriand is probably in a cast iron pan. Heat the pan up until it is smoking hot, then add the steaks to it. Wait 30 seconds, turn the steak, wait 30 more seconds. Then repeat 1 to 2 more times until it is nicely seared.
Some people also like to add butter to the pan after the 1st or 2nd flip. This begins to quickly brown, and can be used to baste the meat while it is searing. You just need to be careful the butter doesn't burn.
Just remember, your sous vide filet mignon is already cooked through, so you don't want to heat it up much at all during the sear!
As opposed to the steaks, pan searing a whole tenderloin roast doesn't work as well. Because of the round shape it can be hard to get an even sear, and it can take longer.
If you do want to pan sear it, just be sure to rotate it evenly and try to hit every side. If you have a sous vide blow torch it can work wonders in conjuction with your cast iron pan. Just use the torch on the top and side while the bottom is searing. Then flip and repeat.
Finishing your steaks on the grill can be a great way to add addional flavor and a nice presentation. Just make sure your grill gets really hot, turn that sucker up to high! You don't want to raise the temperature of your tenderloin during the searing process.
The grill can work pretty good either for the filet mignon or other tenderloin steaks or the whole tenderloin. This is especially true if you have a torch to hit the sides while it is searing.
For a fun twist on the traditional roast tenderloin, I like to reheat it on the grill with some smoke.
First sous vide the whole tenderloin like you normally would. Then chill it fully. An hour or two before you are ready to eat, you can fire up your smoker and reheat the tenderloin in it. It adds great flavor to the otherwise mild meat.
When you are smoking the tenderloin, just make sure the center doesn't raise about the temperature you originally cooked it at.
If you are doing food prep, you can also take the sous vided filet mignon and chill it for later use.
Once you are ready to eat, you can reheat the filet in the sous vide machine until it is heated through and then sear it. I will also often heat it through to a lower temperature (about 5°F to 10°F or 3°C to 6°C) so I can get a longer sear on it.
When it comes to sous vide filet mignon or beef tenderloin, the biggest benefit is that you know it will turn out perfectly cooked. The tenderloin is often the most expensive cut of the cow, and it can be stressful worrying about whether you are cooking it right. With sous vide, you remove all the stress, and you can just enjoy your dinner!
Tenderloin also tends to toughen up very quickly as it overcooks. In my opinion, this makes sous vide the perfect way to cook it.
Because tenderloin is so tender already, it only needs to be heated through. You can get the exact time of how long it takes to heat beef through.
However, because sous vide is pretty forgiving, you don't need to be exact! It takes about an hour and a half per inch of thickness, though you can cut that time down if you are fine with it heating a degree or two below the bath temperature.
I usually just toss my steaks in for 2 to 3 hours, or a whole tenderloin for 3 to 5 hours and it turns out great!
Nope! You can sous vide filets directly from the freezer. It'll add about 50% to the cook time, and shouldn't hurt the quality in any way at all!
When people say you "can't overcook filet mignon", what they really mean, is that no matter how long you sous vide it, it will never get above the temperature you are cooking it at.
That said, the longer you cook it, the more tender it gets. This can work magic with something like sous vide short ribs, but tenderloin is already very, well...tender. Any additional tenderizing isn't needed, and it pretty quickly will become too tender.
We still aren't talking about worrying about the cooking time down to the minute though. Most filets will be perfectly fine if they go an extra hour or two. But after that, you will slowly start to see a reduction in the quality of the meat.
Many people use the terms filet mignon and beef tenderloin interchangeably, but that's not completley accurate. Beef tenderloin is the entire primal muscle, what most people picture when they think of a "tenderloin roast".
That tenderloin primal can be cut up into steaks, which are most commonly filet mignon, Chateaubriand, and tournedos.
The tenderloin is located in the short loin and sirloin primals, though it is more tender than the other cuts there. Once the meat is cut into steaks it can have many different names.
Filet mignon and Chateaubriand both come from the "center cut" section.
If the section is left whole, or cut into in very thick steaks it is Chateaubriand. Sous vide Chateaubriand is amazing, because it is the largest cut and is ofter much thicker since it leaves a large part of the muscle whole. Sous vide ensures that it is evenly cooked all the way through.
Filet mignon usually comes from the same section as the Chateaubriand (though in America we often refer to any tenderloin steak as a filet). The filet mignon is just cut thinner, often 1 to 2 inches thick. You can still get a big benefit from sous vide, since it still ensures perfect cooking.
The tournedos are cut from the narrow end of the tenderloin. The are often much smaller and thicker than filet.
The wider end of the tenderloin is usually used for carpaccio and served rare.
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Do you have experience cooking tenderloin? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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Here are several of the Beef Tenderloin recipes that I recommend trying out.