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Beef Tenderloin

THE BEST WAY TO COOK EVERYONE’S FAVORITE FANCY ROAST

Nothing beats the extravagantly buttery texture of beef tenderloin. It’s not the most flavorful cut (by a long shot), but that is easily overcome with a rich sauce or other accompaniment (we think a compound butter is best). The challenge is to expertly cook this expensive cut. Tenderloin is very lean and even slight overcooking can compromise its chief asset—its juicy, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

Creating a browned crust is almost as important. The meat itself doesn’t have much fat or flavor, and that browned exterior is key to developing the beefy notes. This crust is usually accomplished by a hard sear before the roast goes into the oven and/or a high oven temperature.

Searing in a hot skillet followed by a quick spin in a hot oven can seem to work. The crust will look well browned and the center will be pink (assuming you catch the roast at just the right moment). But there’s a serious problem lurking just below that crust. All that heat produces uneven cooking and there’s a wide band of gray meat between the crust and center of the roast. You may get the center and the exterior right, but half of each slice is dry.

The ideal slice of tenderloin is well browned around the edges but then evenly cooked—juicy and pink—from the center right to the crust. And the recipe should be goofproof—something even a novice cook could pull off. No one wants to fret about ruining the centerpiece of a special meal.

Good news. You can relax. Our recipe slows things down so overcooking is far less likely. You spent a lot of money on this roast so shouldn’t the cooking be easy?

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

Buy a Center-Cut Roast

The center-cut tenderloin, also called a Châteaubriand, comes from the middle of the whole tenderloin. The meat sits beneath the spine of the cow and gets no exercise at all, making it exceptionally tender. Adding to its appeal is that it is already trimmed, has a fairly even shape, and fits in a skillet.

Tie It Up

Tying the roast at intervals with kitchen twine makes it more compact and helps give it an even shape, which promotes even cooking.

Salt and Butter at the Outset

To enhance the beef flavor and help it hold on to its juices, salt the roast before cooking. The salt breaks down the surface proteins in the meat, allowing the salt in and drawing flavor deep into the meat. To counteract the leanness of this cut, smear the exterior with softened butter.

Roast in a Low Oven, and Then Sear

We reverse the usual cooking process for tenderloin, roasting it first and then searing it. This eliminates the ring of gray overdone meat usually found under the roast’s crust. The roast starts cooking on a wire rack in a fairly cool 300-degree oven, which minimizes the temperature differential between the exterior and interior. Once out of the oven, the surface of the meat is very dry, so it will sear very quickly—before any overcooking of the meat can occur.

Finish with More Butter

Slather the roast with a compound butter as it rests. As the savory butter melts, the heat of the roast unlocks the full flavor and aroma of the ingredients in the butter. You can spoon any melted butter on the carving board over individual slices.

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Twine cinches the roast into a uniform shape that cooks evenly, and a double dose of butter builds big flavor.

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Roast Beef Tenderloin

SERVES 4 TO 6

RECIPE DETAILS

Timeline

  • 1 hour to salt meat
  • 40 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes to roast meat (depending on desired doneness)
  • 6 minutes to sear meat on all sides
  • 15 minutes to rest meat

Essential Tools

  • Kitchen twine to tie roast
  • Wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • 12-inch skillet

Substitutions & Variations

  • We prefer kosher salt in this recipe. If using table salt, reduce salt amounts by half.
  • If you are cooking for a crowd, this recipe can be doubled to make two roasts. Sear the roasts one after the other, wiping out the pan and adding new oil after searing the first roast. Both pieces of meat can be roasted on the same rack.
  • To make a blue cheese and chive butter, crumble 1½ ounces room-temperature mild blue cheese. Combine with 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter and ⅛ teaspoon salt in medium bowl and mix with stiff rubber spatula until smooth. Fold in 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives.

Center-cut beef tenderloin roasts are sometimes sold as Châteaubriand. Ask your butcher to prepare a trimmed center-cut Châteaubriand, as this cut is not usually available without special ordering.

  • 1 (2-pound) center-cut beef tenderloin roast, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 recipe flavored butter (recipes follow)
  1. Using 12-inch lengths of kitchen twine, tie roast crosswise at 1½-inch intervals. Sprinkle roast evenly with salt, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Sprinkle roast evenly with pepper and spread unsalted butter evenly over surface. Transfer roast to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Roast until meat registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), 40 to 55 minutes, or 135 degrees (for medium), 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, flipping roast halfway through cooking.
  3. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place roast in skillet and sear until well browned on all sides, 4 to 8 minutes total. Transfer roast to carving board and spread 2 tablespoons flavored butter evenly over top of roast; let rest for 15 minutes. Remove twine and cut roast crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Serve, passing remaining flavored butter separately.

SHALLOT AND PARSLEY BUTTER MAKES ABOUT ½ CUP

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • Combine all ingredients in bowl.

CHIPOTLE AND GARLIC BUTTER WITH LIME AND CILANTRO MAKES ABOUT ½ CUP

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro chile in adobo sauce plus 1 teaspoon adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in bowl.

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