How to Cook Beef Tenderloin to Succulent Perfection
Beef tenderloin is one of the most tender, rich cuts of beef out there, and learning how to cook it will make you an instant dinner party star. Follow our step-by-step guide for cooking beef tenderloin, and we’ll show you how to cook juicy and flavorful meat that will really leave a lasting impression.
It’s true: Beef tenderloin is pricier than other options you’ll find at the meat counter, but don't let its higher price point intimidate you. Serving a beef tenderloin roast will turn any occasion into a true celebration. We won't let you overcook it! Here you'll learn how to cook beef tenderloin like a pro all the ways (think grilled beef tenderloin roasts and tenderloin steaks) so it turns out perfectly. We’ll also share some of our best beef tenderloin recipes that’ll knock the socks off everyone at the dinner table. You’ll learn how to cook beef tenderloin in the oven and on the grill, plus how to roast and grill tenderloin steaks, so there won’t be any recipe you can’t conquer.
How to Cook Beef Tenderloin Roasts
There's more than one way to cook that whole beef tenderloin (aka tenderloin roast). When handing the whole tenderloin, or at least multiple pounds of beef tenderloin, we suggest roasting beef tenderloin in the oven or grilling over indirect heat. Try it both ways, then decide the best way to cook beef tenderloin for yourself.
How to Prepare Beef Tenderloin Roasts
First, trim any fat and silver skin (the thin, pearlescent membrane running along the top of the tenderloin) from the tenderloin. For even easier prep, you can also look for a tenderloin at the store that has already had the outside fat and connective tissue removed, or ask the butcher to do it for you. Season as desired (don't skip this step!). Seasoning beef tenderloin is important because its lower fat content (compared to other cuts such as rib roasts) means less flavor. Beef tenderloin can sometimes cook unevenly; to combat that, tie it up. For a whole tenderloin, fold under the tapered end (tail) and tie with cooking twine (or cut that end off for even cooking). Timings below are based on meat removed directly from the refrigerator.
Browning the tenderloin first is optional, but it benefits the meat by caramelizing the outside and locking in the juices. Quickly brown the tenderloin on all sides in a large skillet ($56, Bed Bath & Beyond) with a little olive oil over medium-high. Transfer the roast to a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert an oven-going thermometer ($22, Target) into the center of the tenderloin. Roast, uncovered, until desired doneness according to the timings below. Transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board and cover with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. The temperature of the meat will rise as it rests. One of our favorite roasted beef tenderloin recipes is this simple recipe for oven-roasted tenderloin that needs only a handful of ingredients (plus your favorite dipping sauce).
How Long to Cook Beef Tenderloin Roasts
As you might have guessed, knowing how long to cook beef tenderloin is a key aspect of any tenderloin recipe. Follow these cook times (based on the weight of your roast) whenever you’re roasting beef tenderloin:
- For roasts that are 2 to 3 pounds, roast at 425°F for 35 to 40 minutes for medium rare (135°F), and 45 to 50 minutes for medium (150°F) doneness.
- For tenderloin roasts weighing 4 to 5 pounds, roast at 425°F for 50 to 60 minutes for medium rare (135°F), and 60 to 70 minutes for medium (150°F).
Keep in mind that these beef tenderloin cooking times might vary slightly depending on your oven. The best way to know you’re cooking beef tenderloin to the desired doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Insert an oven-going meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. When the thermometer reads 135°F, your roast will be medium rare; when it reads 150°F, your tenderloin will be medium.
How to Grill Beef Tenderloin Roasts
Grilled beef tenderloin will be just as tender as roasted, with the added deliciousness of smoky flavors from the grill. Here's how to do it:
- Prepare your charcoal or gas grill ($122, The Home Depot) for indirect heat using a drip pan. Test for medium-high heat above the drip pan.
- Medium-high heat on your grill is 375°F to 400°F, or when you can hold your hand close to cooking level for 3 seconds or less.
- Place the beef tenderloin, fat side up, on the grill rack over the drip pan ($8, Target).
- Cover and grill:
- 45 minutes to 1 hour for a 2- to 3-pound roast (135°F medium rare).
- 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes for a 4- to 5-pound roast (135°F medium rare).
- Cover with foil and let stand 15 minutes before slicing. The temperature of the meat will rise 10°F during the standing time.
How to Cook Beef Tenderloin Steaks
One clear advantage of grilling or sautéing steaks instead of cooking whole beef tenderloin? A much quicker cook time. When you want to enjoy all the tenderness of a roast without waiting for it to cook, turn to a beef tenderloin steak (aka filet mignon) recipe instead.
How to Cook Beef Tenderloin Steaks in a Skillet
Start with beef tenderloin steaks cut ¾-inch to 1-inch thick (1 inch for grilling). Trim fat from steaks. Season as desired. Timings below are based on meat removed directly from the refrigerator.
Heat skillet ($36, Target) over medium-high until hot. Add 1 Tbsp. butter; reduce heat to medium. (Or coat cool skillet with nonstick cooking spray before heating; continue as directed.) Cook, uncovered:
- 7 to 9 minutes for ¾-inch steaks to desired doneness (145°F for medium rare, 160°F for medium)
- 10 to 13 minutes for 1-inch steaks to desired doneness (145°F for medium rare, 160°F for medium)
How to Grill Beef Tenderloin Steaks
To grill beef tenderloin steaks by direct heat:
- Prepare charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium heat.
- How long to grill beef tenderloin steaks is determined by the steak thickness (see below). Grill, uncovered, turning steaks once halfway through grilling for the time given.
- 1 inch thick: 10 to 12 minutes (145°F medium rare) or 12 to 15 minutes (160°F medium)
- 1½ inches thick: 15 to 19 minutes (145°F medium rare) or 18 to 23 minutes (160°F medium)
- Remove steaks from grill; cover and let stand 5 minutes. You can also try this method with our recipe for tenderloin steaks with grilled corn relish.
To grill beef tenderloin steaks by indirect heat:
- Prepare your charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat using a drip pan. Test for medium heat above the drip pan.
- Medium heat on your grill is 350°F to 375°F, or when you can hold your hand close to cooking level for 4 seconds or less.
- How long to grill beef tenderloin steaks is determined by the steak thickness (see below). Grill, covered, for the time given.
- 1 inch thick: 16 to 20 minutes (145°F medium rare) or 20 to 24 minutes (160°F medium)
- 1½ inches thick: 22 to 25 minutes (145°F medium rare) or 25 to 28 minutes (160°F medium)
- Remove steaks from grill; cover and let stand 5 minutes.
How to Buy the Right Amount of Beef Tenderloin
Beef tenderloin is popular (and costly) because it's so tender and rich. The good news is the butcher trims the tenderloin so only the most tender meat remains, which means you’ll only have to buy as much as you need. To determine how much tenderloin to purchase, plan on four servings per pound of tenderloin.
Now that you know the best ways to cook beef tenderloin, keep these tips in mind whenever you get a hankering for a juicy herbed roast or steak. And it doesn't always have to be a special occasion. Enjoy a grilled beef tenderloin with chimichurri for a delicious dinner that only takes an hour. Or turn your salad into a meal with tender cuts of beef tenderloin steak. No matter which method of cooking tenderloin you choose, it's definitely going to be a memorable meal.