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Roasted Beef Tenderloin
a.k.a. Heaven on a Fork

Sigh. Beef Tenderloin. You've tasted it, right? Oh, believe me, if you have, you'd remember it. If you haven't, this is the first day of the rest of your life. Beef tenderloin, or "eye fillet," as it's known in other parts of the world, is cut from the middle of a cow. The tenderloin come from the spine area, and hangs between the shoulder blade and hip socket. This muscle tissue doesn't do too much, so it's the most tender part of the cow. The meat is absolutely, positively, the softest, most buttery-textured meat on earth. And it's why I'm no longer a vegetarian.

Ladies and Gents, I present to you...Beef Tenderloin. This piece of tenderloin is also known as the tenderloin "butt" piece. A whole beef tenderloin is this piece plus a longer, narrower piece off the left side. But often, butchers sell this most desireable part all by itself. A whole beef tenderloin is delightful, too---the end piece is thinner and get much more done than this thick center, so if you have a lot of whimpy beef eaters that don't like any pink, it can come in handy. But for this recipe, and because this is the form in which it's commonly sold, we'll use the butt portion.

The butt pieces are generally around 4 to 5 pounds. If you were to get a whole tenderloin, it would be in the 7 pound range. And tenderloin AIN'T cheap; definitely something to save for a special occasion, like Uncle Jimmy's retirement or Aunt Mabel's parole.

Unwrap the meat from the plastic or paper wrapping and rinse well. Now, see all that fat on top? We're going to trim away a some of that in order to remove the silvery cartilage underneath. It's really tough and needs to go. So let's get to work, shall we?

With a very sharp knife, begin taking the fat off the top, revealing the silver cartilage underneath. Now cut off the cartilage, pulling with one hand and cutting with the other. I was in a hurry and was getting a little meat, too, but if you're more meticulous and careful, you'll avoid doing that.

This process, while arduous, can also be pretty satisfying...

...Especially when the fat is cooperative and comes off in nice, long pieces, like an apple core on a good day. See the silvery skin underneath? That's what we need to get rid of.

Just keep going; you definitely don't want to take every last bit of fat off---not at all. As with any cut of meat, a little bit of fat adds to the flavor. Just focus on the big chunks so they won't ruin your tenderloin experience. And make no mistake about it...tenderloin is an experience.

Now it's Marlboro Man's turn. These are his hands. Sometimes I like for him to take over halfway through, because I'm flighty and get bored very easily, which is why I have seventeen unfinished needlepoint projects in the closet of my childhood home. I always liked doing the colorful designs, but when it came time for the plain background, I always cut and ran.

Or is it cut and runned?

Marlboro Man does a better job, anyway. Those hands can do just about anything.

There's an oblong piece of meat on the side of the loin, and sometimes Marlboro Man slices into it to remove some more of that tough, silvery skin. And again, no need to go crazy, just get the cartilage.

When you're finished, you'll have a nicely trimmed tenderloin and a yummy pile of fat for your favorite pet. Some people like to leave a little more fat than this, and that's just fine. As long as you get rid of the silver cartilage, you're good to go. (Hint, you can also ask the butcher to do this trimming for you if the process seems intimidating.)

Now it's time to season the meat. IMPORTANT POINT: When you're seasoning a tenderloin, you have to remember that it will be sliced after it's cooked. So you're talking about a much smaller surface area--just the rim surrounding the piece---for seasonings than, say a regular steak, which you'd season on both sides. So you can much more liberally season a tenderloin, because you're having to pack more of a punch in order for the seasoning to make an impact. Start with Lawry's Seasoned Salt. If you live outside of America, any good salt blend will do. (For the record, I think Lawry's has salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika in it, among other things.)

Sprinkle meat generously with Lawry's.

Rub it in with your fingers.

Now take Lemon & Pepper seasoning, Marlboro Man's favorite.

And sprinkle both sides generously.

Now, I like to prepare my tenderloin "au poivre" or with a dang lot of pepper. I like to use whatever tri-colored peppercorns I can find. They're widely available in grocery stores these days, or you can find an old jar from a Williams Sonoma gift basket your punk kid sister gave you eight years ago in the back of your spice cabinet like I did.

Peppercorns don't get old, do they?

I mostly use these peppercorns for the varied colors, but you could easily use all black peppercorn if that's all you have.

In any event, place the peppercorns in a Ziploc bag.

Now, with a mallet or a hammer or a large, heavy can, begin smashing the peppercorns to break them up a bit.

If you're angry at the IRS or your car repair technician or your librarian, this would be a great time to release all of that hostility. Just let it go. And don't forget to breathe.

No need to go nuts on the poor peppercorns; just break 'em up a bit. When you're finished, set them aside.

Now, heat some olive oil in a heavy skillet. This is my iron skillet, my best friend in the kitchen next to Hyacinth.

When the oil is to the smoking point, place the tenderloin in the very hot pan to sear it. The point here is to give the meat some nice color before putting it into the oven, and to seal in the juices. I haven't decided if the whole sealing in the juices part is an old wives' tale, but it sure sounds legit.

After I put the meat into the pan, I throw a couple of tablespoons of butter into the skillet, to give it a nice little butter injection before going in the oven. (If I'd heated the butter with the olive oil, the house would now be filled with black smoke, which I normally wouldn't mind but I wanted to behave myself for the purposes of this post.)

A minute or two later, when one side is starting to turn nice and brown...

Turn it over to the other side.

A couple of minutes later, when the other side is also brown, remove from the skillet and place on an oven pan with a rack. Now it's time to start sprinkling the pummeled peppercorns all over the meat.

Press the pepper onto the surface of the meat.

Go ahead and get it all over your hands. It'll make you look like a really serious chef.

Now, because this is The Pioneer Woman Cooks! and NOT Cooking Light!, put several tablespoons of butter all over the meat. It'll gradually melt as the beef cooks and you'll thank me when you're old and gray and sitting around remembering that delicious beef tenderloin that Pioneer Lady Gal forced you to make. Trust me.

IMPORTANT (and cheap) KITCHEN TOOL: The Meat Thermometer. You can get one at any grocery store and when it comes to beef tenderloin, you don't want to be without it. See, tenderloin is an expensive cut of beef, and if you overcook it, it's all over. You'll hate yourself and have to move to another state. A meat thermometer is the only way to scientifically ensure that you won't throw $60 down the drain.

Stick the long needle of the thermometer lengthwise into the meat, so it will get a representative read of the internal temperature. Leave the thermometer in place while cooking. I always take out my tenderloin just before it reaches 140 degrees, keeping in mind the meat will continue to cook for several minutes after you remove it from the oven. Remember, you can always cook a too-rare piece of meat a little more; but once it's too done, there's nothing you can do.

Now place it in a 475-degree oven until the temperature reaches just under 140 degrees.

It should just take about fifteen to twenty minutes to cook. Stay near the oven and keep checking the thermometer to make sure it doesn't overcook. (Have I mentioned how important it is not to overcook tenderloin?)

Let meat stand ten minutes or so before slicing, so the meat will have a chance to relax a bit.

Sometimes I like to spoon the olive oil/butter juices from the skillet onto the top of the meat, just for a little extra flavor and cellulite.

Oh, baby. This is it. These end pieces are a little more done (they're about medium rare) than the middle pieces (more rare) will be, but that's good. There's always someone in the crowd who doesn't like it too rare.

And don't worry one bit: rare tenderloin is very safe to eat. And it tastes best that way. 

Keep slicing away according to the number of mouths you have to feed, and save the leftover piece for the fridge. HINT: Cold beef tenderloin is even better than freshly cooked tenderloin. It's one of the big mysteries of this life.

Here's another view. Different light. Different angle. Same delectable meat, baby.

See this? Take a good, hard look. It's Heaven. Heaven on a Fork.

Now go forth into the world and roast tenderloin! It's the most delicious thing in the world.

Comments! Mmmmmmmmm

But how can any breakfast compare to beef tenderloin?

Thanks again for a great recipe!

MMMmmmm.... yummy! I gotta go get me one of those. The first time I cooked a tenderloin for a big dinner party (no trial run for this girl, I like to live dangerously), I was a young new mother in my first house and we were having 18 for an overnight New Years extravaganza. No detail left overlooked. I go to the me a tenderloin and ask the butcher how long to cook it and he says 45 minutes. "A POUND??!!" I shreik? He proceeds to roll his eyes and says "No (the you idiot is implied here), total." It is so funny to think back to that........ I love your recipies, simple but fantasitc. Tho I do have one question. Do cowboys not get hardening of the arteries because of all that hard work? :)

I have been looking for a good beef tenderloin recipe! I just woke up a few minutes ago but heck, I'm already craving a good old chunk of medium-rare BEEF. *grins*
Thanks for posting, Ree!

Ree, you sear the outside so it'll get caramelized and have a lovely flavor (the Maillard reaction). Searing actually causes the proteins to squeeze the water out of the meat - which is why you sear it and then put it in the oven to cook low & slow.

And that looks DELICIOUS. I do believe it's going on my partay list.

No printable recipe link? I really want to try this, but running back and forth from the computer to my kitchen is not an option. :)

I have never before had the nerve to buy and cook a beef tenderloin, too afraid I'd mess it up and waste all that money. I now have the courage, thanks to you....not the money, mind you, but the courage! ;-)

Stupid question, but I've never used a meat thermometer....... Does the thermometer stay in the oven while it cooks, or do you just keep checking it? I need a class in meat 101.

me. eat. now.

jesus you make pretty food, ree.

Have you ever tried that pre-marinated tenderloin in a bag? It's not bad, but now I have to wonder if I'm missing something.

Holy crap, do I really have any choice now but to go and blow $60 on a tenderloin??


Wow. Looks yummy. With the Lawerys and Butter I assume no heart disease in your family?

Have you ever used Herbs d Provence as a dry rub with olive oil on red meat? Great great flavoring alternative for families that can't use salt and buttah because of health issues. Try may never go back to Lawreys. And with Morton and Bassett spices available in the supermarkets it is easy and affordable too.

That looks fantastic. I've always wondered how to get the most tender beef roast. :D

Question: How do you care for your cast iron skillet? I've heard so many do's and don't about those things over the years that I have no idea what to do. I've heard no soap should be used and all kinds of stuff. Any wisedom you have on the matter would be greatly appreciated. :D


oh my. looks to die for!!!

Oh I'm so glad you identified the hands! That's been bothering me. I'm weird like that, I know.

I had to laugh when I saw the value priced lemon pepper going onto a $60 piece of tenderloin. Nothing against lemon pepper, but I think after spending that much on the meat it may be all you can afford. All joking aside, it looks well worth the price and this is coming from a non-red meat eater. Thanks for all of the great recipes.


Uh...your blog is AWESOME.

And looking at all the beefy goodness makes me wanna cry. (Those butter chunks also make me weep with happiness.) Oh sweet juicy meaty jesus.

beautiful photography! i will be trying out this heaven on a fork! i've never been able to make a roast...but with step by step it should turn out!

oh, my god! please feed me NOW!

I think I'll make this on Sunday....Time for a second mortgage!

...and I was actually considering vegetarianism. LOL!

Ree, you, you, you...

try the tenderloin, but rub it with a mixture of brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, kosher salt, black pepper, dry mustard, and turn it into a paste by mixing it with worstershire sauce. no need to sear. the great part is after it comes outta the oven, the sugar hardens a little bit, and it's amost candy like. great stuff!

When you show your meat that you purchase -- I always wonder why you don't butcher your own. Where is the white wrapping paper? LOL

It would probably be cheaper than $14.99/lb... and taste better too. ;)

THANKS for the recipe -- looks delish!

We bought a 1/2 cow a while back and saved the prime rib for Thanksgiving. Oh me... yummy!

Is Marlboro Man going to be okay when you are scooped up by The Food Network and forced to work in a big city so you can shoot your own cooking show? Would he be able to give up the ranch?

Ree, kept waiting for Cynthia to finish her post with a "DUMBTURKEYHELLBUTT" -- HAHAHA! Looks good -- more peppercorns, please!!!

Get. in. my. belly.

I love bearnaise sauce!
I use Knorrs mix.
It's perfect with tenderlion.

Thanks for the recipe and the photos and the laughs.

Yum! Your recipes are awesome! Can I make a request? Could you do a blog entry sometime on where, when and how you learned to cook?

I showed the first picture to my husband last night and I swear he started drooling. ;)

The words "Aunt Mabel's parole" made me laugh the kind of laugh that makes you live longer.

Beef tenderloin. Two words that make your taste buds stand up and shout " Yes, yes, this is why we were invented!!" I concur, rare is better. You won't be sorry - promise. The flavor is much better if it is rare.

WOW! You are my kind of girl. I just discovered your site somehow on typepad. I think the pioneer thing caught my eye. I blog and also have a cooking site that I haven't posted on in a long time but you've inspired me to do better. I am also very into photography but need to take a class and become much better. So I found your site(s) very entertaining. Just curious if you've ever used any pampered chef products. I was reading your tenderloin blog and I sell pampered chef stuff. Wanted to reccommend the meat tenderizer. We also have two great thermometers. I liked your old tenderizer and masher that you have, that's so cool. Anyways..I'm also not very into my pampered chef business so this isn't a sales pitch at all just a reccommendation if you check out the products, they could make your life easier. Love the site. I will now follow it. Keep on crackin me up!! Oh my website is

I watched on Food Network's version of myth busters that searing a hunk of meat in a pan before cookin it in the oven to "seal in the juices" IS IN FACT an old wives' tale. Two hunks of meat were cooked that were weighed prior, one was seared then thown in the oven, the other just thrown in the oven. They both were left there till the same temperature was reached, and taken out and weighed. The one that wasn't seared weighed more (because more juices were still intact). But it DOES make it look awful pretty.

This, Ree, is EXACTLY why we grow a steer out for ourselves instead of sending every last one off to market! We never see the relative cost of each of the cuts -- the custom butcher charges the same to cut and wrap the tenderloin as he does the hamburger, about 35 cents a pound. I about died the first time I had to buy beef at the store! Heh.

That whole searing the meat thing was pretty much debunked by Alton Brown. But he does agree that it makes a nice tasting sear on the outside.

Why do people insist on covering wonderful cuts of meat with cheap seasonings?

Try it with only salt and pepper.

I'm old and dilapidated, but I swear you're going to finish me off 20 years early with this stuff.


I guess if you mix salt and pepper, it becomes a cheap seasoning?

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