KNOW YOUR MEAT CUTS - BEEF TENDERLOIN?
A beef tenderloin (US English), known as an eye fillet in Australasia, filet in France, Filet Mignon in Brazil, and fillet in the United Kingdom and South Africa, is cut from the loin of beef.
The most tender cut of beef is the beef tenderloin and it is found within the loin. This is where we get filet mignon, which is made from the very tip of the pointy end of the tenderloin. Chateaubriand is made from the center cut of the tenderloin.
The tenderloin extends from the short loin into the sirloin. The pointy end is actually situated within the short loin, and the section in the sirloin is sometimes called the butt tenderloin. Even so, butchers will often remove the entire tenderloin and sell it whole or as individual steaks and roasts.
The beef tenderloin is an oblong muscle called the psoas major, which extends along the rear portion of the spine, directly behind the kidney, from about the hip bone to the thirteenth rib. It doesn't get much exercise, which is why the meat is so tender. It's encased in a thick layer of crumbly fat known as kidney fat or suet, which can be used in much the same way as lard.
A smaller, very skinny muscle called the psoas minor, commonly referred to as the chain, runs the length of the tenderloin and is often (but not always) removed before the tenderloin makes it to the meat case. At the other end there's another muscle, the iliacus, sometimes called the side muscle or wing muscle.
How to Cook Beef Tenderloin
Cook a tenderloin quickly over high heat (like on the grill) so that the exterior becomes nicely browned while leaving the interior juicy and medium-rare. You can also sear it in a smoking hot skillet on the stovetop, then finish it in a 450 F oven.
In terms of seasonings, high-end steaks generally don't need much more than kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. But because beef tenderloin is so lean, it can also benefit from a quick dunk in a flavourful marinade. You can also serve it with a red wine pan sauce or a buttery, silky béarnaise.
What Does Beef Tenderloin Taste Like?
The tenderloin is a lean cut with comparatively little intramuscular fat, known in culinary terms as marbling. And marbling happens to be one of the major factors in making a cut of beef moist and flavourful.
Thus, beef tenderloin dries out if you overcook it. Moreover, despite its popularity, it's not known as a particularly flavourful cut of beef, which is why you'll often see a tenderloin steak prepped with a strip of bacon wrapped around it. The bacon adds flavour and moisture to a steak that otherwise might not have enough of either.
Producing T-bone and porterhouse steaks means a portion of the tenderloin will remain in the sirloin. This rear part of the tenderloin, called the butt tender, can be extracted, trimmed, and sold as a roast or portioned into individual steaks.
The tenderloin is shaped like a pencil, with a fat end at the rear (the sirloin end) and a pointy end facing forward. This pointy tip can be a challenge to use since the shape doesn't lend itself to being made into a steak, but if it's left attached to the roast, it can easily overcook. Therefore, when you roast a whole tenderloin, you should fold the tip over and tie it to the main body of the roast.
The tenderloin tip can also be removed and used in bite-size hors d'oeuvres, on kabobs, or as stir-fry meat. Another common technique for dealing with the skinny part of the tenderloin is to cut a longer section, perhaps two inches long, and then butterfly it, which effectively produces a wider steak that's about an inch thick.
The filet mignon sits just next to the pointy tip. Where the tenderloin widens farther down, you can cut medallions. At the other end, butt tender steaks are sometimes tied with butchers twine to hold the wing muscle and the tenderloin muscle together.
Cooking With Beef Tenderloin
You can cook a whole beef tenderloin or enjoy it cut into a smaller roast or as steaks. However, you decide to prepare it, though, keep in mind that it generally tastes best at medium rare. Without a lot of interior fat, the meat turns dry and tough if it gets overcooked.
Beef tenderloin should only be cooked using dry-heat methods, such as grilling and broiling. The meat is already super tender, so long cooking times are unnecessary. Keep it quick and the heat high.