Beef tenderloin, fillet, filet or eye fillet is a cut of meat from the loin part of beef. It consists of very tender meat used for making dishes such as steak tartare. The flavorful cut is a very popular one, and expensive too. Its oblong shaped cut spans the sirloin and short loin, and lies below the ribs, near the backbone. It small pointed end is called tail, which increases in thickness to reach the other end near the sirloin. The tenderloin can be divided into three parts, namely the center cut, tail and butt. The center cut has relatively consistent width, and can yield tenderloin steak or filet mignon. Grilled beef tenderloin is often served with a seasoning of black pepper and garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Too much seasoning is not preferred as it may suppress the original flavor of the meat. Beef tenderloin is called fillet in Britain, filet in Germany and France, and eye fillet in Australia and New Zealand.
Preferred Cooking Methods
- Grilling: This is a common method adopted, and this is best done by tying it into a round roast to help it cook evenly. The meat is first seared at medium heat till it attains a light brown surface, after which it is subjected to indirect grilling and then finished at low heat. Grilling is easier when done in the form of steaks rather than the whole tenderloin. The steaks are seared over high temperature and then in lowered heat.
- Roasting: The method for this is similar to roasting, wherein a spice mix may be applied to the meat’s surface after which it is seared in oil in a heated skillet, and then roasted on a roasting pan.
- Sautéing: Medallions, or circular portions of beef tenderloin, can be cooked by sautéing on medium-high heat in a skillet with a small amount of heated oil, cooking to medium-rare, medium or medium-well finish as per requirement, on either sides.
Popular Beef Tenderloin Recipes
- Steak Tartare: This is made by marinating beef steak in wine, and treating it with spices, and then chilling it. It may also be made with minced raw beef. It is served with accompaniments such as vegetables, rye bread and egg. It is said that the dish has been named after the Tartar people of Central Asia who ate raw meat as they had no time to cook.
- Beef Stroganoff: This is often made of the tail or narrow end of the beef tenderloin, and is a Russian dish consisting of sautéed beef served in a sauce which is made of sour cream of Smetana. It is known to have been invented in the 19th century in Russia. It may be served in a stew or a creamy sauce over foods such as rice. Many variations are prepared in different countries like USA, Australia and UK.
- Grilled Beef Tenderloin in Creamy Sauce or Seasoning: A rich creamy sauce can be served over grilled beef tenderloin, such as a mushroom sauce containing half and half and cream cheese and flavoring of garlic and parsley. The grilled tenderloin with sauce can be served over rice or alongside grilled vegetables of one’s choice. A light seasoning mix such as one made with vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, tarragon, pineapple juice and pepper may also be served with the grilled beef tenderloin. Some recipes involve marinating the tenderloin in a herb and spice mix and then grilling it, after which it can be served with sauce. Lime juice, honey, ginger, curry powder, wine and stock are often used for preparing various Asian marinades.
Buying and Storing
Tenderloins are sold as unpeeled, or with silver skin remaining and fat removed, peeled, or with silver skin as well as fat remaining on it, or else as pismos or PSMO, which is an abbreviation for peeled and silver skin removed, with the side muscle still on. PSMO is a good option as most trimming and handling has already been done. If handled wrongly, trimming the silver skin can result in wastage of the steak, harming the yield or the presentation of the meat. Beef tenderloin can keep well in a refrigerator for about 5-6 days.
Completely trimmed beef tenderloin contains about 24g protein and 6g of fat in a 3oz medallion. The level of fat content is greater for less trimmed beef. It is a good source of B vitamins and minerals like potassium, zinc and selenium. Iron, potassium and magnesium are other minerals contained in beef tenderloin in significant proportions.
Some people mistake beef tenderloin for Chteaubriand, while the latter is a French tenderloin steak dish.