What’s the best way to roast whole beef tenderloin? And can you dry-age beef at home?
These two questions go hand in hand and always come up right about now. Beef tenderloin is popular this time of year because it makes an impressive roast to serve for your holiday dinner. While impressive, it is also intimidating. Here’s the thing: You’ll spend a lot of money on it, so you want it to be perfect.
Beef tenderloin needs care when cooking. Undercook it, and it might be too cool in the center and too rare for some guests. Overcook it and, well, everybody will probably still eat it, but that’s not the point.
Here are a few easy steps for tenderloin success. In the last few times I’ve cooked a whole center portion of beef tenderloin, it turned out perfect. Or you can follow the recipe on Page C1 for a marinated tenderloin.
Prep: You’ll need to begin preparing the tenderloin several days in advance. Trim the meat of any excess fat or silver skin. Also cut off what is called the chain — a long piece of meat with fat and part of the muscle that held the tenderloin to the bone. (Grind that chain meat, or cube it and freeze for another use.)
Many recipes call for folding the tapered end underneath the tenderloin. I haven’t had great results doing that, so I cut off the tapered end and cook it separately or freeze it. That way, I’ve got an even hunk of meat.
Dry-age: Place the meat on a rimmed platter. Pat it dry with paper towels, and set it in the refrigerator. Drying the beef helps the exterior crisp up. (You can do this with any large roast, including a standing rib roast.) Refrigerate the meat at a minimum of overnight, but preferably up to two days for the best results.
After dry-aging the beef, season it all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper (use a coarse grind). You also can use your favorite seasoning or rub. Once the meat is seasoned, tie the roast in several spots so it holds a nice shape. Let it rest at least another hour (at room temperature) or in the refrigerator up to six hours.
Roast: If the tenderloin is refrigerated, remove it one hour before roasting, and let it come to room temperature. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tenderloin, and sear it until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the tenderloin to a rimmed baking sheet, and place it in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and continue cooking an additional 20 minutes (for about a 3-pound tenderloin), or until it reaches an internal temperature of about 120 degrees in the thickest part for medium-rare. It will continue to cook while it rests. You can cook it to about 125 to 130 degrees if you want the center to be pink, not red.
Use an inexpensive instant-read thermometer to test the temperature. Let the meat rest at least 10 minutes before slicing into ¼-inch-thick slices.