Trimming a whole Beef Tenderloin: A step-by-step Guide

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If you’re planning to serve a tenderloin roast or filet steaks for a special occasion or want to learn a new culinary skill, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll walk you through the steps and provide some tips on how to trim beef tenderloin perfectly every time. So, grab your knife, and let’s get started!

When it comes to our favorite money-saving hack for the holidays, there’s nothing better than buying a whole cut of beef and trimming it yourself. As one of the most popular cuts for special occasions and the holidays, along with being the most tender muscle, a tenderloin roast is also consistently one of the most expensive cuts of beef. And we’re breaking down how to trim a beef tenderloin from start to finish.

Trimming a beef tenderloin may seem intimidating at first, but with a bit of practice and the right tools, it’s quite easy. Not only does trimming your own tenderloin save money on expensive cuts like filet mignon and chateaubriand, but it’s also a great way to guarantee a beautiful appearance and even cooking.

Cut Info: beef tenderloin

The tenderloin is an incredible lean cut of meat that benefits from gentle handling, expert cooking, and being paired with a delicious sauce. It has minimal marbling regardless of grade. And due to its position on the top portion of the back of the cow, it’s the least worked muscle on the animal, resulting in it being the most tender cut.

Whole beef tenderloin is amazing smoked, cooked with the sous vide method, or used as the centerpiece of a beef wellington. As tenderloin steaks, it’s perfect pan-seared, grilled, or sous vide as well.

Where to buy a whole beef tenderloin

We can find prime-grade whole beef tenderloin at Costco all year long but often only find it around the holidays at our local grocery stores in the refrigerated meat case. It’s wet-aged and packed in plastic, called Cryovac, which extends the shelf life.

However, if we want a beautiful entire tenderloin any other time of the year or want a different grade, we order it directly from a local butcher shop or online from various online purveyors. Need help determining where to buy meat online? Check out our guide for our favorite places to order meat online.

How much does a whole beef tenderloin cost?

Prices tend to range from $14.98 for Choice to over $20 per pound for Prime and prices exceeding XX for beef labeled organic at the time of publication. For individual filet mignon steaks, we saw prices from $11.99 to $30 per pound depending on grade, with individual steaks coming in around 1/2 a pound each.

The tenderloin in the step-by-step photos below was a choice whole beef tenderloin from WildForkFoods that we were able to trim into 11 steaks.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to trimming a beef tenderloin like a pro. From one whole tenderloin, you can get the center-cut beef tenderloin roast, a whole tenderloin roast, or individual filet mignon steaks.


Gather the necessary tools

The first step is to arrange a clean work surface with a large cutting board and a very sharp knife.

We also recommend butcher’s twine and a pair of cut-resistant gloves—this helps to minimize any chance of scrapes when handling meat and cutting it.

Pat it dry

Start by removing the full beef tenderloin from the packing and patting the meat dry with paper towels. This will help you handle it better.
Arrange it on the cutting board so you can easily maneuver it.

Remove the chain

The first cut will be to pull back the long piece of meat running along the side muscle of the tenderloin, known as the ‘chain.’ It pulls back easily, exposing a natural seam to follow.
Then, working in gentle short, swift cuts with your filet knife, separate this from the whole tenderloin and set it aside.

Remove the connective tissue, hard fat, and silver skin

Next, trim excess hard fat over the roast without cutting deep into the meat.
Then, carefully remove the long strip of silver skin that runs along the entire length. Do this by gently sliding the knife tip under the silver skin and pulling up gently while also sliding along the silver skin. This helps it to come off easily without removing any excess meat.
Take the time to trim off any excess fat carefully.
With a paper towel, run your hand the length of the tenderloin to clean off excess bits and smooth out the exposed surface, leaving a nice, even, clean surface of the meat.

Trim the butt end and tail end

At this point, you could stop and fold the small end, known as the tail, up and secure it with butcher’s twine every one or so inches along the tenderloin to the thick end, creating an even thickness for the whole beef tenderloin roast, perfect for grilling or roasting.
Or, you can continue to divide the whole tenderloin for more variety of cuts, as described in our next step. Carve into beef tenderloin center-cut beef tenderloin roast or filets

Carve into beef tenderloin center-cut beef tenderloin roast or filets.

Simply cut off the larger butt end and tapered end for an even roast, known as the center-cut beef tenderloin roast or the chateaubriand. It is the prized, most tender, and ideal cut for roasting due to its shape and size and usually weighs between 2 to 3 pounds.
Alternatively, it can also be sliced into 1 1/2 to 2″ thick steaks, known as tournedos.
Both the butt end and tail end can be cut into even thicknesses and tied to create individual tenderloin steaks. We aim for steaks about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick.
The tail end of the tenderloin, the most tender end, can be cut into individual filet mignon steaks or smaller tenderloin tips and tied off with kitchen twine to secure them.
Before discarding the chain, look to remove any large pieces of meat. These scraps are perfect for other quick-cooking beef recipes. We label and vacuum seal our trimmings for other uses later.

Cook the Tenderloin:

Now that you have expertly trimmed the whole tenderloin, you are ready to cook it with your preferred method, like sous vide, grilling, smoking, oven roasting, or pan searing. See our list of recommended recipes in the full post.
To perfectly cook your beef tenderloin, use a digital meat thermometer to ensure that the beef has been cooked to your desired internal temperature. We recommend medium rare 135 degrees F for the tenderloin to help retain its famous ‘cut’s with a fork’ texture.


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