Beef tenderloin

Other Names: Filet: Bifteck (French, tenderloin butt), chateaubriand (French, large center section), filet, filet mignon (French, small end), filet of beef, filete or solomillo (Spanish), filetto (Italian), tournedos (French, smaller center-cut section). Chain: Bavette or chaînette (French), false filet, rope.

General Description: The baseball bat-shaped tenderloin is the most tender muscle in the short loin. This elegant cut has mellow flavor and velvety texture. The tenderloin, or filet, is incredibly versatile and takes equally well to roasting whole, sautéing with a rich and luscious sauce, or grilling and topping with flavored butter. Though expensive, there’s little waste, it’s easy to prepare, cooks quickly, and is a crowd pleaser. Chateaubriand is an extra thick, 2- to 3-inch long steak cut from the butt end (the larger end). It may have been named after the French Vicomte de Châteaubriand.

The chain is the long thin muscle alongside the main muscle. In France, the chain is known as the bavette, and it is grilled. You may find bavette rolled and tied or cut crosswise into steaks. Tenderloin tips, small pieces cut from the smaller, pointed front end, may be a good value.

Beef carpaccio, named after Vittore Carpaccio, an Italian Renaissance painter known for his orange reds, was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice. Very fresh, well-trimmed, and well-chilled beef from the tenderloin, rump, or top sirloin butt is sliced thin enough to be almost translucent. The beef is arranged in a single layer and then sprinkled with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper or mustard.

Part of Animal: The filet lies underneath the ribs alongside the backbone, paralleling the strip loin; its smaller pointed end starts just past the rib section. As the tenderloin continues down the length of the back, it becomes larger and rounder. The largest portion is the butt end, part of the top sirloin.

Characteristics: Because it is an inner muscle and gets very little exercise, the filet is quite tender, with a fine, velvety grain. It is often sold with the chain. A whole trimmed tenderloin weighs 4 to 6 pounds and is about 2 feet long and generally 2 to 3 inches across. The pointy filet tip is stringy though still tender. The center section is the most desirable. The butt end is somewhat tougher.

How to Choose: Tenderloin may be purchased in many forms. Well-marbled tenderloin will be the most succulent; a tenderloin with little marbling can be dry and flavorless.

Amount to Buy: Allow 4 to 10 ounces per portion for steaks, less if roasting whole due to less shrinkage.

Storage: Refrigerate whole vacuum-packed tenderloin up to 5 days. Refrigerate trimmed filet up to 2 days. Rub with oil to keep it from drying out.


  1. Pull off all the outside fat. Remove the chain and save for another use. (Cut into thin strips against the grain for stir-frying.)
  2. Using a sharp boning knife, cut away thin lengthwise ribbons of the silverskin, the silvery white connective tissue covering the larger end.
  3. Fold under the thinner end for a more even shape, tying with butcher’s string if desired.
  4. Rub with oil, salt, and pepper, or herbs and chopped garlic, and bring to room temperature.
  5. Roast at 450°F for about 25 minutes for medium-rare, or until it reaches the desired temperature.
  6. Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest 15 to 30 minutes before carving. The temperature will rise about 5°F as it rests.

Flavor Affinities: Bacon, balsamic vinegar, butter, cognac, cream, foie gras, port wine, rosemary, shallots, sherry, thyme.

from Quirk Books: