How To Cut Whole Beef Tenderloin

How To Cut Whole Beef Tenderloin

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Have you ever cut whole beef tenderloin? It can be rather intimidating. When you pull it outside the package, it looks like an alien or something from some weird Sci-Fi movie. However, butchering a whole beef tenderloin is not as hard as you may think. Knowing the correct way to break it down and cut it properly can save you money because there is less work your butcher has to do and that makes it cheaper!

David and I have cut, smoked, and reverse-seared several beef tenderloins in the past few months. Our local store has had some pretty amazing sales during this season of life we’ve been faced with.

Let us show you how easy it is to cut whole beef tenderloin down into some amazing meat to cook at a fraction of the cost!

running tenderloin under cold running water

What is Beef Tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin is one of the most expensive cuts you can get from a cow. It’s also the most tender muscle because it is tucked away inside the hindquarter. This means it doesn’t get a lot of use, which makes it tender. 

Understand the Muscle

Before beginning it’s important to know what you are looking at when the tenderloin comes out of the package. The photo below is of a whole beef tenderloin straight out of the package clean and dry.

whole beef tenderloin untrimmed

See I told you it is not attractive at all. Rather gnarly ain’t it?

The photo diagram below is of a clean and cut whole beef tenderloin, with the silverskin removed. This will help you understand where the muscles come from. 

diagram of how to cut whole beef tenderloin

Basically there are three sections to a beef tenderloin that you need to understand, they are: 

  1. Muscle-On Roast – This is good meat! Do not discard it!
  2. Tenderloin – Divided into three sections: the tail, the filet mignon, and the CheatauBriand. All exceptional meat with varying texture!
  3. The Chain – full of silverskin and thick fatty connective tissue. There are some good bits of meat within it to dissect out and save.

Use two bowls when cutting a tenderloin. One for the excess fat and silverskin and one for the good meat that you can use later. The good scrap meat is good for stir-fry, fajitas, or can be ground into delicious hamburgers.

We made burgers from ground up tenderloin meat. The hamburger patties literally melt in your mouth. We have some more scraps in the freezer and I can’t wait to try them in fajitas or stir-fry, but it will hard not to make another burger with them.

What You’ll Need To Cut Whole Beef Tenderloin

  • Sturdy Cutting Board
  • Extra-sharp Knife (a boning knife works best)
  • Two bowls – one for saving scraps the other for throwing away waste

Remove The Package and Prepare For Cutting

It’s best to open the package in the kitchen sink to avoid messy spills from the “purge” (water and meat proteins that drain from meat). For the cleanest removal, hold the package as upright as possible. Make slit large enough for the tenderloin to come out of the top of the cryovac package. Carefully pull the tenderloin out allowing the purge to stay inside the bottom of the package. Discard the package with the purge left inside or drain the purge down the sink. 

Rinsing meat is a matter of preference and a rather controversial topic. We chose to rinse certain meats to get rid of the “purge” which sometimes can get a little stagnant if the package is nearing the end of its shelf life.

Pat the meat dry with paper towels. This makes it safer to cut because wet meat can be rather slippery.

How To Cut Whole Beef Tenderloin

Step 1: Remove the Muscle-On Roast

cutting muscle-on roast

Step 2: Remove The Chain

removing the chain from the whole beef tenderloin

The tenderloin has a tapered end and a fatty end. Along the length of the tenderloin, there is a narrow strip of loosely attached meat and fat. This trip is called the “chain”. If you grab it with your hands you will notice that it doesn’t take much to loosen it and pull away from the tenderloin. It only takes a few short strokes of the knife to detach it completely. 

You can salvage the meat from the chain by trimming away the fat and any connective tissue for other dishes we mentioned earlier. 

Now you have the main tenderloin to work with.

Step 3: Trim Off The Tail

cutting off the tail

Step 4: Excess Fat and Silverskin

The tenderloin is covered with a white sheen of connective tissue called “silverskin”. Silverskin is extremely tough and will not break down during the cooking process. It’s important to remove all of the silverskin from the tenderloin so that it is as tender as possible. 

removing silverskin with a knife

To remove the silverskin, carefully glide the knife along the surface of the meat, while pulling the silverskin away from the meat. This is why it is important to have a very sharp knife when cutting the tenderloin. 

When trimming off the silverskin, it’s also important to trim away any pockets of excess fat. A little is ok, but excessive amounts of melted fat can mask the flavor of the meat.

Step 5: Cut Or Tie The Narrow End (ChateauBriand)

butcher's twine and tenderloin on cutting board

To make the tenderloin more uniform for even cooking you can either tuck it under and tie it up with butcher’s twine

OR

Cut off the narrow portion (also known as the “ChateauBriand”) and save it when your salvaged meat.

tucking thinner end under itself

David and I tucked and tied up the first beef tenderloin we cut. It’s not hard to do, but a lot more complicated than to just cut it off and save with the other scraps. You decide what is best for you.

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO WE MADE OF DAVID CUTTING WHOLE BEEF TENDERLOIN:

sliced smoked beef tenderloin on platter

What To Do With Beef Tenderloin

Once you have the beef tenderloin it can then make smoked beef tenderloin with a reverse-sear on the grill [LIKE THIS]

OR

it can be cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch medallions, “fillet mignon” and grill them using this recipe from Weber.com

We hope showing you how to cut whole beef tenderloin will help you feed those special folks in your life and help you save money too!

cut whole beef tenderloin
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How To Cut Whole Beef Tenderloin

Whole beef tenderloin may seem intimidating but if you learn how to cut whole beef tenderloin you'll learn it's easy to do and saves money!
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ
Keyword beef, cut, Tenderloin, Whole Beef Tenderloin
Prep Time 15 minutes

Useful Equipment:

Instructions

Step 1: Remove the Muscle-On Roast

  • The muscle-on roast can be found at the end of the tenderloin
    cutting muscle-on roast

Step 2: Remove The Chain

  • The tenderloin has a tapered end and a fatty end. Along the length of the tenderloin, there is a narrow strip of loosely attached meat and fat. This trip is called the “chain”. If you grab it with your hands you will notice that it doesn’t take much to loosen it and pull away from the tenderloin. It only takes a few short strokes of the knife to take detach it completely. 
    Now you have the main tenderloin to work with.
    removing the chain from the whole beef tenderloin

Step 4: Excess Fat and Silverskin

  • The tenderloin is covered with a white sheen of connective tissues called “silverskin”. Silverskin is extremely tough and will not break down during the cooking process. It’s important to remove all of the silverskin from the tenderloin so that it is as tender as possible. 
    To remove the silverskin, carefully glide the knife along the surface of the meat, while pulling the silverskin away from the meat. This is why it is important to have a very sharp knife when cutting the tenderloin. 
    When trimming off the silverskin, it’s also important to trim away any pockets of excess fat. A little is ok, but excessive amounts of melted fat can mask the flavor of the meat.
    removing silverskin with a knife

Step 3: Trim Off The Tail

  • To make the tenderloin more uniform for even cooking. Use the knife to cut off the tail and save it when your salvaged meat. 
    cutting off the tail

Step 5: Cut Off the Tip (ChateauBriand) or Tie it

  • To make the tenderloin more uniform for even cooking you can either tuck it under and tie it up with butcher's twine OR cut off the narrow portion (also known as the “ChateauBriand”) and save it when your salvaged meat. (see notes)
    butcher's twine and tenderloin on cutting board

Video

Notes

To Cut or Tie?  David and I tucked and tied up the first beef tenderloin we cut. However, it’s a lot easier to just cut off the end and save it with the other scraps. You decide what is best for you.
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