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!

A whole untrimmed beef tenderloin on a cutting board with a filet knife.

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. 

Overhead shot of sliced cooked tenderloin with a perfect edge to edge red center.
Smoked Beef Tenderloin Recipe available on GirlCarnivore.com

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.

A whole tenderloin in packaging from wild fork foods.

🔪 How to trim a whole beef tenderloin

Yield: 1 center cut beef roast or a variety of filet mignon steaks

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin

How to Trim a Whole Beef Tenderloin

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.

Active Time 35 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Materials

  • 1 Whole Beef Tenderloin, around 6 pounds

Tools

  • Flexible sharp filet knife
  • cutting board
  • Cut resistant gloves
  • Paper towels
  • Butchers Twine

Instructions

Gather the necessary tools

  1. The first step is to arrange a clean work surface with a large cutting board and a very sharp knife. We love this flexible boning knife for trimming meat.
  2. 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 

  1. 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.
  2. Arrange it on the cutting board so you can easily maneuver it. 

Remove the chain

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. Next, trim excess hard fat over the roast without cutting deep into the meat.
  2. 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. 
  3. Take the time to trim off any excess fat carefully.
  4. 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 

  1. 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.
  2. 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

  1. Carve into beef tenderloin center-cut beef tenderloin roast or filets.
  2. 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.
  3. Alternatively, it can also be sliced into 1 1/2 to 2" thick steaks, known as tournedos.
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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: 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

Notes

We immediately place anything we aren't going to cook in bags and vacuum seal them to remove the air. We then date the bags, label them, and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. We use these later for stew meat or other quick dinner recipes.

Girl Carnivore Pro Tip

When working with smaller pieces, tie them together to form one steak of uniform thickness. Simply shape them with your hand to look like a whole filet, rolling the edges as needed. Then secure the meat along the perimeter with a length of twine.
It’s a great way to get even more bang for your buck with this expensive cut of meat.

Beef tenderloin cooked and sliced, showing a rosy pink center.

Why trim your own whole tenderloin? 

There are significant benefits to buying a whole tenderloin and trimming it yourself: 

  1. It’s less expensive per pound than buying individual steaks. And if you watch the ads around the holidays, it’s the best value for money to stock up and save a lot!
  2. Because you have the whole tenderloin, you get more options; from carving your own filet steaks to roasts, you can usually get two to three recipes (depending on how many people you’re serving) from one whole tenderloin. 
  3. You know what you’re getting. There are no surprises under the label, like steaks being uneven or one being more petite than the others. Because you will have trimmed this yourself, you’re guaranteed even steaks, which means even cooking time. 
  4. You feel like a celebrity chef with your newfound meat-trimming skills (Ok, this may be a bonus, but take it). 
Overhead shot of tenderloin steaks on a cutting board.

Our favorite beef tenderloin recipes: 

FAQs

What are some good pairings for beef tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin has a very mild beef flavor, despite being very tender. It pairs well with rich sauces like peppercorn sauce, red wine pan sauce, or horseradish sauce. Top it with a luscious smoked crab imperial recipe. And for side dishes to serve with beef tenderloin, go for rich dishes like steakhouse creamed spinach, smoked baked potatoes, or smoked mac and cheese.

Can I freeze beef tenderloin?

Once trimmed, you can seal each cut in vacuum bags, label them and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Unless you want to cook your tenderloin whole, we don’t recommend freezing the entire thing, as you would then have to cook it all once thawed not to lose texture and quality by refreezing leftover cuts.
However, if you aren’t ready to trim your tenderloin just yet, check the date on the Cryovac seal as they often have a long shelf life stored in the refrigerator.

How long does beef tenderloin last in the refrigerator or freezer?

Once cooked, beef tenderloin lasts 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
In the freezer, individual cuts, properly vacuum sealed, with all air removed, can last up to 3 months (but we’ve been known to stretch it to 5 sometimes in a well-sealed freezer without loss of quality).

What are some common mistakes to avoid when cooking beef tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin suffers from being overcooked. Because it’s naturally a lean cut, there is minimal fat to keep it succulent if cooked past medium rare.
We recommend cooking with lots of butter and aromatics, as well as using an instant-read thermometer to make sure it’s cooked perfectly.


What are some creative ways to use leftover beef tenderloin?

Here are 5 delicious ways to use up leftover beef tenderloin:
1. Slice leftover beef tenderloin thin for crostinis
2. Sear steak tips for steak bites
3. Use thin slices of leftover tenderloin for sandwiches or wraps
4. Finely chop leftovers up for cheesy scrambled eggs
5. Dice it up for quick stir fry or tossed salads.

Close up of filet mignon steaks in a pan.

When it comes to saving money, buying a whole tenderloin and trimming it yourself is a great way to have more control over the end product and enjoy the best roast or steaks! 

Trimming a whole beef tenderloin takes a bit of practice the first time, but the effort easily pays for itself. At the end of the day, you will have an expertly cooked tender piece of meat at the center of your plate. With a little practice, you will be able to trim a beef tenderloin like a pro!

Did you find this guide helpful? Drop a comment below telling us what you cooked once you mastered trimming your own tenderloin.

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Comments

  1. Nice job. I’ve been cutting tenderloin for OVER 30 years for CRAZY customers who do not understand meat doneness! 😇😁 A video with your lovely hands would showcase this process nicely. 🥺😁

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