How to Cut a Beef Tenderloin? A Step-by-Step Guide

November 17, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

You can quickly cut a beef tenderloin in a few steps: trimming and detaching the tenderloin, removing the silverskin from it, trimming excess fat, and finally cutting and shaping the filet. These steps may appear difficult if you have little or no experience. But, with some practice and the right equipment, you’ll realize that it’s not that difficult.

Personally, I prefer cutting my whole beef tenderloin myself. Not only does this save me extra money on an already expensive cut, but it is also a terrific way to ensure you get lovely-looking meat cuts that cook evenly.

I learned how to cut beef tenderloin in culinary school, and I have always cut it myself ever since. Today, I’ll show you how to cut tenderloin meat and by the end of this article, you’ll be able to cut this delicate meat yourself.

how to cut a beef tenderloin

Anatomy of a Beef Tenderloin

A whole beef tenderloin is made up of several distinct parts. You’ll need to examine the parts before you start cutting the beef.

The middle of the tenderloin is the center cut. It is the source of tenderloin steaks, filet mignon steaks, and chateaubriand and has the most uniform size. The tip end of the beef is the small, delicate end that can be made into tournedos steaks.

The chain is also attached to the tenderloin. The chain looks like a thin cut of beef and runs down the length of the tenderloin. You’ll need to remove the chain from your tenderloin before you cook it.

How to Cut Tenderloin?

You’ll need a few pieces of equipment before you start cutting into your whole beef tenderloin. Get a very sharp knife, a cutting board, paper towels, and some cut-resistant gloves. Now that you know what you need, let’s get started.

Step 1: Trim the Whole Tenderloin

Start by trimming the tenderloin. First, find the seam separating the chain from the tenderloin. Next, cut through the seam with your knife to cut off the chain.

Step 2: Detach the Tenderloin

Next, use your fingers to pull back the upper layer of fat to locate the seam that separates the head and tenderloin, then cut the seam to detach the tenderloin.

Step 3: Cut Off the Silverskin                                     

The whitish layer of connective tissue on the top part of the tenderloin is called the silverskin. The silver skin is a thin, and transparent membrane with a tough texture. To ensure the filets are supple, you must trim off this tough layer of connective tissue. Run your knife underneath the layer of fat and slide to the end of the cut.

Next, flip the tenderloin roast over so that the membrane is underneath the cutting board to reduce the amount of meat that is lost. After that, slice the whole tenderloin steaks with your knife along the layer of fat.

Step 4: Trim Excess Fat

Examine your whole tenderloin and trim any excess fat or sharp edges on the side of the meat. You want your filets’ edges to be smooth when you cut them, for an even cooking and texture.

Step 5: Cut Into Filets

Now, it’s time to cut the filet. Place the tenderloin on a board and use a steak or chef’s knife. Cut the first filet from the tail-end (opposite the head of the tenderloin). Ensure the filet is 2 to 3 inches wide.

Continue cutting the meat and try to get up to seven filet cuts from the whole tenderloin. You don’t need to be strict with the measurement of the filet; simply ensure the cut pieces are around the same size. The final cuts of the tenderloin, from the head end, will give you tender filet mignon. Remove any extra fat from the sides of the filet.

Keep in mind that the cuts you make when you filet the head will have a smaller circumference than the ones you make when you filet the rest of the tenderloin. So, make sure the cuts from the head are about an inch longer to make up for the smaller width.

Step 6: Shape the Filets

Now, it’s time to shape the filet into uniformly thick steaks. Ensure the flat side of the filet mignon steaks sit on the board, then hold the filet at the top and use your sharp knife to round out the shape. Trimming and rounding out the shape of the filet ensure that these pieces cook evenly.

Here’s a video showing how to cut beef tenderloin

What is Beef Tenderloin?

The tenderloin is a long, thin, and tender muscle that runs along the back of the cow, right under the spine. The muscles in this area aren’t exercised frequently. That’s why the meat here is supple and tender.

The tenderloin is the cow’s most tender muscle. Unsurprisingly, because the tenderloin is the most tender cut, it is also among the most expensive steaks per pound. especially filet mignon steaks, which are taken straight from the center of the most tender muscle.

From experience, it is best to cook this cut at a high temperature because of how tender and soft it is. It cooks beautifully in an oven, on a stovetop, or on a grill. No matter what you do, make sure you don’t overcook this cut.

Beef tenderloins are best cooked to medium-rare or medium-well internal temperatures. So, cook it between 130°F and 135°F for medium-rare and 135°F – 140°F for medium-well. Before cutting the cooked steaks, allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. You can also pack the steak with foil while the meat is resting.

How to Choose Beef Tenderloin?

First things first, choose USDA Prime tenderloin cuts when you them from a grocery store. When buying tenderloin, focus on the thickness, color, and marbling. The meat thickness you choose will depend on what you want to use the tenderloin for. If you like your whole tenderloin cuts medium-done, a thinner piece of tenderloin will serve you better.

Although tenderloin has somewhat less marbling than other meat cuts, you should still look for cuts with some marbling. Marbling refers to intramuscular fat that renders and caramelizes when cooked, making the meat more delicious. That said, your filet will be delicate, whether marbling is present or not.

Next, you’ll need to look at the color of the tenderloin when buying it. The tenderloin should be uniformly dark red or pink in color unless the steak has been purposefully dry-aged.

When choosing beef tenderloin, also consider the number of people you want to feed. When picking large chunks of meat for roasting, you should plan for 8 ounces per person. Because the tenderloin is a pricey cut of meat, you can serve a smaller serving size of 4-6 ounces per person to your guests.

Raw Beef Tenderloin with Spices on the Parchment Paper

How to Cook Beef Tenderloin?

The suppleness and exquisite flavor of whole beef tenderloin make it a delicious meat to cook. Let’s look at a few ways to prepare a cut of beef tenderloin to get the perfect texture and flavor.


Grilling is one of the most common ways to prepare trimmed beef tenderloin. First, preheat your grill to a high temperature of 350 degrees. Next, season the whole tenderloin with salt and pepper. Grill each side of the beef tenderloin for over 5 minutes, and stop grilling when the meat reaches your desired doneness. Remember to allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before you slice and serve it.

Pan Sear

You can pan-sear your tenderloin if you’re short on time. Start by heating your skillet over high heat and seasoning the entire tenderloin with salt and pepper. Sear the beef tenderloin on each side for three to four minutes on each side, or until it is browned and cooked to your preferred doneness.


Roasting in the oven is another excellent way to prepare whole beef tenderloin. First, set the oven’s temperature to 230°F and season your whole tenderloin with salt, pepper, and any of your favorite spices. To prepare the beef tenderloin to the proper doneness, place it on a roasting rack and roast it for 20 to 25 minutes. Once more, don’t forget to let the meat rest before slicing it.

I always recommend keeping things simple when seasoning and cooking whole beef tenderloin roast. You don’t need too many marinades or spices because the meat is already so tasty and soft. So, season the cut with salt and pepper, and let the meat’s natural flavor shine through.

The Best Dishes to Serve with Beef Tenderloin

A number of sides go nicely with beef tenderloin. Some of my favorites include roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted asparagus, Caesar’s salad, and coleslaw. I love these sides because they add a delicious crunch. The creaminess of mashed potatoes also complements tenderloin. These sides provide the dinner with some variety and serve to balance the rich flavors of the beef.

How to Store Beef Tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days in its original packaging. In a freezer, your tenderloin will stay good for up to four months.

Before cooking frozen tenderloin, you should defrost it overnight, either in the fridge or in a sink of cold water. Lastly, all leftover cooked tenderloin should be put in the refrigerator right away and used within three days.

Roasted Prime Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes

What to Do with Tenderloin Scrap Meat?

When cutting your whole tenderloin, the only usable part you’ll have left over is the chain. Despite being rather greasy, the slice still has a lot of flesh. Use this piece to make homemade beef soups, beef stock, or beef stew by mixing it with stew meat.

The tenderloin scraps that are left over after making the fillet are far more versatile. These leftovers can be used to make a lovely beef stew or quick meals. The trimmed scraps can be stir-fried with steak or sautéed with mushrooms and onions. You can also make cheese steak sandwiches with thin slices of the meat and cut the meat into cubes to make kebabs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Does Beef Tenderloin Taste Like?

Beef tenderloin has a delicate beefy flavor. The full beef tenderloin is a lean cut of meat with relatively minimal marbling or intramuscular fat. As a result, the meat doesn’t have a robust flavor as other cuts with substantial marbling. The presence of marbling also makes the meat moist as you cook it. That’s why I advise you never to overcook the whole beef tenderloin, or else it will get very dry.

2. Where to Buy Beef Tenderloin

Fortunately, you can find whole beef tenderloin at most butcher shops and grocery stores. For example, Costco sells prime-grade beef tenderloin in their meat section. The whole tenderloin is usually packaged in Cryovac plastic packaging to increase its shelf life.

However, if you want fresh-cut tenderloin, your best bet is the butcher shop. A butcher could also help you trim the tenderloin. You can also get this delicious cut from online stores. Online stores are probably the most convenient way to buy your tenderloin.


Buying a whole beef tenderloin and trimming it yourself is an excellent way to save money and have more control over the final product. Cutting a tenderloin requires practice and patience the first time, but with time, you’ll have no hassle cutting this tender piece of meat. Once you’re done cutting the meat, you can cook and enjoy the deliciousness of your beef tenderloin.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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