The Tastiest Smoked Beef Tenderloin Recipe: Bon Appétit!

December 15, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

When it comes to smoked beef tenderloin, less is more. You only need a simple dry rub mixture of kosher salt, black pepper, dried parsley, and garlic powder. Beef tenderloin is incredibly tender and lean so it will only need about an hour and a half in the smoker or grill.

I prepare a mean smoked beef tenderloin for my family at least once a month and I must say this dish is an absolute showstopper each time. The flavor and aroma of a smoked tenderloin is an experience all meat lovers swear by.

In this post, I want to share my tried and tested smoked beef tenderloin recipe and how to cook this dish to perfection. If you have never tried it, fear not. It doesn't get easier than this. Let's go:

smoked beef tenderloin

My Smoked Beef Tenderloin Recipe

Prep time: 12 hours

Cook time: 1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 5 lb center cut beef tenderloin
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
Raw Beef Tenderloin with Rosemary and Thyme

Instructions

  • Start by coating the entire beef tenderloin with a layer of kosher salt and place it in the fridge for 12 hours. If you don't have this kind of time, let the beef sit in the fridge for an hour.
  • After salting and letting the meat sit in the fridge, your beef tenderloin will have a layer of moisture extracted from the meat. Pat the meat dry using some paper towels.
  • Fold the pointed end of your tenderloin and tuck it under the meat to get a more even size. An uneven end will allow the meat to cook faster on the smaller end which will end up overcooking.
  • Using butcher's twine, tie up the end to make it hold. Tie off the rest of the tenderloin at 1.5-inch intervals to ensure the entire roast is an equal girth from end to end.
  • Cut off the extra string and make sure not to leave a hanging strand.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Use your fingers to work the olive oil all over the beef tenderloin. The oil holds the dry brine to the meat and also prevents the meat from sticking to the hot grill grates instantly.
  • Fire up your gas grill or smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're using a pellet grill, adjust the smoke settings and place your desired flavor of wood chips in the hopper to create a nice thick smoke.
  • You want a nice medium-rare doneness which is achieved when the meat reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a meat thermometer in the meat and pull the meat once it reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fire up the stove to high heat and place a large heavy base skillet to heat up. Drizzle a dash of olive oil to prevent the roast from sticking to the pan.
  • After an hour and a half, or when the meat reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it and sear it on the pan to crisp up the exterior to a lovely golden brown.
  • Sizzle the tenderloin on all sides. As you sear, the beef tenderloin will continue to cook so the internal temperature will rise to the desired temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit which is why you have to remove it from the smoker at a lower temperature.
  • Anything above this and you will ruin the texture of your meat. 5 -7 minutes of searing should be enough.
  • Alternatively, you can place the smoked beef tenderloin in a preheated grill fired up to a high heat of 450 - 500 degrees Fahrenheit and let it roast for 5 minutes before taking it out and wrapping it up in aluminum foil to rest the meat.
  • Remember, searing beef tenderloin is unnecessary since it is already brined and smoked giving it a nice meat flavor. If you think you may overcook it, skip this step and let the meat smoke to an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Always rely on the meat thermometer for accuracy. For such a tender cut of meat, the risk of overcooking the meat and drying it out is high. Tenderloin has little to no fat so it will easily overcook and dehydrate if you go over the recommended internal temperature.
  • When fully seared, place the beef tenderloin roast on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap it up. Let the roast rest for 10 minutes before serving it.
  • Use your kitchen scissors or a sharp knife to cut the twine then slice your smoked beef tenderloin into one-inch-thick slices and serve with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables.
Roast Beef Tenderloin with Thyme in Skillet

What is the Best Seasoning for Smoked Beef Tenderloin?

The best seasoning for beef tenderloin will depend on preference, but I would advise keeping it simple enough.

A sprinkling of salt, black pepper, dried parsley, and garlic or onion powder is sufficient.

Beef tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef from the steer which means it will absorb flavor easily. Too much seasoning may ruin the beefy flavor or tenderloin and ruin the texture of the meat.

Furthermore, beef tenderloin is best cooked to a medium rare which means that an intensely flavored tenderloin may not cook through.

McCormick Grill Mates Seasoning is my favorite store-bought steak seasoning, perfectly balanced for smoking meat. Try it!

What Can I Serve With Smoked Beef Tenderloin?

  • Roasted potatoes
  • Mashed butternut squash and BBQ sauce
  • Corn on the cob and smoked vegetables
  • Steamed corn and coleslaw

What Wine Should I Pair With Smoked Beef Tenderloin?

Red meat is best paired with a red wine of your choice. Smoked beef tenderloin is mild in flavor but when smoked, it has the added tone of a delicious smokey flavor. A rich aged wine is a great choice to pair with smoked beef tenderloin.

I like smoked beef tenderloin with a Justin Cabernet Sauvignon. That said, your palate is your best guide so try different wines and see what pleases you best.

What Internal Temperature Do I Smoke Whole Beef Tenderloin To?

For a perfect medium rare tenderloin, you should aim for an internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit and no higher. The USDA recommends that meat should be cooked to an internal temp of no less than 145 degrees F.

That said, for tenderloin this temperature will simply ruin the flavor and cook it to well-done which is what we do for tougher and fattier cuts. Tenderloin does not taste as good when cooked to this temperature.

If you want to make a nice crusty exterior to seal in all that flavor and make a pleasant-looking tenderloin roast then pull the beef at a temp of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and then pansear the roast.

Your smoked beef tenderloin will continue cooking to a temp of 130, your target temperature. This is called the reverse sear method where you sear the roast after smoking it and not before smoking it.

Why Should I Reverse Sear My Smoked Beef Tenderloin?

Reverse searing refers to searing meat after smoking it as opposed to searing the meat first and then smoking it.

By searing meat after instead of before you smoke it, you allow the meat to soak up and absorb both the brine and smoke flavors into the meat during the cook then seal in all this goodness with a crispy exterior.

Before I discovered this, I always seared meat before smoking it. But when I tried reverse searing, the difference was undeniable, especially for lean cuts such as tenderloin.

Searing first dehydrates some of the moisture by pulling it to the surface. Reverse searing chars the exterior of already-cooked meat. Cooked meat cannot lose as much of its juices as uncooked meat.

The crisp golden outer crust forms rather fast trapping the juices before the high heat can dry out the meat.

Roast Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish

How to Reverse Sear a Whole Beef Tenderloin?

Reverse searing is pretty straightforward. The sear is done after your tenderloin is smoked to perfect readiness. Simply turn up the heat settings on your gas or pellet grill to a searing temp of 450 degrees f.

Place the smoked beef tenderloin atop your grill and let the meat form a nice crust on one side for approximately 3-4 minutes before turning it over and searing the other side. Use tongs to maneuver the meat ensuring a nice crust on all sides.

Remove the tenderloin and wrap it up in aluminum foil. Let it rest for ten minutes on a cutting board before slicing into it.

What Wood is the Best for Smoking Beef Tenderloin?

This is down to personal choice but a fruit wood should be a great choice.

Beef tenderloin, just like pork tenderloin is rather lean and because it lacks fat, the flavor of tenderloin tends to be quite mild. It therefore takes very well to a nice smoke infusion of equally subtle but sweet flavors such as cherry and apple wood.

I love hickory which is a very strong smoke flavor and it has always worked great with a prime rib roast. However, when I tried it with smoked beef tenderloin, the hickory flavor proved to be overwhelming. The flavor of the smoke stood out over the flavor of the meat itself which was barely noticeable.

The lack of fat marbling in tenderloin means that it lacks that intense beefy tone that mingles so well with strong smoke flavors so be aware of this as you experiment with different flavored chips.

Is Tenderloin the Same as Filet Mignon?

No.

Filet mignon is a cut of meat that is part of the larger beef tenderloin cut. Individual steaks are cut from the end of the tenderloin where the meat is most lean and tender.

A whole tenderloin weighs about six pounds and can produce about eight or more filet steaks. Filet mignon is the most expensive cut of beef available.

Tips for Buying the Best Beef Tenderloin

Order your tenderloin from specialty stores or directly from butchers. An entire steer produces about 8 - 12 pounds of tenderloin which makes this cut a rare find in grocery stores. Your butcher is more likely to have tenderloin or acquire it easily for you.

Buy tenderloin in bulk during the festive seasons. Beef tenderloin makes great holiday dinner recipes and supply goes up during this season and becomes slightly more affordable.

Buy fully trimmed tenderloin. If you cannot trim it yourself, ensure your butcher trims off the fat and silver skin to ensure the brine imparts as much flavor into the meat.

How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Beef Tenderloin?

This depends on a few things:

Size of the Whole Tenderloin

A smaller tenderloin will take a shorter time than a larger cut to smoke all the way through. While tenderloin should be smoked for approximately an hour and a half, the best way to determine doneness would be to rely on your thermometer, not the clock.

Tenderness of Your Tenderloin

Tenderloin is tender but cuts from different animals can cook at different rates which is something I have discovered in my line of work whenever I change suppliers. Different animals can be exposed to varying conditions and diets creating different tenderness levels in meat.

Sliced Roasted Juicy Beef Tenderloin

Your Equipment

The best smoker for this particular recipe would be a pellet smoker or any smoker where you can keep the temperature settings to a strict setting. Tenderloin cooks quickly and given its incredible tenderness, uneven temps can overcook the meat easily. So, smokers in which you have to control temperature using vents, will not do.

Unless you are a seasoned meat chef, a smoker such as the Weber kettle is not likely to produce an ideal smoked beef tenderloin. The strict accuracy required to smoke a perfect medium rare tenderloin is difficult to achieve on this grill.

The same applies to searing the meat. If you cannot be certain of your skills with a skillet and tongs where the temperature may not reach the high you intend, use the oven.

In an oven, the temperature is indicated eliminating the likelihood of making an error where you ruin the flavor and dry out the meat. Searing lean meat is a delicate art. It is the lean cuts that will test your mettle as a meat chef.

How Long to Smoke a 3 Lb Beef Tenderloin at 225?

At a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit, you should approximate a cooking time of 20 - 25 minutes per pound.

A 3-pound tenderloin steak should take between 1 - 1 1/4 hours to cook. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a meat thermometer for greater accuracy.

As I Pen Off...

Smoked beef tenderloin is a decadent culinary experience yet it is incredibly easy to pull off. Remember with this particular recipe, less is more.

Kosher salt, black pepper, dried parsley, and garlic or onion powder are all that you need to make a delicious dry brine for beef tenderloin.

A sweet mild wood flavor gels very well with smoked beef tenderloin so add a handful of these wood chips to your grill.

Smoke your brined tenderloin at 250 degrees and aim for a perfect medium-rare internal temperature of 130 degrees. A quick sear and voila, you have perfect main course cuisine.

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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