If you’re thinking about putting beef tenderloin on the menu, you’ll need to map out a budget. That’s true no matter what cut of meat you choose, of course, but it’s particularly relevant when it comes to this one, as tenderloin can be very pricey.
Beef Tenderloin Price
Whole beef tenderloin could sell for as little as $12 per pound from major retailers or $35 per pound from a specialty butcher shop. If the roast is trimmed, or “peeled,” before being packaged for sale, it will cost more. A per-pound price range of $20 to $25 is common.
About Beef Tenderloin
The tenderloin is a long, narrow muscle that bisects the loin primal. Since it’s nestled in the middle of the sirloin, it doesn’t get much exercise. As such, it’s arguably the most tender cut on the cow, as evidenced by the name.
A whole beef tenderloin will be thicker at one end and taper off into a point on the other. The thicker butt end is called the bifteck, while the middle section is often portioned into the chateubriand. The rest is cut into filet mignons or tips.
It’s best not to cook beef tenderloin past medium-rare—that is, 135 degrees Fahrenheit. If you take it past this point, the meat will still be tender to the bite, but it will have lost a great deal of its juiciness.
Beef Tenderloin vs. Filet Mignon: What’s the Difference?
Butchers and chefs alike will often use the terms “beef tenderloin” and “filet mignon” interchangeably. That’s understandable, as the filet is cut from the tenderloin. But if you want to get technical, there is a slight distinction between the two.
The main difference is that tenderloin is a larger cut, while the filet mignon is a smaller portion of the same muscle. Therefore, while all filet mignon steaks are made from beef tenderloin, not all of the tenderloin can be called filet mignon.
The butchering style of the tenderloin can also vary, depending on the region. French butchers will separate the bifteck, chateaubriand, and filet mignon into individual steaks. But in America, the tenderloin may also be incorporated into T-bone and porterhouse steaks.
Due to the whole beef tenderloin’s larger size, it’s usually roasted in a medium-hot oven. Filet mignon, meanwhile, is best when grilled over an open fire or pan-seared in a hot cast-iron skillet.
Beef Tenderloin Price on Average
The price of beef tenderloin can fluctuate based on a number of factors. The current demand, the time of year, the grade of beef, and whether the meat is trimmed or untrimmed (see below) will all influence the amount you’ll pay per pound.
If you buy a Choice cut that weighs 4 to 5 pounds, it could cost as little as $12 per pound, especially if it’s untrimmed. On the other end of the pricing spectrum, a trimmed beef tenderloin from a specialty meat market could cost up to $35 per pound.
You’re more likely to find a price point that’s somewhere in the middle of that scale. A per-pound price of $20 to $25 is realistic.
Where to Shop for Beef Tenderloin
We always recommend stopping in at your local butcher counter first. You might end up spending a bit more money, but the quality of the meat should be top-notch.
Supermarket chains, such as Walmart, should also have beef tenderloin available. You’re likely to have a wider selection at these places, and the price point may be lower. However, the meat might not be trimmed, meaning you’ll need to put your knife skills to the test.
Online specialty shops such as Wild Fork Foods often list beef tenderloin among their offerings. There are two issues with this option: the meat is pricey, and you won’t be able to see what you’re getting until the delivery arrives.
Retailers like Costco, Whole Foods, and Sam’s Club also sell beef tenderloin, both whole and trimmed into steaks. For large tenderloin roasts, look for the word “peeled” on the label if you’d prefer not to trim the meat yourself.
How Much Beef Tenderloin to Serve Per Person
It’s a good idea to estimate 8 ounces, or 1/2 pound, of raw beef tenderloin per person.
This template is standard when you’re dealing with leaner boneless cuts of beef. You won’t have to deal with as much shrinkage as you would with fattier cuts like beef brisket. Eight ounces of raw tenderloin should yield about 6 ounces of cooked meat.
You can make adjustments to this estimate depending on the time of your gathering, the ages and appetites of your guests, and what you might be serving on the side. But 1/2 pound per person is a decent place to begin.
How Big is a Whole Beef Tenderloin?
The average beef tenderloin weighs between 5 and 8 pounds. If you follow our advice and allow 1/2 pound per person, this should be enough to feed at least 10 to 16 people.
Expect the whole tenderloin to measure at least 1-1/2 to 2 feet long and 4 inches in diameter at its thickest point. You may have to trim it (see section below), in which case the meat will weigh a bit less by the time you’re ready to start cooking it.
A Word About Trimming Whole Beef Tenderloin
Removing the Chain
Your first step will be to remove the thin strip of meat that’s loosely attached to the thicker roast. This is called the “chain,” and while its meat is edible, it makes for a lopsided appearance when you roast the tenderloin whole.
Grab hold of the end of the chain that’s nearest the tail, or tapered, end. It should pull away easily, but you might have to make a small snip in the opposite end before it comes off completely.
Trim any excess fat or connective tissue away from the chain. Set aside the meat to make a stew or stir-fry later on.
Removing the Silverskin
If you’ve bought the tenderloin whole, it will probably still have the silverskin attached. This is a long, whitish membrane that runs along the length of the muscle.
Though you don’t have to remove the silverskin, the membrane will toughen up as the meat cooks. Since the hallmark of a perfectly cooked tenderloin is its melt-in-your-mouth texture, it’s better to remove this part.
It’s easy to trim off the silverskin. Just insert a small, sharp knife beneath one end of the membrane, holding the tenderloin steady with the other hand. Then run the knife down the tenderloin, holding it at an angle to avoid cutting into the meat.
The silverskin should come off in one long strip, but if you’ve left any behind, be sure to trim that away before seasoning the meat. As the tenderloin is fairly lean, there shouldn’t be much fat to deal with, but feel free to trim away any excess.
Depending on how many people you’re serving, you might also want to divide the tenderloin into smaller portions. A center-cut roast that weighs 2 to 3 pounds is ideal for smaller gatherings, and the slices will be of a uniform size.
If you leave the tenderloin whole, you may have to double up the tail end and tie it using kitchen string to avoid overcooking. Since this end is so much thinner, it will reach the target temperature much more quickly than the center or the head of the cut.
Speaking of tying the roast: This is another step that your butcher can perform for you in advance. This is one of the many advantages of purchasing your meat locally from someone you can trust.
Pro Tip: Many retailers will sell the tenderloin already trimmed. The per-pound price is bound to be higher for trimmed roasts, but if you buy it at a big-box store like Sam’s Club or Costco, you might still be able to score a good deal.
Finally, note that the head, or bifteck, might already be removed. Some butchers will carve this thicker portion off and reserve it to make carpaccio or beef roulades.
Beef tenderloin doesn’t come cheaply, but the results are worth the price. Save this delectably tender cut the next time you’re putting together a meal for a special occasion.