Easy Roast Beef Tenderloin with Peppercorn Sauce is the perfect meal for the holidays. Or serve it for a romantic Date Night!
Beef tenderloin, in tight competition with prime rib roast, may just be the perfect Christmas, holiday, or special occasion dinner.
Whole beef tenderloin can seem intimidating, but this recipe will show you how easy it really is. You’ll save money and impress your friends. Win-win!
Where to buy beef tenderloin
Since beef tenderloin is a favorite special occasion dinner, we usually buy it around the holidays. BONUS: this is also when it tends to be on sale.
Costco beef tenderloin is always good quality. You should also be able to find it at your local supermarket.
Keep in mind that you can buy a perfectly trimmed, center-cut beef tenderloin—or, you can buy a whole beef tenderloin and save money.
We bought a whole beef tenderloin on sale for $6.99/lb, whereas the sale price of a fully trimmed, center cut tenderloin was $10.99/lb.
How much beef tenderloin per person?
I figure ½ pound (8 oz) of uncooked beef tenderloin per person—if you want to be generous in the spirit of the holidays, or if you have big eaters, plan ¾ pound.
This latter strategy also makes it more likely that you’ll have leftovers, which is never a bad thing.
How to trim whole beef tenderloin
The budget-friendly strategy of buying a whole beef tenderloin does mean that you have some trimming and slicing to do. But it’s very easy!
For a great tutorial on trimming the beef tenderloin, check out this helpful YouTube video: Trimming and Tying Your Whole Holiday Tenderloin by Wegmans. BUT: keep in mind that our post is about roasting the chateaubriand: we remove the ends and the head and keep only the center cut of the tenderloin.
Removing silverskin from the beef tenderloin
It’s critical to remove the silverskin. This is a shiny, bluish strip of connective tissue that runs most of the length of the tenderloin. It will not break down during the roast and is inedible.
Removing the chain
Along one edge of the tenderloin is the chain: you can locate it and pull it apart with your fingers. Then, use a knife to completely separate it from the rest of the roast.
Is beef tenderloin filet mignon?
Yes: filet mignon steaks are from beef tenderloin, usually cut into approximately 2″ steaks.
For this recipe, we used the center of the tenderloin—the chateaubriand—for our roast and cut four filet mignon steaks from the other parts for a future dinner.
Removing the head
You’ll notice a large “head” at one end of the tenderloin: find the separation point and remove with a knife. Because of the fat content, this is considered the “VIP cut” and can be sliced into 1–2 large filet mignon steaks.
What is the chateaubriand cut of the beef tenderloin?
The chateubriand is the center cut portion of the beef tenderloin. This will yield the most tender meat and also makes for a beautiful presentation.
Locate the largest and most uniform thickness of the tenderloin and cut the length of roast you want to prepare. We chose a 12″ section because it was a perfect for our cast-iron skillet and was more than enough for our party of five.
What can I make with the trimmed pieces of the tenderloin?
The very ends of the tenderloin and the chain are too thin to cut into steaks. You can trim off the fat and cut them into chunks for stew, chili, shish kebabs, steak bites, beef stroganoff, and more.
Do you need to tie beef tenderloin?
Beef tenderloin is a wonky cut that isn’t a uniform thickness, so tying the roast every 2–3 inches with butcher’s twine helps even it out. We also tie once around the length of the roast.
If you are roasting the entire tenderloin (rather than cutting off the ends), you can tuck the thin ends underneath the roast before tying to make the thickness more uniform.
Seasoning for beef tenderloin
We prefer a very simple rub of salt and pepper. This allows the beef flavor to shine through.
Other popular seasonings are granulated garlic and/or onion and rosemary. Because we use a dry brine for this recipe (see below), be sure that any additional seasoning you choose to apply does not contain salt.
This beef tenderloin recipe involves a dry brine in kosher salt: dry the meat with paper towels and liberally salt. Then set on a rack (to allow air flow around the entire roast) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but up to 48 hours.
The salt draws the water out of the meat, creating an intense brine that is eventually sucked back into the meat, naturally adding flavor while also ensuring that you’ll get a great sear and juicy meat.
For a thorough explanation of the science of dry brining, see How to Dry Brine.
However, if you don’t have the time for the dry brining step, you can simply salt and pepper right before searing the roast and the results will still be fantastic.
Applying the seasoning rub
After brining, there’s no need for additional salt in your seasoning rub. Once more, dry the meat thoroughly with paper towels before applying generous amounts of freshly ground black pepper. Massage the pepper into the roast to make sure it sticks to the meat.
How to cook beef tenderloin
First, sear the roast in a cast-iron skillet
A large cast-iron skillet is great for making beef tenderloin. If your roast is too big for your skillet, you can cut it in half and cook the halves side-by-side. Be sure to leave room between the halves to that they can cook uniformly.
Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat for 5–6 minutes. Add oil. Then, when the oil starts shimmering, place the tenderloin in the skillet and sear the first side for 2 minutes.
Repeat for the next two sides, then place final side down and insert a leave-in thermometer in the thickest part of the roast.
It’s important to sear 3 out of 4 sides before placing into the (preheated) 400º F oven. There’s no need to sear the fourth side. It will sear when you turn it down and place the skillet in the oven.
Finish the beef tenderloin in the oven
Put skillet in the oven and roast until the leave-in thermometer reads about 10–12º F below your target internal temperature (see chart below). Remove from the skillet and rest uncovered on a cutting board.
When is beef tenderloin done?
To me, the perfect final internal temperature for beef tenderloin is around 135º–140º F, which is a nice medium rare. We removed our roast from the oven when the leave-in thermometer reached 125º F and rested for 20 minutes until the temperature stabilized (this could take up to 30 minutes depending on the size of your roast).
Be advised that the tenderloin will continue to rise an additional 10–12º F during the rest—take this into account!
Sauce for beef tenderloin
Traditional French chateaubriand is served with a red wine sauce, but the sauce for this beef tenderloin recipe is a recreation of a creamy green peppercorn sauce I loved from a local steakhouse.
After removing the meat, use the same skillet to saute shallots until soft over medium-high heat while the tenderloin rests. Don’t clean or wipe the skillet!
Next, turn the heat to high. Add the brandy after 1 minute. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any fond (the delicious caramelized bits of meat stuck to bottom of the skillet). You want the alcohol flavor to cook off, so let it reduce for 1 minute.
Now, add in finely crushed green peppercorns, beef broth, heavy cream, and Maggi seasoning sauce (this is optional, but boy does it amp up the flavor!). Reduce heat to a medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Finally, finish the sauce with butter.
Slice the roast into ~1-inch medallions and serve with the sauce.
What side dishes go with roast beef tenderloin?
You can’t go wrong with mashed potatoes! Choose from Perfect Meal-Prep Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Irish Colcannon with Cabbage and Leeks, or Easy Skin-On Mashed Potatoes with Horseradish (because we have a robustly flavored sauce, though, I’d recommend leaving out the horseradish—you’ll love the texture of the skin-on potatoes on their own).
You could also make a green vegetable or salad, like Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Meal-Prep House Salad & Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, or Arugula-Shaved-Fennel Salad.
What can I do with my beef tenderloin leftovers?
Leftover beef tenderloin is fabulous thinly sliced on sandwiches, as I’ve done with leftover prime rib in my Open-Faced Prime Rib Sandwiches—or as the featured meat in “Real Deal” Beef Pho Noodle Soup.
That’s it! This impressive meal comes together very quickly after the dry brining step. It’s so easy and delicious. I hope your family loves it!
Want more holiday roast options? Check out my Date Night Prime Rib Roast (scalable to larger crowds!), Herb-Roasted Rack of Pork, Holiday Turkey Roulade with Sausage Stuffing, and Roast Rack of Lamb-Potato Traybake! Or, there’s always Ultimate Classic Roast Turkey!
Stay safe. Stay well. And have a wonderful holiday season.
For the beef tenderloin:
- 3 lb. center cut beef tenderloin (see Recipe Note #1)
- 1 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
For the Creamy Green Peppercorn Sauce:
- ¼ cup shallot, minced
- ⅓ cup brandy
- ⅓ cup beef broth
- ⅓ cup water
- 2 tbsp brined green peppercorns, rinsed and finely crushed
- ½ cup heavy cream (see Recipe Note #2)
- ¼ tsp Maggi seasoning sauce (optional)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- Tie tenderloin every 2–3 inches, and then tie once around the length of the roast.
- Dry meat with paper towels and liberally salt.
- Set on a rack set into a baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 3 hours, but up to 18 hours (see Recipe Note #3)
- Remove roast from refrigerator a half hour to an hour before you plan to start cooking. Dry any accumulated moisture from the tenderloin with paper towels.
- Sprinkle liberally with black pepper. Let the roast sit at room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 400º F.
- Heat a 14-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the roast. Sear 2 minutes each on three sides.
- Turn the fourth side down (see Recipe Note #4), insert a leave-in temperature probe into the thickest part of the roast, and place the skillet in the oven.
- Roast until the leave-in thermometer registers 10–12º F away from your final target temperature (see Recipe Note #5). Remove and rest for at least 20 minutes.
- While the tenderloin rests, make the sauce: Add shallots to the same hot skillet (do not clean or wipe out).
- Turn the heat to high; after 1 minute, add brandy; boil and reduce for 1 additional minute.
- Add crushed green peppercorns, beef broth, heavy cream, and Maggi seasoning sauce (if using). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the butter; stir until melted into the sauce.
- Slice the tenderloin into medallions; serve with the sauce spooned over the top.
- This is also called the chateaubriand. I recommend buying a whole, untrimmed beef tenderloin. Trim and cut the roast according to the instructions in the post above. This saves money and provides additional, excellent-quality meat for filet mignon steaks, stew, and more.
- Also called double cream or whipping cream.
- Note that if you don't have time for the dry brining step, simply dry your roast thoroughly with paper toweling and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Your roast will still be fabulous.
- There is no need to sear the fourth side of the roast because the screaming-hot skillet will sear the final side as it roasts in the oven.
- The roast will continue to rise in temperature 10–12º F as it rests, depending on the size of your roast. There's no need to cover with foil.