Many foodies are afraid of a big piece of meat like the one above. That folks is a whole beef tenderloin. We regularly buy them at Costco, where recently the price has dropped drastically. This guy cost us only $62. To put that into perspective, I often watch people at the butcher’s counter paying $15 a piece to make filet mignon or $60 for a 6-8″ tenderloin roast. That is just poor economics, but many people don’t think of buying a whole loin because they are afraid to clean it.
That’s a shame, because not only is it a great way to make one of the nicest cuts of beef affordable but it is also really easy. As a muscle, the tenderloin has a fine layer of sinew around most of the flesh. Basically all you need to do is remove that layer or silverskin. You will want to work with a small, very sharp knife, as you want to slice it off cleanly, not tear the flesh. Another reason for using a very sharp knife is that you want to have good control while you are cutting, as you are working in very close quarters with your fingers. Don’t slip because you were using that old paring knife you stole from Mom when you moved out. Yes, we all have one or two of those in the drawer!
Find a spot near the fattest part of the loin and slip your blade through the silverskin and under the fine layer, holding the knife as close to the sinew as possible. Bring the tip of the knife out of the skin, about an inch from your first incision. Holding the blade at an upwards angle towards the skin, draw the blade away from you, down the length of the silverskin. You want to try to glide the blade along the back side of the silverskin removing the flesh. Now that you have “broken in”, you may find you can remove much of the sinew by running a finger under it. The stuff that you can’t get under, just run the knife under it as before.
As you remove that stuff, you’re going to find a few ribbons of fat towards the thicker end of the loin. Most of them are small and you can just clean off the edges with your knife. There will likely be one thicker ribbon of fat that separates the main section of the loin from another nice plump piece. Remove that piece and retain it for another meal. Clean up where that piece was, removing the remaining fat and sinew with your knife.
You know have 1 long piece of beef tenderloin, a small cast off piece of meat and a pile of fat and sinew with little bits of waste beef attached. More on that pile later. You will notice that the loin is very slim at both ends. You will probably want to cut those ends off so they look like small roasts. Now, you have some great looking cuts of meat that you could have easily spent double for at the meat counter.
In this case, you’ll see the small end at the back. In front of it is the piece that I’ve separated but haven’t cleaned. That will be reserved for another use. Then there is the thinner part of the center of the tenderloin. We used that for a smaller Wellington without mushrooms for the kids. The big part in the front was used for the main Wellie. We’ll give you all of the deets of the wellies in another post. The pile of fat and off cuts on the right side was used in our tenderloin stock experiment.
Really, when you buy a whole beef tenderloin, you can get 3 or 4 meals from it for the cost of 1 meal if you buy just the filet’s already cut.