This post is brought to you in partnership with Joule: Sous Vide by ChefSteps.
I have always considered beef tenderloin a "high stress" meal and given it a wide berth. This is an expensive cut of meat—it's not one that you want to mess up by trusting an untrustworthy recipe or forgetting to set a timer.
Add to this, roast beef tenderloin most often appears on menus around the holidays. I've never quite been able to overcome the terrifying possibility of ruining both a wage-devouring cut of meat and Christmas dinner.
But then I started doing more sous vide cooking, and with it came a confidence in cooking things that previously intimidated me. Like fish. And pork chops that actually taste like something.
Maybe, just maybe, it could do the same for beef tenderloin. Spoiler alert: Of course it could.
New to Sous Vide Cooking? Start Here
- Everything You've Been Wondering About Sous Vide Cooking at Home
- How to Use Your New Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
- How to Seal Foods Without Using a Vacuum Sealer
- Sous Vide and Food Safety: What to Know
New to sous vide? Take a look at this post to see what the fuss is about!
Let's talk about beef tenderloin for a second. This cut comes from the center of the loin, where the muscle is very tender and lean (not a lot of fat). Typically, this cut is sliced into the individual steaks we know and love called filet mignon.
It's a small cut, usually weighing less than 8 pounds total. When you compare that to the size of a fully-grown steer and how much meat that steer can provide, you begin to understand why the tenderloin is such an expensive, coveted cut of meat.
The fact that it's tender actually makes it really easy to cook—but also very easy to overcook. Tenderloin can easily go from melt-in-your-mouth to tough and chewy if you take your eye off it for a second.
This is where sous vide comes into play. Sous vide is a very gentle and slow kind of cooking. The beef is coddled in the sous vide water bath, cooking gradually in its own juices over the course of a few hours. The sous vide immersion circulator (I use a Joule) also keeps the temperature tightly controlled, so the tenderloin never has a chance to overcook.
Basically, it takes out the guesswork and the potential for human error, giving us a 100% stress-free meal.
To make this beef tenderloin even more special, I give it a double-sear: once before it goes into the sous vide bath and again after it comes up. The first time builds flavor in the dish; the second time gives the cooked roast a nice outer crust.
Use some port wine (I like tawny port) to deglaze the pan, then pour it over the beef. While it cooks, the beef picks up the rich flavor of the port—so good. And, of course, cooking juices become a delicious sauce that you can serve alongside the roast.
Slice it thinly like roast beef or thick like filet mignon—either way is a winner. While the tenderloin was cooking sous vide, I spent the time roasting a few sheet pans of winter vegetables and making a of polenta to serve alongside.
Curious to give sous vide cooking a try? Check out the Joule immersion circulator from ChefSteps. (I love mine!)
Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin with Port Wine and Garlic
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds center-cut beef tenderloin (See Recipe Note)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup tawny port wine
- 4 to 5 medium cloves garlic
- 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, plus extra to serve
Sear the beef tenderloin:
Sprinkle the tenderloin with salt and a generous amount of pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot enough, a drop of water should sizzle and quickly evaporate on contact.
Sear the tenderloin in the pan until it's dark brown all over, 1 to 2 minutes on each side and both ends. Transfer to a plate or cutting board and allow to cool slightly.
Make the port-garlic sauce:
While the pan is still hot, add the butter and garlic. Cook until the garlic is golden and fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.
Add the port wine and use a stiff spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine come to a simmer, then remove from heat.
Seal the tenderloin in a zip-top freezer bag:
Make sure the tenderloin and sauce are no longer steaming. It's fine if they are still quite warm, but they can melt through the bag if they're still steaming hot.
Place a gallon-sized zip-top freezer bag on your counter and flip the zip-top edge outward, forming a cuff around the bag. This helps the bag stay open and upright as you fill it.
Transfer the tenderloin to the bag and pour the sauce over top. Lay 5 or 6 sprigs of thyme over the top of the tenderloin.
Fill a stock pot with 5 or 6 inches of water. Slowly submerge the tenderloin in the water, using your hands to help push out all the air from the bag as you go. When you reach the top of the bag, zip it closed.
Lift the tenderloin out of the water and place it on a towel while you heat the water for the sous vide.
Heat the water for sous vide cooking:
Place your Joule or other sous vide immersion circulator in the stockpot of water. Set the sous vide immersion circulator to heat the water to 133°F for rare beef, 140F for medium-rare (my preference), 149°F for medium-well, or 167°F for well-done.
Cook the tenderloin sous vide for 2 1/2 to 3 hours:
When the water has heated to its required temperature, lower the tenderloin into the water so that it is entirely submerged. It's ok if the top of the bag pokes out of the water as long as the tenderloin itself is submerged.
Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but avoid cooking for much longer or the beef will start to get a little soft and mushy.
Sear the tenderloin a second time:
When the tenderloin is done, lift it from the water and place the bag on a kitchen towel. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact.
Use tongs to lift the roast from the bag and transfer it to the skillet. Be careful—it will sputter! Sear for 30 to 60 seconds on all sides, until the outside is even more deeply browned and a crust has formed.
Transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board and rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Deglaze the pan:
With the pan still over medium-high heat, pour in the sauce directly from the bag into the pan (discard the sprigs of thyme). Simmer for about a minute and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Carefully transfer the sauce to a serving cup.
Slice and serve the tenderloin:
Cut through the twine and discard. Slice the tenderloin either into thick "filet mignon" steaks (one steak per person), or into thinner "roast beef" slices (3 or 4 slices per person). Serve immediately with the sauce.