Save Money by Breaking Down Your Own Beef Tenderloin

Unleash your inner butcher.

Published Feb. 2, 2023.

A roast beef tenderloin is a showstopping main. It’s tender, tasty, feeds a crowd, and feels special, especially when you serve it with an elegant sauce. That said, beef tenderloin is not cheap. Buying an untrimmed (sometimes labeled “unpeeled”) tenderloin and trimming it yourself can save you serious money. Here’s how to do it.

1. Trim the Fat

Place the roast on your cutting board with the wider end (head) on the left and the side with more white fat facing up. Pat it dry with paper towels to remove moisture. Then pull away and discard the outer layer of fat. Some of this can be done with your hands; it is easy to pull it off, but it can be helpful to use a boning knife to get it started or on any particularly stuck spots.

Breaking down beef tenderloin

2. Remove the Chain

Starting at the thin end (tail) of roast, pull the fatty chain away from the side of the roast, slicing through the fat with a boning knife if needed to detach it. This chain has some bits of meat on it. At one restaurant I worked at, we would trim out the usable meat and put it on a tenderloin pizza or in stir-fries. You can also use it to make a stock or beef-based sauce without trimming it as much.

Breaking down beef tenderloin

3. Remove the Silver Skin

Silver skin is the tough layer of connective tissue often present on cuts of beef or pork. It doesn’t melt in the same way fat does, so it will never render during cooking and needs to be removed. To do so, insert your boning knife under the silver skin on the tail end of the roast. Start with the blade of the knife nearly parallel to the top of the meat so you don’t cut down into the valuable meat. Then angle the knife slightly upward and use a gentle sawing motion to remove the silver skin.

Breaking down beef tenderloin
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4. Inspect the Tenderloin

With a trimmed tenderloin, it is easy to see how the shape tapers from head (left) to tail (right). Look for and remove any remaining bits of fat or silver skin.

Breaking down beef tenderloin

5. Cut It in Two

This is an optional step that makes it easier to fit the tenderloin in a skillet if you want to sear it. We recommend doing this after roasting in a low oven in order to get a nice crust on the meat. To do it, slice the tenderloin at the base of the thicker head into two roasts. 

Breaking down beef tenderloin

6. Tie the Roasts

Tuck the end of the tail piece under itself to make it more of a consistent shape. Then tie the tail and head roasts at even intervals with butcher’s twine so that they cook evenly and retain their shapes.

Breaking down beef tenderloin
Test cook Natalie Estrada reveals the secrets to making a foolproof Classic Roast Beef Tenderloin with host Bridget Lancaster.

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