Smoked Beef Tenderloin is dry brined and grilled low and slow, before reverse searing, to develop a perfectly seasoned crust. The perfect compliment to the buttery soft interior. Truly a melt-in-your-mouth smoked beef tenderloin recipe.
Looking to kick it up a notch this holiday season? You’ve come to the right place. This easy beef tenderloin roast recipe is not only uncomplicated, it is sure to impress your family and friends. Bookmark it now because your’e going to want to make this year after year. Trust us. You can even use the leftovers in this Prime Rib Sandwich or Sancocho Dominicano.
Center Cut Beef Tenderloin, also known as a chateaubriand roast or filet mignon roast, is the perfect cut of meat to cook on the smoker or grill. To maximize flavor and texture, the reverse sear method is utilized. Here we show you how to smoke a beef tenderloin, step by step.
Table of Contents
What Is Beef Tenderloin?
Many of you have been enjoying our “famous” Prime Rib Recipe over the years. We were amongst the first sites to post Prime Rib recipes online and it’s been a reader favorite ever since (seriously – hop over and read the reviews). As such we wanted to provide some variety, as some folks prefer a leaner cut or to mix it up each holiday season.
Unlike a fatty piece of prime rib, beef tenderloin is a very lean cut of beef. It’s where filet mignon steaks are cut from. It’s located in the rear of the cow, underneath the ribs. It’s a rarely utilized “muscle” therefore making it soft and lean. Translation? Butter soft goodness!
How To Smoke A Beef Tenderloin
Prepare the Tenderloin
If you purchase an untrimmed roast, you’ll need to cut away the fat, connective tissue, and silver skin. Basically anything except the center of the roast that’s uniform in size. You can also tuck and tie the smaller end of the roast (called the tail), if you prefer. Here’s a video showing how to trim and tie a tenderloin.
For reference, our whole beef tenderloin weighed 6.6 lbs. before trimming. After trimming it was 3 lb. We don’t tuck and tie the tail area as we utilized those smaller sections as filet mignon steaks. The meat you cut away isn’t a waste, however! Use it to make steak sandwiches, soup recipes, stir-fry, etc. Pretty much the same stuff you would use leftover Smoked Ham for.
We make Beef Wellington Recipe with Red Wine Sauce with the small filet mignon steaks we get from the tail. Check out this bad boy! We usually have the smoked beef tenderloin for Christmas Eve and individual beef wellingtons on Christmas.
After trimming it’s time to dry brine the beef roast. This can be done immediately before cooking, or up to 24 hours in advance. The longer it brines, the longer the salt has to work its magic.
Prepare the Smoker
It’s time to get your smoke-on!! 30 minutes before cooking, you want to prep the smoker. Since you’re aiming for low and slow we recommend using about half your normal amount of charcoal (half a chimney full). Once you’re maintaining the temperature, and right before putting the roast on the grill, throw in your chunks of wood.
Smoke the Tenderloin
Once your smoker is pre-heated to 250 degrees F, it’s go time! Transfer the tenderloin to the grill grates and close the lid. We highly recommend monitoring the ambient temperature, as much as possible, to ensure a consistent temp level. You’ll also want to turn the roast about halfway through cooking time (usually around the 30 min. mark).
Reverse Sear The Tenderloin
Once your roast gets to your desired “pull time” (see chart below), it’s time to reverse sear. Reverse searing means applying high heat to create the beautiful and flavorful exterior crust.
Depending on your equipment there are a few options for reverse searing:
Option 1: Remove the roast to a cutting board and crank up the heat on your smoker to “high.” Once a high temperature is achieved put the roast back on and sear each side for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
Option 2: Add 1 Tbsp. Oil to a cast iron skillet and heat to high. Once a high temperature is achieved, put your roast on and sear each side for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to the cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
What Internal Temperature Do I Cook Whole Beef Tenderloin To?
Cook beef tenderloin by temperature, not time. Here are the “final doneness temperatures”. Your “pull from the smoker” temperature will be 10°F below the temperatures called out below as reverse searing and resting will increase the temp.
Rare: 125°F (Pull temp is 115°F)
Medium Rare: 135°F (Pull temp is 125°F)
Medium: 145°F (Pull temp is 135°F)
Medium Well: 155°F (Pull temp is 145°F)
Well Done: 160°F (Pull temp is 150°F)
Reference our Beef Temperature Chart if you’re unsure of the temp. you should go with.
What is the Best Wood To Smoke A Beef Tenderloin?
As with other expensive cuts of meat, we consider it a sin to overpower beautiful beef with a heavy hit of smoke. The smoke should compliment the beef, not dominate it. Think mild wood like cherry wood, apple wood, or even oak. Opt for quality wood chunks vs wood chips.
How Long To Smoke Beef Tenderloin
As stated above, you cook beef tenderloin by temperature, not time. With that said we can provide a guideline. Anticipate about 45 minutes, for a smaller size roast (1-1.5 lbs) and up to 80 minutes for a large size roast (2-3 lbs). Pretty similar time frame as when making Smoked Rack of Lamb and Smoked Leg of Lamb.
Dry Steak Rub
For high-end smoked beef, we let the smoke and quality beef do the talking. As such, we stick with a very basic dry steak rub to complement and enhance the natural beef flavor: kosher salt, granulated garlic and coarse black pepper. With that said, our Prime Rib Rub recipe would be killer as well.
Steak Dipping Sauce
While we keep the Smoked Beef Tenderloin Marinade basic, by using the above dry steak rub, we do like to mix it up with a variety of steak dipping sauce recipes. Our favorites include Prime Rib Au Jus (Pictured below), Red Wine Au Jus, Horseradish Sauce For Beef Tenderloin or Horseradish Aioli (here are horseradish substitute and an informative article on prepared horseradish vs horseradish sauce).
Smoked Beef Recipe Tips
Tip 1. Beef Tenderloin is the one cut you can save a few pennies on, if you’re on a tight budget, by grabbing a USDA Choice rated roast. The cut is naturally tender and soft, so it’s not imperative, like Prime Rib, to pick up a USDA Prime rated roast. If you can swing the extra few dollars per pound, we still prefer the better cut. If we’re going big, we’re going big!
Tip 2. Always use a thermometer. ALWAYS. You want to cook based on temperature not time. Our go-to digital thermometer is the Thermaworks Dot. It never fails.
How Many Steaks Per Person
Your best bet is to buy .75 lb. – 1 lb per person. Edge on the higher end, if you don’t have a ton of sides or you know your guests have hearty appetites. Peeps love some smoked beef tenderloin.
What to Serve With Grilled Beef Tenderloin
What Wine Pairs With Beef Tenderloin
Wine – Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Tempranillo
Smoked Beef Tenderloin (Reverse Sear)
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1.5 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
- 1.5 Tbsp. Granulated Garlic
- 1 Tbsp Ground Black Pepper
- 2-3 Lbs. Center Cut Beef Tenderloin Roast, (trimmed, with all fat and silver skin removed) ((Note 1))
Preparing The Tenderloin:
- Trim the beef tenderloin by removing the fat, silver skin, connective tissue and tail (if you're not tying the roast). Save the cut away meat for other dishes.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt, granulated garlic and black pepper. Rub the entire roast with olive oil. Generously rub the dry brine onto the oiled roast, staying away from the two small ends. (Note 2) OPTIONAL: Wrap tightly in Saran Wrap and let dry brine for up to 24 hours.
Prepare The Smoker:
- 30 minutes before grilling time, preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. (If you're not using a pellet smoker, aim to keep it between 225 degrees F and 250 degrees F.) Throw the wood chunks on right before adding the roast.
Smoking The Tenderloin:
- Transfer the roast to the smoker, close the lid and cook for approximately 45 min to 90 min (depends on the size of your roast), or until the internal temperature of the roast reads 125 degrees F (For A Medium Rare Finish). (Note 3- Reference For Other Temperature Options).
- Transfer the roast to a cutting board and let rest, uncovered, while preparing to reverse sear.
Reverse Sear The Tenderloin:
- Turn your smoker up to high (alternatively you can use a cast iron skillet with 1 Tbsp. of oil over high heat as well). Once heated, sear the tenderloin for 1-2 minutes on all sides to obtain the exterior crust.
- Transfer the roast back to the cutting board and let rest, uncovered for 10 minutes. Your roast should reach 135 degrees F for a medium rare finish. If it's not quite to temp, let rest for another 5 minutes. Cut the meat into 1" thick medallions and enjoy immediately.