Smoked beef tenderloin is one of barbecue’s best meats, and is taken to a new level by cooking it low and slow on your outdoor smoker. From the best woods to dry rub seasoning, find out everything you need to know with our guide on how to smoke beef tenderloin.
Beef tenderloin is a luxurious and tender primal cut of beef that boasts a rich flavor that’s off the charts. To get the very best out of it, we’re going to prepare it with a dry brine, a dry rub with a touch of heat, and reverse searing it to lock in that flavor.
In today’s recipe, I’ll walk you through how to prepare beef tenderloin for smoking before getting on to the smoke itself. We’ll be smoking it to medium-rare (about 125°F) before finishing it off on the grill to complete our reverse sear.
What is beef tenderloin?
Tenderloin is one of the best beef primal cuts, and the most tender. It comes from the back of a cow along the spine just above the kidney. The muscle is known as the psoas major and isn’t used much by the cow. The lack of use allows the meat to get encased with fat and stay tender.
Smoked beef tenderloin takes this cut of meat and seals in the juices and flavors. When made correctly, the meat nearly melts in your mouth.
Beef tenderloin vs. filet mignon
Filet mignon is a cut of beef that is part of the tenderloin. It is the portion of the tenderloin that touches the short loin. The filet mignon is the most tender cut of the tenderloin, and it is only a tiny portion of the whole tenderloin. It is the more rare cut of meat.
Filet mignon cuts are much smaller than tenderloin and may have more subtle flavors. They are also more expensive due to how few cuts of filet mignon come from a tenderloin.
Time & temperatures
Remember, when it comes to cooking times, it’s imperative to keep an even heat. Try to avoid checking the tenderloin too often to lower the temperature and cause problems with heat distribution.
250 Degrees Fahrenheit
Target Internal Temperature
130 degrees Fahrenheit on the grill
140 degrees after Fahrenheit after searing
This temperature puts you right in the medium-rare category. Your final temperature determines how well done the meat is. 125 degrees F is rare, 135 is medium-rare, 145 is medium, 155 is medium-well, and 160 is well done.
The USDA recommends at least a medium cook but many people like rare and medium-rare beef.
Time Needed Per Pound of Meat
45 minutes per pound of tenderloin
The meat is the main star of this dish. Making sure you handle the beef tenderloin correctly from the start will help create a great meal.
First, you want to cut off any extra fat from the tenderloin. Sometimes you get tenderloin wrapped in white fat that is known as tallow. Cut it off from the meat but try not to take any meat with it. You can save this for other recipes or discard it.
Now cut off the two ends of the tenderloin so that you get a uniform piece of meat. You want the meat to be about the same thickness throughout. Keep the ends to cook and use in other recipes.
You can now marinate or spice your beef. For this recipe, you will apply the olive oil and then add the rub generously. Wrap the meat in plastic and place it in the fridge for two hours.
Dry rub seasoning
A dry rub is a very popular way to season a smoked beef tenderloin. There are a lot of options for dry rubs. Many premade brands offer good rubs that cut down on your work, but you can’t dial in flavors as well with these.
You are using a very basic dry rub that enhances the meat’s natural flavors for this recipe. The salt pulls out many of the beefy undertones in the tenderloin. The pepper and garlic add a little depth to the overall flavor.
The dry rub is a great place to add peppers like chipotle, cayenne, and even hotter if you like spicier foods. You can also add sweetness to dry rubs by using brown sugar.
Tenderloins tend to smoke very quickly compared to other cuts of meat. This time means that you need robust wood flavors to get the best effect. Hickory and mystique will deliver the top results for your taste buds. If you want a sweeter note, applewood might work better.
Serving and side dish ideas
Beef tenderloin serves well with almost everything you would eat with steak. You can do it with rolls, mashed potatoes, or baked potatoes. Grilled veggies make a great addition. Salads can help add a light freshness to the meal that pairs well.
You can make many different gravies with your tenderloin. These can include a natural au jus dipping sauce or a white wine mushroom sauce. Some people like barbeque sauces with their meat.
Reverse searing beef tenderloin
Reverse searing is a method that cooks use to capture as much flavor as possible from the smoking process while still adding the crust that gives texture to the meat. The technique helps give meat one of the most uniform coloring marks.
First, you smoke the meat at a low temperature. Then you add the meat to a hot pan or a broiler at high heat to sear a crust onto the tenderloin. Searing also helps you finish cooking the meat to your desired temperature.
How to smoke beef tenderloin
- Trim your tenderloin, removing extra fat and cutting the ends off to make the meat uniform thickness.
- Combine the dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Cover the tenderloin in olive oil and add the dry rub generously to the meat. Cover the whole cut in the rub.
- Wrap it in plastic and place it in the fridge for two hours.
- Preheat Smoker to 250 degrees.
- Place the tenderloin on the smoker and let it cook for 1 1/12 to 3 hours, depending on the weight of the meat.
- When the meat reaches 130 degrees, or about ten degrees less than your goal, remove the tenderloin.
- Place the tenderloin on the pan or grill at high heat and sear for 3 minutes on each side.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting in and enjoying.
- 2-4 lbs beef tenderloin, trimmed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Dry Rub Seasoning
- 1 ½ tbsp coarse black pepper
- 1 ½ tbsp garlic powder
- 1 ½ tbsp kosher salt
- Trim your tenderloin
- Cover meat in the olive oil and mixed dry rub
- Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 2 hours
- Preheat smoker to 250°F (120°C)
- Smoke meat for 1 ½ to 3 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 130°F (54°C) for medium rare
- Remove meat from the smoker and place it on a pan or grill at high heat for 3 minutes per side to sear
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing to serve