Rosemary Rubbed Beef Tenderloin

photo of rosemary rubbed beef tenderloinThis month’s Savuer (October 2011) features a poignant article by Hunter Lewis about time he spent with his grandfather at a fishing camp in North Carolina called Seniard Creek Farms. It is a memory piece, about men and memories and traditions and the passage of time, aptly named The Boys’ Club. It is a touching story about the author and formative time he spent with this man who filled a father figure void in his life. One can never underestimate the importance of time spent with other generations doing things such as hunting or fishing, and it has little to do with getting food. Yet food is central to all of these exercises. Lewis writes with tenderness about “a bunch of gray-haired men in the living room, drinking whiskey and practicing the high art of BS.”

I get that. Depending upon your upbringing, as a girl there are a few precious years before you are actually considered one of the women, when you catch a glimpse of these sancta. My childhood is speckled with visits to dark little hunting cabins that smelled of cigar smoke and bourbon and Bud. I know my brother had much more of a view of these ceremonious gatherings than I did. I also now know from the other side of the bridge of time that the women didn’t necessarily feel left out, but rather were more irritated by the pile of laundry and feathers and fins that came home with the men than the few days spent without them. Feminist education aside, I don’t begrudge men these places and times, though. Envy isn’t always a negative thing. Roles get all switched up in these camps and obstinate old farts who never lifted a finger in the kitchen at home can turn into hellacious camp cooks (Floyd Dean, my dad’s dad would be a prime example). Corn meal battered fish for dinner and biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Men do not eat poorly when left to their own devices, at least not the ones I know, and knew.

But, the article is worth reading, and best of all, it contains a wonderful and simple recipe for beef tenderloin. If you have twine, a cast iron skillet, an oven, plus a bit of garlic and rosemary, you are on the road to a wonderful company meal. Two pounds of beef can feed a lot of people and is not as expensive as it seems when you consider the relative costs of eating out these days. I will keep coming back to this recipe, I believe. This time, I used far less garlic and rosemary than suggested, but next time I will use the full amount listed below in the recipe. I craved more of the seasoned coating.

photo of how to tie a roast

Rosemary Rubbed Beef Tenderloin
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
The cooking time is judged solely by temperature here. You need a good meat thermometer. The time listed is a pure guess. Go by the thermometer because the cooking time depends on factors such as the temperature of the meat when you start, how long you sear it, and the diameter of the roast.
  • 1 (2 pound) beef tenderloin
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Tie the beef with twine to help with even cooking. Rub the beef with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, the rosemary and the garlic. Season liberally with Kosher salt and pepper, and allow the beef to sit at room temperature for an hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the remaining canola oil. Place the tenderloin in the skillet and brown it on all sides for a total of of about seven minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook it until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the tenderloin indicates 125 degrees for medium-rare. The beef will continue to cook once you take it out of the oven. Beware of going past 125 to 128, especially since the tapered ends will be close to medium at this point.
  3. Remove the tenderloin from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes, tented with foil. When you are ready to slice it, remove the twine and slice the meat into ½” slices. Serve with any accumulated juices from the cutting board drizzled on top.

photo of seared beef tenderloin Notes:

I served this with a very simple roasted potato dish which I will share in the next recipe. This beef  is divine. And there is truly no leftover better than cold beef sprinkled with a little salt (except maybe leftover apple pie).

Beef tenderloin is expensive. I’ll give you that. However, recently I took my family to a local burger place and four meals with milkshakes (you have to get a milkshake, right?) was $45. And the burgers, utterly forgettable. So, I can get approximately one pound of hamburger meat (and milkshakes, which makes it almost worth it) for $45 dollars. Or, for $10 dollars more, I can buy over 2 pounds of the best beef I can get in Dallas. Hmmmm? I think I’d rather eat cereal at home on burger night and go ahead and buy the tenderloin every once in a while. And, this was a bus-your-own-table joint so I didn’t even get the emotional surge of watching someone else take the dishes away, which, as you know, I factor into the cost of any meal.

I think sometimes I not only get hung up on the price of tenderloin, but I also get intimidated, because if you mess it up it is an awful lot of expensive meat going down the tubes. And, it seems like…and only “seems” like a big undertaking. But, it is not. In fact, I would argue that there are few things easier to prepare. But, my caveat is this, I use a meat thermometer. I have a twenty dollar job from Williams Sonoma that I have had for years. You put it in the roast and a little cord comes out of the oven and plugs into a tiny little digital box about the size of a half of a deck of cards. I cruise by the oven every few minutes to see how things are progressing and, at least in theory, can pull it from the oven the moment it says 125 degrees. I say in theory, because I let this one get to 128 as I was chasing a ninja around the house trying to get him to turn back into a little boy and set the table. These things happen. And a $50 piece of meat is always one ninja away from ruin, so I implore you to invest in one of these gizmos. Some people just “know” when meat is done, and I am not one of those people. I know it is too done when I smell the smoke.


  1. Susan Marie says

    I’ll definitely be trying this – I say there is no meal more memorable than one with excellent beef. About 20+ years ago, I prepared a standing rib roast for Christmas dinner, and my parents had traveled cross-country to be with us. My father talked about that roast dinner for years!

  2. Kelly says

    It is really hard to compare the two roasts. The recipes I have seen have treated the cuts very differently. One eye of round recipe that I have really liked calls for a unique approach. Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe in which they salt the meat (4tsp Kosher) and let it rest in the fridge, salted, for 24 hours. Then they sear it, as in this recipe. Then they cook it in a low oven (225) very slowly until it reaches a temperature of 115. They they tell you to shut off the oven and let the temp continue to rise to 125 or 130. This method does the job of softening up what is generally a tougher roast. But, I think it would be totally worthwhile to try the slow method on the eye of round, but with the garlic and rosemary. Let me know how it works out if you try it.

  3. Matt Young says

    Thanks for sharing this story, and your own family history!

    We are big lovers of the “baked steak” as we call it, and will have to try this rub. I had roasted filet at a dinner party several years back for the first time. Everyone at the dinner had lobster and I am allergic this was the substitute. Once it was tasted everyone wanted the steak. The chef did it in two ovens, one at 400 and one at 200 hundred, 20 minutes in each. We play around with a low temp and the duration. We do not have a double oven, so we tend to go low temp for a long time. Like your other post, sometimes I heat the oven to 350 and then turn it off when I put the roast in and let it sit there for about 40 minutes…its like butter!

  4. Kathy says

    Made this tenderloin for dinner tonight and it was wonderful. I followed the directions exactly but also added strips of bacon around the loin. The temp. you suggested removing it from the oven at was perfect. I cooked a 6 pound tenderloin and it was beautiful on the inside. It was delicious. Thanks for a great recipe.

  5. Kelly says

    Kathy, I’m so very glad the recipe worked for you, too. I’m glad to have this one in my arsenal. I’m particularly glad it worked for you since you risked a 6 pound tenderloin on it. You might have been a tad sore with me had it not turned out OK. That is a significant piece of meat. I’m thrilled for the feedback. Thank you for reporting back in. I love the bacon addition. I will do that next time, too.

  6. Kathy says

    I think the true secret to this being successful is the temp. you said to remove it from the oven at. I figured it doesn’t matter how big the loin is as long as I remove it at the correct internal temp. It was beyond yummy. 6 pounds is shocking in the beef tenderloin world I agree. I have a husband, a 21 year of nephew, 20, 18, and 17 year old sons. All at home to cook for. My kitchen is a constant buzz and the amounts of food I have to prepare for all these men and their friends is outrageous. Thanks it was amazing.


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