New Year's Eve Dinner
Happy New Year. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, full of great joy and wonderful meals. I'm looking forward to the New Year and all the new cooking techniques and recipes I will learn and be able to share with you. 2011 should be a fun year with some major changes to the Reluctant Gourmet website and cooking blog.
This year I spent New Year's Eve in Park City with my family at my good friend Alice's home where she prepared delicious roasted beef tenderloin, Caesar salad, boiled potatoes and my oldest daughter prepared her special glazed carrots. On the way back from a great visit from our friend's cabin in the Uintas, Alice asked me how long should she cook the tenderloin? I gave her my standard answer, "as long as it takes to get the internal temperature you want".
How long does it take to cook a beef tenderloin?
I get asked this question all the time and although I often prepare a meal using time and temperature given in the recipe, I know this is not the best way to cook anything. The best way to cook a steak, roast or even a piece of chicken is to use a thermometer to measure internal temperatures.
For this whole beef tenderloin, Alice wanted to cook it to medium doneness which equates to approximately 145°F. In order to achieve this, I explained to Alice she should cook the tenderloin to an internal temperature of approximately 135°F and let it rest until it reaches the desired 145°F. This also allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. (See my Meat Doneness Chart)
Photo Credit - The photograph above is not from our dinner but from Eric Olson's Flickr page. I unfortunately did not take any photos of our dinner prep and we did not cut our whole tenderloin in half as Eric did but the thermometer is exactly the same as the one we used.
What type of thermometer?
With roasts, I like to use a meat thermometer. Whether it's one of the old-fashioned style meat thermometers, or the new fancy models with a probe and an external remote (some have a wire connection and some are now wireless), it doesn't matter. Alice had a very old meat thermometer that I found very difficult to read but worked just fine. My problem with her old fashion meat thermometer was how difficult it was to read.
The other option is to go with an instant read thermometer like the one I talked about in my recent Christmas gift idea article describing an instant read thermometer versus a talking thermometer. These instant read thermometers are great for checking internal temperature of steaks, pork chops, and chicken breasts or anything you are cooking on the stovetop. They work fine for roasts, but I don't like having to open the oven door all the time to check the temp.
We cooked the beef tenderloin at 350°F for about 60 min. until the temperature at the thickest part of the roast reached 135°F. After removing it from the oven and covering with tinfoil, we let it rest for approximately 15 minutes. When I carved a slice from the middle of the roast, it was cooked perfectly to a medium doneness. Normally, I would cook it to a medium rare doneness, which equates to about 130°F but that is a little too rare for the girls.
I know that most of you are used to cooking meats and poultry using a time and temperature technique and that most recipes found in cookbooks and cooking magazines give you time and temperature, but I urge you to use them as approximations only and try getting used to using a thermometer to achieve better results. You may even want to keep track of internal temperatures for everything you cook and after a while you will be able to determine when a piece of meat is cooked to perfection by your other senses including touch, sight, and even what you hear.