Beef Tenderloin Substitutes

Want to enjoy a regal roast beef but spend a bit less?

photo by mila0506

Okay, there is no real substitute for the butter-knife tenderness of the most spendy cut of beef. It’s making the rounds on a host of food blogs for the upcoming holiday.

In fact, I just got booked for a private dinner slated for January 2nd and I’ve been on the phone trying to track down a couple of grassfed tenderloins at the last minute.
But, did you know that among the pros–and I’m talking about meat cutters here–tenderloin is never a top pick? Most butchers I’ve spoken to think the tenderloin is overrated. Certainly, it is pricey, but that doesn’t tend to impress them.
This slender cut is the single most tender muscle on a cow because it’s a supportive, not an exercised muscle. But, it has a milder flavor than other cuts. Butchers think it’s a wimpy cut without any character that makes beef great.
If you’re looking at the new year with an eye on your budget like I am, tenderloin may be out of your range. But that does not mean that you can’t serve a lovely and impressive beef supper over the New Year’s weekend.
Here are some lesser known, more economical and supremely flavorful beef cuts to try: 
*Rib-eye roast: This premium cut is popularly known as prime rib and is butchers top pick as the king of beef cuts.
*Top sirloin roast: Sirloin usually ends up as steak, but a center cut chunk of sirloin makes a mighty fine roast.
*Top round roast: The cut typically used for deli roast beef makes a succulent roast beef supper–so long as it’s cooked at a low temperature (325F or less) until medium-rare.
*Sirloin tip roast: The underdog of the beef world, this cut is also known as the “knuckle” since it lies between the sirloin and the round sections. 
Here’s an Oregonian article I wrote about 3 of these cuts for an affordable feast. It includes 3 recipes for stuffed roast beef that have the added bonus of serving less meat per person.
It holds true no matter what meat cut you choose that cooking it to the proper temperature is critical to your eating enjoyment. Invest in a reliable instant-read thermometer before you buy any meat.
Happy New Year!

2 Responses to Beef Tenderloin Substitutes

Rural Eating

December 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Cheryl Sternman Rule of 5 Second Rule fame posted this via email:

Hi Lynne! Your beef know-how is both impressive and extremely useful. What's your view on tri-tip? I'd never heard of it before moving out to California in '04, but it's definitely one of the most popular cuts among my circle of friends…


Rural Eating

December 31, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Thanks, Cheryl! The tri-tip is cut particular to the West (California being its birthplace, if you will) and is a favorite of backyard grillers. It's one of the cuts from the bottom sirloin that people love for the great beefy flavor and grainy character–and it's a relatively inexpensive roast or steak.

On grassfed animals, this cut is pretty tiny compared to commodity beef, so I don't get a lot of it. I classify it with the other "bistro-style" steaks, such as flank, bavette (sirloin flap) and hanger.


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