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Jan 11, 2011 09:32 AM

beef tenderloin for a buffet?

I'm having a buffet lunch for about 20 people this weekend. I was planning to make two big pots of soup (one is pork posole and the other is a vegetarian chile) and a bunch of side dishes (a couple of robust salads, a butternut squash gratin, a frittata, etc.) and a few desserts. But I'm beginning to think that this menu is not meaty enough and that I should add something like a beef tenderloin (or maybe roasted turkey breast?). I'm wondering how a beef tenderloin would hold up on a buffet table. I know it can be served room temp but can I just leave it on the table for a couple of hours? If I do that, should I cook it in advance and chill it and then let it come to room temp again for serving or just cook it soon before I put it out and let it cool? I'm thinking mostly of the food safety issues but it would be useful also to hear opinions about how the taste and texture would be affected.

Thanks for any thoughts or ideas.

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  1. I've been to several parties recently that served beef tenderloin as an appetizer. It was cubed and wrapped with half a snow pea and skewered onto half an eggplant. There was a dip on the side that was probably dijon, sour cream and mayo.

    1. I would cook it the day before (sear on stovetop, finish in oven) and let it come up to temp a bit (but not all the way) before serving BUT I don't think you need to. If you really think you might not have enough, make a bit more soup. Your menu sounds great as it is, and everyone will love it but if you also have a big chunk of beef that will go first and you'll be eating pozole for a month!

      1. Beef tenderloin will hold up fine on your buffet. Expensive though. I think the turkey option? Or some roasted chicken?

        1. Tenderloin is delicious warm or room temp, served with a horseradish dip, for example.

          1. I agree that your menu sounds great as-is, but if you want to gild the lily, a beef tenderloin will do the trick. It's good hot, warm, room temperature, or cold, so you don't really have to worry much about that.

            If you choose to cook it ahead of time, food safety isn't much of an issue unless you mishandle the meat after it comes out of the oven. Let's face it, you've got a solid muscle, so there aren't any germs on the inside (if there were, serving it rare would be unsafe). And the outside has just been blasted with heat, so it's sanitary too.

            Once you've sliced it, and especially once it's out on the buffet table, the clock starts ticking. Possible sources of contamination such as the knife blade, people's fingers, coughs and sneezes, etc. have come into play. To be on the safe side, figure a couple of hours at room temp, then it needs to get back into the fridge. (Personally I'd go three or even four hours without worrying too much, but I'm notoriously cavalier about these things.)

            I like it sliced thin with a horseradish cream sauce. Serving small rolls alongside so that your guests can make mini-sandwiches will make this expensive piece of beef go a lot further.

            Speaking of cost, your best value is usually on a whole PSMO (peeled, side-meat on). Cook the main muscle for your guests and you've still got the head (which makes a nice little roast for a couple of people) and the chain (which I grind for steak tartare). Alton Brown has a good video on how to break down a tenderloin: (start around 4:00).

            10 Replies
            1. re: alanbarnes

              AB, you always give such good advice and tips!

              1. re: mamachef

                Aw, shucks [grinds toe on ground].

              2. re: alanbarnes

                Can I prepare the day before and re-heat? Or what is the best way to have it done a little ahead of time so I'm not going crazy right before guests arrive?

                1. re: bigmommaaustin

                  You can definitely prep the day before. Serve at room temp or warm in a low oven for 20 min or so.

                  1. re: monavano

                    Oh thank you. And what do you think about the suggestion to freeze beforehand for easier thin slicing (below by katecm)?

                    1. re: bigmommaaustin

                      How are you planning to serve the filet?
                      If you are planning to slice thin and cook, you should do that a la minute.

                      1. re: monavano

                        I was going to serve, hopefully, thinly sliced with silver dollar rolls and a some kind of sauces (horseradish and mayo mixture). I am worried about making it look pretty (slicing thin can be tricky) and so I was drawn to the comment about slicing before cooking. I'll quote her below:

                        "I learned a trick for beef tenderloin from a friend. In order to ensure nice even, thin slices, take your whole raw tenderloin and place it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes so the outside begins to freeze. You can cut it in VERY thin slices, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through. Then use twine to tie it all back together. It sears and cooks perfectly normally this way. Then, when it is done, untie the twine and it opens into a flawlessly sliced tenderloin instead of thick, jagged slices."

                        1. re: bigmommaaustin

                          Unless she swears on her child and promises to pay for the tenderloin should this not work, I would never attempt it. The margin for error is too small and the potential for expensive damage, too great. My main concern is that the edges would get overdone, and evenness in roasting is a priority. It's also a serious pain to try to line up meat that's room-temp, which it will be by the time you get it sliced. An electric knife, as archaic as that sounds, really does give perfect thin even slices every time.

                          1. re: bigmommaaustin

                            I can not imagine doing that!!
                            Have faith in your knife skills and cook the tenderloin whole to a nice med/rare, then slice before serving.
                            The slices do NOT need to be flawless, it just needs to taste good.