Disappointing tenderloin

Hello all, and great to read your reviews and helping suggestions!

After what I think was a successful start with SV (salmon, chicken) I decided to put tenderloin steaks to the test.
And it was very disappointing!

I had two organic tenderloin steaks which I put SV for 1hour 20 min at 131F, following the suggestions around and trying an average temperature. The meat was very lean, I would say no fat at all.
After searing in cast iron skillet… the meat was cooked perfect medium rare, but very tough and chewy!

What happened? Could it be that the cut of meat was not as good as I expected?
Any suggestions to solve the issue, or to look for when buying the meat?

Thank you very much in advance for all your help!

Lo, it’s hard tp believe tenderloin failed your test, although it seems to occur most often to puzzled new Community members. Welcome.

For a thorough diagnosis it would be helpful to have a few more pertinent details like thickness and internal temperature before and after searing.

Tenderloin is always very lean except in exotic beef, waygu, etc. That’s why it isn’t very forgiving to overcooking. Yet you say it was cooked perfect medium rare. What was the evidence for you to make that statement?

Why do you ask if the meat could not be as good as you expected? Did you buy it from a usually reliable source? Some locally grown organic beef in my area doesn’t receive much aging before sale and that’s one possible explanation for your result.

The usual cause of the outcome you describe is aggressive searing, but your judgement of perfect doneness is in conflict with that.

Help us out with more details if you can. We don’t want you to have another expensive flop.

Hey chat, thanks so much for your points here, let me see if I can remember the more specific details here:

This was a totally “visual” assessment, meaning that the color was “the usual” deep pink-red I see in steakhouse-cooked meat, so I was inclined to say that was not a matter of cooking time/temperature.
My 131F/1h20min was also eyeballed by saying, “ok the recommended temperatures should be around 129°F-134°F for medium rare, let’s do something reasonably in between”. I had no reason to actually choose one value over the other.
I don’t know the specific thickness, but I would say ~1.5 inches.

This is actually a great point. In my case, experimenting with SV means also experimenting with searing, so I also bought a cast iron skillet. I usually bring it to the smoking point before searing the meat, which I think it would be kind of aggressive, but from what I read it might have taken a bit too long with respect to the 30-45 seconds I read being the standard timing.
I would say it took me around twice as much, slightly less than two minutes for each side.
Maybe this is the point…

I bought the meat from a big supermarket in the Boston area, which I don’t have reason to complain about and from which I have usually bought meat I was satisfied about when grilled.

Thanks again for your suggestions, I will try again!

If tenderloin was tough, I’m inclined to think it wasn’t tenderloin and may have been another muscle trimmed to look like tenderloin. Eye of chuck or eye of round, perhaps? Only speculating.

Tenderloin is prized because it is naturally tender, so much so that it is part of the name. It’s a very low work muscle.

Hey EM, thank you for your reply.

It appears your experiment took well cooked steaks and proceeded to substantially overcook their exteriors creating dry and tough packages of meat. It often happens. Competent searing requires less experimentation and more careful thinking about what’s needed, - and what you’re doing. It’s a skill that takes carefully focused practice to develop. You’ll get there.

As you revealed, like most folks you used visual feedback as your guide. I suspect most home cooks try to recreate their steakhouse experiences with that spicy special crust and slightly smokey finish. That image becomes their standard. Only a relatively small number of restaurants start with a SV cooked product. (But they are increasing in numbers such as The Keg chain of steakhouses across Canada.) So the home SV cook is at a substantial disadvantage in achieving that standard.

The problem with having that standard in mind is the steakhouses have an unfair advantage that’s going to be difficult to match. Many start by dipping the steaks in clarified butter which contributes a lot of rich flavour. Home cooks typically use a neutral flavoured oil. Restaurants use a lot more seasoning than home cooks. They also cook over high output grills reaching from 1,200F to 1,800F. A skilled steakhouse cook plays his grill like an accomplished musician, carefully moving the meat from a high temperature zone to lower ones as doneness and appearance dictates. And because they are starting with a raw product they can develop that sought after exterior over a longer period of time than the home SV cook.

Welcome to the age of blowtorches in the kitchen to quickly achieve that charred surface, if you must.

I prefer what you have to develop flavour and aroma. Just a simple cast iron pan preheated to about 465F. How do i know that? I cheat and use a contact thermometer. I also employ many short contact times. To begin, i apply a high quality unsalted clarified butter to well dried meat. Then it’s seasoned. It’s the blackening technique i learned in New Orleans. Try it.