Place the beef tenderloin on a pan, preferably with a rack if possible.
To dry brine the meat, use about ½ tsp of coarse kosher salt per pound of meat. Apply the salt to the top of the meat then place it in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight for best results.
The salt pulls moisture to the surface which in turn dissolves the salt and that salty mixture is then reabsorbed back into the meat.
Learn more about dry brining and/or brining in general.
Here's a visual of the salt coverage I used. At this point in the process, you can see how the salt was already pulling moisture to the surface and the salt was already beginning to be dissolved.
When the meat is finished brining, DO NOT RINSE.
You can now prepare the beef tenderloin for smoking.
If you look closely at the picture of the tenderloin, you will notice that it has one end that tapers down to a smaller size, this is called the tail. It is best to tuck this part under the meat and tie it up. Otherwise, this smaller portion will cook faster than the rest and end up dry and inedible.
Any clean cotton string will work if you don't have butcher's twine. Tuck the tail under then tie it up tightly using a piece of string that is about 12 inches in length.
If you are not familiar with the butcher's knot, you can use a basic square knot. It's always helpful to have someone put their finger on the string once you pull it tight while you finish tying it off.
Continue to place strings around the meat and tie it off about every 2 inches as this will make it more round and therefore will cook more evenly. If you do not tie it up, it will end up being less round, more oval and will cook less evenly.
Don't forget to cut off the extra string AND don't forget to remove the string when it's finished cooking.
Dry brining is a great thing to do but it does not take the place of using a good low-salt seasoning. If you are looking for a good low-salt seasoning that's amazing on beef as well as pork, chicken, seafood, etc. then look no further than than my Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).
Season the entire beef tenderloin by brushing on a little vegetable or olive oil then sprinkling the Texas style rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) on to the meat. Be generous with it.
Fire up the smoker using indirect heat. You'll want to set it up for cooking at about 225°F (107 °C) for best results. If your smoker uses a water pan, fill it up.
I used oak for smoke which is amazing on beef but if you don't have any oak, you can use hickory, pecan, maple, etc. whatever smoking wood you have and it will work just fine.
Pellet smokers cook a little different and I recommend starting these out on the special “smoke” setting. After you place the meat on the smoker, let it cook at this setting for about 45 minutes then turn it up to 225°F (107 °C) to finish.
Here's 9 of my best tips for smoking on a pellet smoker/grill
Once the smoker is ready, place the pan/rack with the meat onto the smoker grate and let it begin to cook.
You can also just place it directly on the smoker grate if you prefer.
At 225°F (107°C), you can expect it to take about 2 hours but this will depend upon several things:
- the thickness of the meat
- weather conditions
- how often you open the lid
- The temperature of the meat when it goes on the smoker
This means you'll want to use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of the beef tenderloin so you'll know once it reaches medium rare or the level of done that you like.
My favorite meat thermometer is the ThermoWorks Smoke.. you can read my complete review here.
I recommend removing it at about 130°F (54°C) which is a good medium rare.
Does that look good or what!!
When it's finished, bring it in and lay a piece of foil over the top for about 15 minutes to let it rest. During this time, the juices will redistribute throughout the meat.
Using a very sharp knife, slice into steaks that are about ¾ inch thick and serve immediately with plenty of other tasty side dishes.
I'm sure you're wondering if you can sear this when it gets finished or if it even needs it. I don't usually sear large beef roasts such as this but I certainly have done it and you can definitely do it if you want to.
If you plan to sear it, you might want to remove it from the heat at about 110- 115°F (43-46°C) and have a really hot griddle, pan or grill ready to go so you can go straight from smoker to sear.
Another option is to smoke it, then slice it then sear the individual steaks but I feel like if you're going to go that route, you might as well, slice it ahead of time and just cook them as steaks from the git-go. This gives you more seasoning on each slice and the ability to cook the steaks to order if necessary. Not a bad option at all.