Tenderloin of Beef with Cognac Dijon Sauce

By Sally Cameron on January 24, 2011

beef & pork, holiday dishes,


Easy But Impressive

Easy to roast to perfection and serve with flair, it’s hard to compete with the buttery richness and occasional indulgence of beef tenderloin for a special dinner. Recently a friend called and asked how to prepare one. It’s more of a method than a recipe. Once you try this, you won’t need a recipe either.

Buy the Best: It’s Worth It

When purchasing beef tenderloin, I buy from the best butcher around and am never disappointed. Where I don’t buy is at a discount grocer or big warehouse store. You might spend a little more, but you can be assured of the quality.

In the bigger picture it’s probably only a few dollars difference. Not only will a good butcher trim the meat for you (so you have less to do), they will usually cut exactly the piece you want. The guys at my favorite butcher’s counter know me well; a relationship that definitely has its benefits.

What to Buy, How to Trim

When purchasing beef tenderloin I always ask for a center cut, figuring 8 ounces per person of uncooked weight. If there is any silverskin (tendon) left, ask for it to be trimmed or do it yourself with a sharp knife. To see how, click here to link to my pork tenderloin post. It’s the same technique.

Tie it Up To Maintain Shape

You’ll need kitchen twine, a heavy pan (cast iron skillet, stainless steel skillet or saute pan) a rimmed baking sheet and wire rack (like for cooling cookies), a digital thermometer like a Thermapen, foil, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and olive oil.

First, be sure that your beef is at room temperature. Let it sit out for about an hour if it has been in the refrigerator. You want it near room temperature for the most even roasting.

Second, tying your meat helps it to keep its shape and roast evenly. You can tie it with individual pieces of butchers string or tie it with one long piece, whichever is easiest for you.

After tying, season liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. I also like to use granulated garlic. Rub sparingly with a little olive oil.

Get Ready to Roast

Next, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. In preparation for roasting your tenderloin, cover a quarter sheet or half sheet rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a wire rack on top. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Place beef in the hot pan and sear on all sides and both ends, turning as a rich brown crust is achieved. Turn your ventilation system on as searing can create a lot of smoke and steam.

When the roast is seared, transfer beef to the wire rack on the baking sheet and finish in the oven. This helps for fast, even roasting. Set the pan aside to make a pan sauce. Don’t wash it!

Roast to Your Preference

Roast until beef is done for your taste preference, testing with a meat thermometer. A digital one is easy to read. Temperatures are listed in the recipe below for rare through medium. Test at about 18 minutes and continue until your ideal temperature is achieved. There are many factors involved in timing such as how long the meat was seared and the thickness of the piece.  Just watch it as you don’t want to over cook this beautiful piece of meat.

Let it Rest

Remove the roast beef from the oven and allow to rest 15-20 minutes so all of the juices re-absorb throughout the meat. If you slice it right away you will have a dry roast as all of the savory juices will drain away. The temperature will continue to rise while it rests. After resting, remove the twine, slice and enjoy.

Sauce: Finish with Flair

For a quick and easy pan sauce, start with cognac and creme fraiche or cream. The inspiration for the sauce recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic new cookbook Around My French Table. I add a little fresh chopped tarragon and a little good Dijon mustard for my version of classic French bistro flavors. Recipe below.

For Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, Christmas, New Years eve or other special occasions, you’ll have a main dish sure to please all beef lovers in your family.

For recipe ideas on what to serve with your roast tenderloin of beef, try these links

Roast carrots with thyme, A Food Centric Life

Creamy Mashed Potatoes, From A Food Centric Life

Classic French vinaigrette dressing for your salad from David Lebovitz

Roasted Gold Potatoes with Rosemary “Gold Coins” from White on Rice Couple

French Baby Green Beans, on A Food Centric Life

Five minute chocolate mousse, on A Food Centric Life


Tenderloin of Beef with Cognac Dijon Sauce

When purchasing beef tenderloin I always ask for a center cut, figuring 8 ounces per person of uncooked weight. Buy the best beef you can from a quality butcher and you won’t be disappointed.


  • 1 pound tenderloin of beef preferably center cut, trimmed of all silverskin, close to room temperature
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Granulated garlic optional, I use Penzey’s
  • Olive oil about 1 tablespoon
  • Tools – Kitchen twine


  1. Tie the tenderloin with kitchen twine at about 1″ intervals to help maintain it’s shape and roast evenly. Liberally sprinkle all sides with kosher salt, pepper and if using, granulated garlic. Rub with olive oil.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil, top with a wire rack and set aside.
  3. Place a heavy skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is very hot, place the beef in the pan and sear on all sides, turning when a nice brown crust forms. After sides are seared, turn briefly on the ends to sear them as well. Place beef on the wire rack and set the pan aside. DO NOT WASH IT.
  4. Place seared beef on the wire rack in the oven and roast until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 120-125 degrees for rare or 130-135 for medium-rare and 140-145 for medium with a digital thermometer. Test at about 18-20 minutes and roast longer if needed. When I do a 1 1/2 pound piece in my convection oven it takes about 18 minutes. Timing will depend on how long you sear the meat, your oven, etc.
  5. Remove beef from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes. This gives you time to make a sauce or finish up your side dishes. Remove the twine, slice and enjoy.
  6. Cognac-Dijon Cream Sauce
  7. A creamy sauce with cognac and the classic French flavors of Dijon and tarragon. Dorie Greenspan’s original recipe calls for just cognac and cream. See her recipe in Around my French Table. I’ve added the Dijon and tarragon for my version of classic French bistro flavors.
  8. Serves 2-4
  9. Ingredients
  10. 1/3 cup cognac or brandy
  11. 1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
  12. 2-3 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard (I use Maille)
  13. 2 teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon
  14. Directions
  15. 1. Using the pan in which you seared the beef tenderloin, return the pan to medium heat. Pour off any fat, leaving the browned bits of meat.
  16. 2. Off the heat, add the cognac then return pan to the heat and stir, scraping up the browned bits of meat stuck to the bottom. This is called deglazing the pan. Allow the cognac to cook down for a minute or two, then whisk in creme fraiche or cream. When that is smooth, add the Dijon and tarragon. Taste and adjust the flavors with salt and pepper if needed, but it may not need a thing.


Leave a Comment
Maggie | February 10, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Wow! This sounds amazing! I was trying to think of something to cook for my husband for Valentine’s Day and this sounds perfect!

One question though–my husband hates mustard. Does the tanginess of the mustard tend to cook out or what would you recommend to replace it? I suppose it could just be left out and maybe replaced with some butter?

    Chef Sally | February 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Maggie – Good! It is easy and elegant. Get top quality beef and you can’t go wrong. If he hates mustard I would first ask, all mustard? If it’s the bite of Dijon, use less or make sure you are using a mild style. You could skip it, although it is a natural emulsifier. You will still have a great sauce, without the mustard. Any questions call me! Would love to help you make a great dinner for your hubby.

Quan | February 10, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Love the recipe! Going to be making this for vday!

Is the first photo medium or medium rare?


    Chef Sally | February 11, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Probably in between Quan, maybe more medium. Enjoy preparing it! Please let me know how it comes out.

Maggie | February 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I made this for dinner tonight and it was wonderful! I sneaked some mustard into the sauce and my hubby didn’t even notice. 🙂 Can’t wait to eat the leftovers!

GastroStu | August 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

That first picture looks beyond delicious, few things beat a nicely cooked piece of beef. Great post!

Juicee34 | December 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

Omgomg, this looks very very succulent!

Christine W | December 15, 2015 at 11:05 am

Hi Sally – This looks so delicious! I will give this a try. What brand of cognac or brandy do you recommend?

    Sally Cameron | December 15, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Christine. I usually get something mid-priced in cognac, like a VS or maybe a VSOP (which some people might say is too good to cook with). You will have more options if you shop a store like Total Wine or BevMO. I had a good bottle of Remy in the pantry for awhile, and since I don’t drink cognac, I cooked with it. That was good!

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