The best beef tenderloin substitutes are top blade, ribeye, and sirloin butt. These cuts of beef are tender and juicy, much like tenderloin. They also boast excellent marbling and high-fat content, which account for the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
In this article, I’ll take you through several different cuts of meat that you can consider as substitutes for beef tenderloin. I will discuss the merits of each, including which portion of the animal they’re from, so you can get a better grasp of factors like marbling, juiciness, and tenderness, especially since muscle movements play a significant role in influencing the quality of a particular cut of meat.
1. Top Blade
This cut might need some pounding and slow cooking to get through all the connective tissue and soften the meat. After all, it gets a lot of movement since it is found in the cow’s shoulder — also known as the chuck primal. Most meats found in areas that get a lot of exercise are tough, but the top blade cut is different because it has a lot of marbling. This gives this juicy piece of meat a rich, bold flavor.
The top blade cut has a rubbery gristle line running right along the center. When cooked right, you can easily work your way around it to enjoy all the creamy, beefy goodness. Never overcook this piece of meat because it can really become rubbery and chewy. To be safe, go only as far as cooking it to medium rare to keep the buttery consistency and rich flavors.
2. Prime Rib
This cut may not be as tender as tenderloin, but it is juicier and beefier in flavor because it has a higher fat content. You may even need to trim off some of the fat surrounding your prime rib cut, but this is mainly an issue of preference. As the name suggests, it comes from the cow’s ribs, particularly ribs 6-12. It has a lot of even marbling, which accounts for its juiciness.
A whole prime rib can weigh as much as 15 pounds, so it is usually cut in half. The larger half is from ribs 6-8, found near the cow’s shoulder. This cut has more fat, especially since it boasts a fat cap and a lot of connective tissue. The smaller half is from ribs 10-12, found near the short loin. This cut is leaner and more tender than the larger half.
The ribeye is a very sought-after part of the prime rib, cut off before the meat is cooked. This is where you’ll get to enjoy the rib cap — the muscle that sits against the cow’s backbone and isn’t used too much for movement. This is why this particular cut has a rich, beefy flavor with a creamy, buttery texture, thanks to consistent marbling throughout the meat.
4. Eye of Round
This cut may easily be mistaken for tenderloin because they both have an oval shape and are tapered at one end. The eye of round, however, is a muscle from the cow’s round — which is the rear leg. It is tougher than tenderloin and a lot leaner. It has a mild flavor, perfect for those who prefer only a vague beefy taste in their food.
This cut is found near the tenderloin and boasts a well-marbled, boneless consistency. Some people argue that the striploin — better known as the New York steak — is the middle ground between the famous ribeye and tenderloin cuts. The marbling in a striploin cut is distributed more evenly throughout the meat than the ribeye.
6. Sirloin Butt
The sirloin butt — sometimes called the butt tender — is found in the cow’s rear. This is where the tenderest muscles of the cow are located. This cut has an even thickness and is thus ideal for steaks. It is part of the general area of the sirloin cut, which is divided into 2 parts — the top sirloin butt and the bottom sirloin butt.
The top sirloin butt can also be an excellent economical alternative to beef tenderloin. It is a versatile piece of meat that can be sliced and enjoyed for different purposes. Its meat is both tender and juicy and can rival more popular cuts such as the ribeye and New York steaks.
7. Sirloin Tip
The sirloin tip is a cut of meat found near the top sirloin cut. It is leaner and tougher than top sirloin because, contrary to its name, it is not actually cut from the sirloin. The sirloin tip is from the cow’s round primal, found on the rear leg’s front part. Among all the round cuts of beef, it is the most tender.
8. Pork Tenderloin
If push comes to shove, you can always turn to pork tenderloin as a more affordable alternative to beef tenderloin. You won’t be sacrificing too much taste-wise since this pork cut is also flavorful and tender. It is, however, leaner than beef. What’s good about pork tenderloin is that it usually cooks faster than its beefy counterpart, so you can enjoy the juicy goodness sooner with less effort.
Related Article: The 10 Most Similar Pork Shoulder Substitutes.
Which Cut of Meat Is the Most Tender?
Beef tenderloin, as the name suggests, is the most tender cut of meat. It is lean and cut into a thick, filling portion. It is well-loved for its buttery taste and melt-in-your-mouth texture and is preferred because it can easily be sliced with even a butter knife.
Beef tenderloin comes from the cow’s loin, which is found along the 13th rib all the way to the tip of the hip bone. The loin is divided into 2 parts — the striploin and the tenderloin. The larger striploin runs right along the cow’s spine, while the smaller tenderloin cut can be found directly underneath the striploin. This area sees minimal movement, making the meat here very tender. It also comprises a small meat portion of the cow, making this cut more expensive.
What Makes Beef Tenderloin So Expensive
Beef tenderloin might be your favorite cut of meat, but, like many people, you probably can’t always indulge your cravings for its delicate buttery flavor. Perhaps the main reason for this is the price. Beef tenderloin ranks high in the list of most expensive cuts of beef, but there are well-founded reasons.
Here are some of the factors that account for beef tenderloin’s top-level pricing:
There Isn’t a Lot of Tenderloin in One Cow
Cows are mainly bred for their meat. However, beef tenderloin accounts for only about 8% of the 92% meat part of an average cow. This seeming scarcity in supply influences how this tasty yet exiguous cut of beef is priced.
The Demand for Tenderloin Is Always High
The basic concepts of the law of supply and demand can clearly be seen at work in this scenario. Since tenderloin is a well-loved cut of beef, but it can only be supplied in limited quantities, the demand for it is always high. Low supply and high demand consistently drive the prices up.
Raising Cows Costs a Lot of Money
Cows need to be cared for, fed, cleaned, and provided with a good home. If you’re into the business of raising cows, you should be ready to fork out around $500 – $1,000 per cow per year. All of these play a role in influencing how high (or low) the prices of the different cuts of beef are.
Furthermore, getting that beef tenderloin on your plate takes a lot of money, time, and effort. A cow must be butchered, its meat harvested, and the tenderloin separated. Then everything has to be cleaned and prepared for selling, distribution, or eating. All these incur additional expenses.
Beef tenderloin is a popular dish in restaurants. A lot of chefs and restaurant owners get to have their first pick on beef cuts, and tenderloin is almost always the first one to go. Due to the scarcity in supply, tenderloin is purchased at a significantly higher price than other meat cuts. Thus, the additional expense incurred by restaurants is naturally passed on to consumers.
As long as beef tenderloin is able to command a high price in restaurants, it will remain among the top-tier cuts of beef in supermarkets and meat shops. Add to this scenario the curiosity of people who have yet to taste their first beef tenderloin, and you have a thriving, consistent interest in this prime beef cut.
Is Beef Tenderloin Healthy?
Beef tenderloin is packed with iron, protein, potassium, and vitamin B6. Although some of the fat helps control cholesterol, it would be best to trim away some of the excesses to reduce your risk for critical illnesses. You will get about 275 calories from a regular 3-ounce tenderloin steak.
Which Cut of Meat Is Closest To Tenderloin?
The top blade cut is the closest to tenderloin since it is almost just as tender but not as expensive. It is found on the part of the cow that gets a lot of movement — the shoulder. It has a bit of gristle, but once you work your way around these rubbery parts, you’ll find the meat juicy and soft.
Is Beef Tenderloin the Same As Filet Mignon?
Beef tenderloin and filet mignon are not the same, although they are often mistakenly used interchangeably. Beef tenderloin is a large cut of meat from a cow’s back. Filet mignon is a cut of meat from the tenderloin muscle and is the most delicate and most expensive of all cuts of beef.
Beef tenderloin typically weighs about 4-6 pounds (1.81-2.72 kg), and its meat is known for being flavorful and juicy. It is prized for being the most tender cut of beef. However, inside the tenderloin lies the filet mignon, which is actually the most delicate part of the whole cut. It comes from a small round strip of muscle, which is practically never utilized by the cow, accounting for its extra delicate state.
Other Steak Cuts With Tenderloin Components
The tenderloin cut can also be found in other steak cuts because it can add tenderness, depth of flavor, and texture variation. Beef tenderloin is arguably the most prized of all meat cuts, so it is unsurprisingly high-priced. Fortunately, we can enjoy slices of tenderloin in these lower-priced steak cuts:
This popular steak lets you enjoy the best of both worlds on each side of a T-shaped bone. You will get to relish the goodness of the marbled, juicy goodness of the New York strip on one side while savoring the buttery tenderness of tenderloin on the other. The flavorful T-bone steak is undoubtedly an all-time favorite.
This steak is similar to the T-bone steak, but it is for those with hearty appetites since it is much larger. The porterhouse steak also boasts a T-shaped bone at its center, but with a bigger portion of the mouth-watering tenderloin on one side. It’s thick, juicy, flavorful, and tender all at the same time.
For more, check out Grass-Fed Beef Average Cost (and Where To Get It Cheapest).
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
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