Why You Should Avoid Making Beef Tenderloin In The Slow Cooker

There are many things in this life that spark joy, and say what you want, but for many of us a slow cooker is one of them. There's just something sanguine about the set-it-and-forget-it ease of the cooking tool and the way it gently coaxes certain foods to perfection. Beef tenderloin is another of life's joys, an achingly-tender cut of beef that is understandably luxurious. In a perfect world it would be natural to pair these two, but in reality that would be a mistake; a slow cooker is just the wrong tool for the job and would render less-than-stellar beef tenderloin.

Beef tenderloin demands quick, high-heat cooking in a dry environment to create that coveted caramelized crust while maintaining a juicy interior. This method allows for the Maillard reaction, where the sugars and amino acids in the meat undergo a complex chemical reaction, enhancing flavor and texture. Slow cookers, by design, operate at low temperatures over an extended period, and their enclosed environment retains moisture. While this is ideal for tougher cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking to break down collagen and tenderize, it can lead to an undesirable texture for beef tenderloin, which thrives on a drier, high-heat environment.

What to do with these two instead

For those seeking a medium-rare beef tenderloin with a delectably seared exterior, skip the slow cooker, as roasting is the preferred method for preparing this type of meat. There are a few ways to go about this, such as using the sous-vide method with the tenderloin in advance or using the reverse sear technique, but if you crave simplicity, go for a straightforward roasting method. This means first searing the whole beef tenderloin in a screaming-hot skillet on the stove top. Then slide it into a 450- to 475-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 to 20 minutes for an internal temperature around 135 degrees. (Use a properly calibrated internal probe thermometer to check.)

If your slow cooker is feeling left out, grab a decidedly cheaper cut, such as chuck. This marbled, well-worked muscle is perfect for the device, rendering tender meat with the right technique and patience. Season and sear the chuck roast in a pan before transferring it to the slow cooker along with accumulated pan juices, vegetables such as mirepoix, and plenty of liquid, like stock, wine, or a combination. Set the slow cooker on low and walk away. The result will be fall apart beef that is sublime.