Tenderloin Filets | 3 Ways to Cut ‘Em & 4 Ways to Trim ‘Em to Manage Food Costs

Tenderloin filets are one of the most popular steaks on restaurant and banquet menus today. They are also pound for pound, the steaks with the highest food costs. By understanding the different ways Tenderloins can be cut and trimmed, you can achieve more cost control.

Filet Mignon 101

Tenderloins are recognized as the most tender cut of all beef because the Tenderloin muscle itself is a non-locomotive muscle in the animal.  In other words, the muscle doesn’t move when the animal does.  The less a muscle works, the more tender it is. This is the reason why steaks cut from the Round or Chuck tends to be tougher.

The whole Tenderloin, PSMO (Peeled, Silver Skin, Side Muscle On) is comprised of three major muscles: The psosas major (the main muscle), the psosas minor (the side muscle, strap or chain) and the ilacus (the wing or ear muscle). The common industry terms used when cutting Tenderloin into steaks are:

Butt End (Head)  The large end of the tenderloin where the wing muscle is attached.

Tail  The tapered end of the tenderloin.

Strap (Chain)  A thin fibrous muscle which runs the length of the tenderloin along one side only.

Silver Skin (Silver)  A thin membrane, silver in appearance, which is found on the top of the tenderloin extending from the Butt End and tapering towards the Tail.  The Silver Skin is edible and typically melts away under high heat cooking.

When portion cutting filets it is typical to square off the tenderloin by removing a standard amount of both the Head and Tail before cutting any type of steak.

Whether you purchase portion control filets or buy whole tenderloins and cut your own filets, understanding  the cut and trim specifications used for Tenderloin cuts can help you manage quality and control your costs. Buedel’s Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, provides this rule of (Tenderloin) thumb to our customers: There are three ways to cut ‘em and four ways to trim ‘em. 

Three Ways to Cut ‘Em

We can classify the three ways to cut ‘em as: Good, Better and Best.

Good: Full Cut or End to End  This is the least expensive cut because it utilizes most of the Tenderloin. The Head is left intact and the filets are cut from the Head to the Tail. This cut however, yields a somewhat inconsistent set of filets when cutting to specific portion size. For example, if you’re cutting 8 oz. filets, you will get some thicker barrel shaped filets from the center, some thinner double muscle filets from the cut straight across the Head section and some coned shaped filets from the tapering Tail section.

Many restaurants use this cut because it is the most economical which enables them to better manage how they can utilize the different shapes; it is not recommended for banquets because the filets will not be uniform in size and shape. Have you ever been to a wedding where your filet looks tall and thick and the person sitting next to you has one that looks wide and thin? They were probably serving Full Cuts.

Better: Center-Cut  The Center-Cut delivers a very consistent set of filets and utilizes most of the tenderloin.  The Head is split separating the Wing muscle from the main muscle and filets are cut to size from both the barrel of the tenderloin muscle and the wing muscle.

Finished Center-Cut filets are considered to be barrel shaped and because most of the whole tenderloin is utilized, the yield is maximized to lower food costs. This is a good cut for both restaurant and banquet menus.

Best: Barrel-Cut  This cut delivers the most consistent and uniform set of filets. Filets are cut from the center or barrel of the tenderloin and are all equal in height and width. This is the most expensive of all cuts because you only get a few filets per tenderloin – the lowest yield produces the highest cost. It is a  cut which appeals to the most discriminating chefs and provides superior quality choice for restaurants and banquets.

Four Ways to Trim ‘Em

Now that we know the three ways to cut filets, let’s look at the different ways to trim them. Trim specifications are where master butchers can help control much of your filet costs.

Strap On / Silver On  The whole tenderloin is trimmed of any major visible fat, the Strap and Silver Skin remain intact and then the filets are cut.  This is the least costly trim level and is often marketed as Close Trim.

Strap On / Silver Off  The whole tenderloin is trimmed of all the Silver Skin and most of the visible fat is removed. The Strap is trimmed and left attached to the main muscle when filets are cut. This trim level is less expensive and still yields an attractive filet.

Strap Off / Silver On  The whole tenderloin Strap is removed including most of the visible fat up to the Silver Skin which is left intact for cutting. This is a desirable, popular and less expensive trim level.

Complete Trim, Strap Off / Silver Off  The whole tenderloin Strap and Sliver Skin are removed along with most of the visible fat surrounding the main muscle before the filets are cut. It is the most expensive and  appealing  trim level available.

Purchasing Specs

The North American Meat Association (NAMA) established a set of standards for trim specifications for all meats. They publish these standards in The Meat Buyers Guide (MBG) where each cut and trim specification is assigned a number. The meat industry uses these MBG numbers as a common language for cut and trim levels.

Whole Tenderloins are generally available as boxed beef MBG #189A. The MBG numbers for the Tenderloin Filets with the cut and trim levels explained above are:

1189A – Full Cut Filets with Strap On & Silver Skin On [Also known as Close Trim filets]

1189A Modified – Full Cut Filets with Strap On & Silver Skin Off

1190 – Full Cut Filets with Strap Off & Silver Skin On

1190A – Full Cut Filets with Strap Off & Silver Skin Off

1190B – Center Cut Filets with Strap Off & Silver Skin Off

1190B Modified – Barrel Cut Filets with Strap Off & Silver Skin Off

Tenderloin Takeaway

Regardless of what USDA Grade filets you choose, there can be as much as 30% food cost difference between different cut and trim specifications.

Consider how each of these options could work for your operation and avoid missing out on the opportunity to lower food costs and increase quality.

Saving up to 30% on any purchase is a great deal today!


From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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