Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Salt-Packed Roast Beef Recipe

Brilliant. That’s what we think of this salt-crusted beef tenderloin recipe from chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune in New York City’s East Village. It’s brilliance lies in the simple fact that the insanely flavorful juices are trapped within the roast during cooking. That’s it. Well, there’s also the fact that it’s ridiculously easy to pull off for guests. The intriguing bread crumb salsa lends a lovely acidity to the rich roast, although it’s not requisite to the appreciation of the perfectly medium-rare meat.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC What Folks Are Saying About This Recipe Note

“The most succulent roast I’ve had in a long time.” “Everyone should try this cooking method.” “Astonishing.” “Perfectly beefy.” “I am at a loss for words.” That’s what folks are saying about this salt-crusted beef tenderloin recipe.

Salt-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 6


  • For the roast beef
  • 24 ounces beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds kosher salt*, preferably Diamond Crystal
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • For the bread crumb salsa (optional)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces day-old peasant bread, torn into free-form small-ish “croutons”
  • 1 pound assorted sweet cherry tomatoes, split in half
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly in rings, from the white all the way up through as much of the green stalk as is edible
  • 4 small cloves fresh and sticky new garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 packed tablespoon plus 1 packed teaspoon salt-packed anchovies, rinsed, filleted, and then minced
  • 2 lemons, zested, supremed, seeded, and all the juice from what’s left of the skeleton after supreming the segments
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup clean, dry, flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • Make the roast beef
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 250°F (121°C). Heat a large, heavy, cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 whole minutes and make sure the hood is on. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • 2. Using your hands, rub the grapeseed oil over the beef to coat all sides and then sprinkle evenly with black pepper.
  • 3. Brown the beef tenderloin, using tongs to occasionally turn it so it gets thoroughly browned on every side—including the ends. You want it to have a nice crust universally around the meat. This takes 7 to 8 minutes to brown correctly. A good sear creates a barrier for the upcoming salt crust.
  • 4. Remove the meat from the pan and let it cool on the wire rack.
  • 5. Mix the salt with the water to form what looks like bright white wet sand. Start with 1 1/4 cups water and, if necessary, add more water, a little at a time.
  • 6. When the beef is cool and mostly dry, spread a thin but solid and even layer of salt on the bottom of a 1/4-sheet pan or smallish roasting pan and set the cooled roast on it. Pack the remaining moist salt tidily around the browned meat to create a solid case. It should be like a cast on a broken leg. Where there are cracks, redistribute the salt and patch them. This should be a fun and unfussy task. If you need more salt or more water or more of both, mix up whatever you need and get the beef encased. If you use a cut of meat that’s larger than 1 1/2 pounds, you’ll need more salt and water to encase it. And if you’re having a tricky time with the salt mixture adhering, dump it in a bowl and add an egg white and try again.
  • 7. If you have an oven-safe instant thermometer, insert it through the salt into the beef. Place the salt-crusted beef and its pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes. If you weighed the beef properly at the outset, 45 minutes at 250°F (121°C) is fail-safe for medium-rare. Otherwise, use an instant thermometer and go in through a cut end of the tenderloin and insert it directly into the center. The beef is ready to take out of the oven when it hits 125°F (52°C) in its center.
  • 8. Crack the salt crust, dust away the granules of clinging salt with a clean, dry towel, and place the beef on your counter.
  • Make the bread crumb salsa (optional)
  • 9. In a small, deep-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. The oil should be just deep enough to submerge the first tip of your index finger. (Good olive oil is rarely recommended for frying, so don’t ever do this when you go on to work in a real restaurant, but Hamilton really prefers the flavor it adds.)
  • 10. When the oil makes beautiful, veinous, streaking patterns in the pan, which will move faster as the oil gets hotter, drop in a piece of crouton as a test. When it sizzles on contact, the oil is ready. Do not let the oil smoke.
  • 11. Fry the croutons until golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon, and drain in a stack of basket-style coffee filters or on brown paper bags. Set the oil aside to cool.
  • 12. Mix together the tomatoes, scallions, garlic, anchovies, lemon flesh and zest and juice, and the red wine vinegar and toss well. Toss in the fried bread croutons and dress with 1/3 cup now-cool olive oil left from frying.
  • 13. Rough up the parsley leaves by briskly rubbing them between your hands just to release the grassy aroma. Toss them in the salsa. Sparingly season the salsa with salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the filet will bring its own seasoning to the plate.
  • Assemble the dish
  • 14. Slice the beef to order, keeping portions at 6 ounces. Arrange the slices on each plate, overlapping the slices slightly. Drape a good, generous spoonful of salsa over the meat, if using, being careful to let the perfect wall-to-wall pink of the filet show and don’t hide that beauty under carelessly placed salsa. Drizzle the beef with some of the remaining fry oil to finish. Do not season further.

*Kosher Salt Note

  • Different brands tend to have different size crystals, so the weight and volume will vary from one brand to the next. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton uses Diamond Crystal, but feel free to use whatever brand of kosher salt you have on hand. Just know that you might need a little more or a little less than precisely 2 pounds, depending on the size of the crystals.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

I am at a loss for words to describe this recipe. At first I thought this would be an instant heart attack, but it turned out to be the most succulent roast I've had in a long time. As far as all that salt goes, you don't even know it was ever on the beef. The flavor of the meat shines through as well as all the delicious juices that usually drip out during cooking. Attribute that to the sear. It is important that the meat has a good crust. You really need to have a hood that vents outside or you will be setting off smoke alarms for sure. I just used olive oil instead of some grapeseed oil and browned the beef in a cast-iron Dutch oven so I could place the splatter screen on top. On high heat, it took just about 8 minutes to get a nice crusty sear. I used canned anchovies in olive oil because that's all I could find and drained and rinsed them for the salsa. I used some leftover French baguette for the croutons, just tearing into pieces, frying as directed, and draining on paper towels. My meat was just about 2 pounds, so I gave it an additional 5 minutes, and it was done perfectly. This is a very easy recipe to make. Everyone should try this cooking method. The results are astonishing. It says 6 servings, but 3 of us devoured it with just enough left for a sandwich for lunch and some salsa as a salad replacement. Will likely be doing this often. I'm gonna try this with other cuts of meat as well. I highly recommend this one for sure.

I love baking in a salt crust. Everything I've tried comes out moist and perfectly seasoned. So as you can imagine, when this recipe came across my inbox, there was a resounding "yes! yes! yes!" However,, truth be told, I hacked the recipe a bit. After shopping around for beef tenderloin and thinking about the premise of the recipe (baked in salt) I had a hunch that other, less costly meats could stand in. So with fingers crossed, I set out to make an eye-round roast. I was able to find a small roast weighing just over 1 1/2 pounds and asked the butcher to tie-wrap a layer of fat around the meat. With all else being the same, I stuck my temperature probe into the browned meat, encased it in salt, and said a little prayer to the dinner gods. Unlike the tenderloin, the eye-round took about 20 minutes longer to reach 125°F for a total roast time of just over 1 hour. Once removed from the oven and freed from its salt dome, I placed the roast on a piece of foil on the counter to catch any extra wayward salt and juices. I continued the recipe as described and set out to make the bread crumb salsa while letting the meat rest. About 20 minutes later, the salsa was ready, and it was time for the moment of truth. How did the eye-round work out? Splendid! Delicious! And perfectly beefy for the acidic bread salsa. Not only do I now have the original tenderloin recipe for special occasions, but I have a nice weekend dinner project my crew can enjoy more regularly. A few testing notes on the original recipe: the salt crust is very difficult to work with using water as a binder. I wholly recommend following a method that uses an egg white. Also if choosing water, do not add the entire 1 1/2 cups cold water right away. Add enough water that the texture goes just beyond sand, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 1/4 cups water for me. A testing note related to the hack: the original amount of salt crust made is based on a 1.5-pound roast. If you use a larger piece of meat you will need more to make more salt crust. The ratio is 3:4 (meat:salt), so if you have a 2-pound piece of meat, you will need ~43 ounces salt (a little under 4 pounds). If you use a thermometer that you can encase in the roast, you will always know when to take it out of the oven by peeking at the exposed dial now and again.


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