Recently I became the very proud owner of a whole bison/buffalo tenderloin. I have to say, I’ve never been so excited about or intimidated by a piece of meat in my life. First, bison isn’t cheap, second, it’s very hard to find, and third, it’s a little tricky to cook as it has so little fat that it could easily dry out, tenderloin in particular. This will be the first installment on this piece of meat as I made two roasts and some steaks out of the massive tenderloin. Here’s the other recipe from this magical piece of meat…
A little background. The tenderloin was given to me by Chris Avolio from Hotshots Bar and Grill, which is also the banner sponsor of this site. That’s right, given to me. Talk about generous. I was floored when he offered it up after more than a few beers at the Fenton Hotshots. I was more amazed when he delivered it to my house the next day with some awesome jalepeno/cheese deer jerky.
What does a whole bison tenderloin look like?
The celly is in there for reference to see the size. I think that cutting board is 18″x12″. Before I took this picture I thawed it and rinsed the blood off.
This cut could be cooked whole, but I wasn’t planning on throwing a party to have enough people over to eat all that meat, and I wanted to get a couple cracks at this so I decided to carve it up into sections, but not until I cleaned it up a bit. I rolled it over and you can see some silver skin that can be very tough and needed to be trimmed off:
When doing this, make sure you have a very sharp knife in order to remove as little of the precious red meat below the skin. Once you get the skin away from the meat, you can sometimes just pull it with your fingers and a little pressure from the blade of the knife to remove it in neat strips:
Once I got done with the silver skin, I found some pockets of hard fat on the top that I trimmed away between the tenderloin and a skinny tendril of meat that I will probably fold over, tie off, and sear quickly like a steak.
Here we have the main tenderloin, the hard fat and silver skin I trimmed away, and that skinny piece of tenderloin:
I cut the tenderloin into two roasts and three steaks. The roast on the bottom left is what I will be preparing for this recipe:
The ingredients for this are simple. The marinade consists of two coffee stouts, and a couple cloves of garlic – diced. The rub is salt and pepper.
Here’s the meat in a bag with the garlic and some stout:
In the picture above, I only had one beer in the bag. I added a second to fully immerse the bison. I put that in the fridge for 24 hours.
The following day, I pulled it from the fridge and put it on a cutting board. I put a couple of the smaller pieces of meat that I trimmed from the whole tenderloin in the bag to have as a cook’s prerogative during the grilling process.
I coated the outside of the meat liberally with coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper:
I’m a big fan of reverse searing meat. Reverse sear means to smoke first, and then sear, rather than the more traditional method of searing and then smoking. I wanted to add a little smoke flavor to this before I put a nice char around the outside. Considering how lean bison is, compounded by the fact that it’s tenderloin, this method could very easily dry out this cut of meat. I probably wouldn’t do this method in the summer time, but considering it was a about an hour after we got a couple inches of snow and it looked like this outside, I decided to go with it:
I put the roast on the left and a little pile of coals on the right with a chunk of pecan on top:
The coals are not there to heat the chamber, rather to get some smoke from the wood. In fact, I went for as low a temperature I could in order to get the smoke flavor without drying out the meat. I put in a probe thermometer and had planned on smoking for 40 minutes at well under 200. I think the temp was something like 160-170 inside the chamber in the middle which meant even colder on the left by the meat.
Why the probe thermometer? There was no way I was going to risk overcooking this thing. The probe is attached to a transmitter that sends the temp to a handset I kept with me in the house while me and a buddy watched the AFC and NFC Championship games.
You will also notice that I didn’t put the grill grates in on the right. Leaving them off makes it a lot easier to add fuel and smoke wood. When it’s time to sear, I’ll slide the grates over.
After 40 minutes the internal temp was sitting at 75 degrees (bottom number):
Rare is 125-130 degrees so it’s still pretty much raw.
At 40 minutes the meat still looked uncooked, which was exactly what I was going for, and also made me decide to smoke it another 20 minutes:
At this point I added some fresh coals so I would have a big enough fire to sear the roast. I didn’t add a huge pile to considerably raise the temp in the chamber, but enough to have a bed of coals big enough to sear over when I went back out in 20 minutes:
20 minutes later (one full hour in the smoke) it’s at 86 degrees internal temp:
To give you an example of how cold it was outside, I snapped this picture just after I opened the lid at the one hour mark. Check out the steam coming off the meat as the cold air hits it:
Time to put the roast over the coals and get a sear, and who cares that it’s 20 degrees outside? It’s football season and I’m grilling, thus a cold beer and no coat seemed like the way to go:
Getting some nice grill marks:
More steam coming off the meat as it hit the cold air:
After I put a nice sear on it, I took it inside. I couldn’t hardly wait to get a bite of this and it killed me to let it rest, but I knew if I sliced into it right away, the juices, being in an excited state from the heat, would bleed out all over the plate. I wasn’t the only one excited. My buddy Derrick who was in town from Ohio was also losing his mind:
He doesn’t normally grill and watch football with me in a shirt and tie, but he came to my house straight from church.
I let the meat rest for about 12 minutes. Here it is plated and sliced:
And here’s a different shot taken with a different setting to try to show the smoke ring a little better. Look at the outer edge of the slice on the left:
The verdict? It was out of this world. The coffee stout gave it a nice sweetness that went well with the smoky flavor from the pecan. And of course, the meat was tender and meaty, yet still very moist. It was nothing like what we get at the grocery store from corn fed cattle. The narrow part on the point at one end was dry, but the rest was perfect. I can’t wait to get to that other roast that I slathered with roasted garlic, cracked peppercorns and Worcestershire sauce, but that’s for another time and another post.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email.
If you are interested in other game or exotic meats, click here.
- 24 ounces coffee stout (or any regular stout)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 turns of black pepper
- 2-3 lb bison tenderloin roast
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 1 tbsp fresh cracked pepper
- Combine the stout, garlic and pepper in a resealable plastic bag, add the bison and refrigerate 4-24 hours
- Remove the roast from the marinade, coat the outside with the salt and pepper
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with a small pile of coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temperature inside the grill is 200 degrees
- Smoke until the roast hits an internal temperature of 110-120 degrees (about an hour)
- Add charcoal to the small pile of coals to get a good fire, leaving the lid open to slow down cooking
- Sear the roast on all sides, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 8-12 minutes
- Slice and serve