It will be the easiest meal you’ve ever grilled.
Credit: Getty / Anton Vierietin

I know that grilling season is underway, and for many, the obvious choice is burgers. Especially for a gathering. But I might suggest that this summer, you think about going in a different direction. Because burgers, for all their surface ease, can be a pain for the cook when trying to feed a crowd.

The case against burgers

Let's face facts: Burgers can be a bit fussy. If you buy pre-made patties, you should cook to a safe internal temp of 165° to prevent food-borne illness, which leaves out those who prefer theirs pink. If you form your own patties, it can take a lot of time for prep. It is all too easy to burn the outside before the middle is cooked, or for the delicate meat to stick to the grill if you try to flip too soon or if your grill isn't properly seasoned. They can go from perfect medium rare to a bouncy well-done in what seems like seconds. And they require that the cook stay chained to the grill until everyone's personal order of temperature and type of cheese is fulfilled.

Let me free you from all of that with one easy swap. And that swap is whole grilled tenderloin.

The case for whole grilled tenderloin

This cut of meat can be pricy at the butcher, but my secret weapon is to purchase a whole unpeeled tenderloin at Costco and do the trimming myself, which makes the splurge much more affordable. The tenderloin can then be left whole if everyone in your party likes their meat the same level of doneness (medium rare is ideal for most) or cut into two smaller roasts to give more flexibility. You can season simply with salt and pepper or use a more complex rub or marinade. The meat will need to rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing, giving the cook a chance to step away from the grill to get the rest of the meal organized. 

How to grill and serve whole tenderloin

When it comes to the best way to grill a whole tenderloin, it's important to remember that this cut has minimal internal fat. Cook it over indirect heat to about 110°-115°, then finish over high heat to sear and come up to temperature. If you happen to have a sous vide unit, you can sous vide to 120° and then finish on the grill for color. You can also do a reverse sear process, cooking in a low oven (200 degrees) to 115° and then finishing on the grill for color and smoke. 

My favorite way to serve is to slice in slices about ¾-inch thick and put out for self-serve sandwiches with soft buns, pickled red onion, arugula, spicy mustard, barbecue and creamy horseradish sauces, and let my guests assemble their own. A 5-pound tenderloin will easily serve between 16-20 people. 

Want a recipe to get you started? Give this version with fresh herbs a shot. And if you like to smoke your meats, give this version with a punchy lemon horseradish cream a try.