Dr. Isis’s Towel-Wrapped Tenderloin

It’s been a long time since I posted a recipe. Since the days of the Recipe Warz of yore, Physioprof has pretty much been holding down that front. Still, people can only eat so much risotto and pasta with booze and red sauce and I though you all could use some MEAT!!! I had an amazing student live with me for the summer and this is what we came up with for his farewell dinner.   I’d like to tell you that I made this up, but I got the original recipe somewhere years ago. I can’t remember whether it was Food52 or Epicurious or the Bon Appetit magazine. You can Google it if the origins are important. Either way, I have surely perfected it….

Dr. Isis’s Towel-Wrapped Tenderloin

As the name suggests, you’re going to cook your tenderloin in a dish towel. Those of you who are newer to this blog, and naive of my brilliance, will scowl at this idea. Those of you who know me will have confidence that Mama would never lead you astray in the kitchen. After this, you’re going to cook all of your medium rare meat in a dish towel. It’s going to change your life that much.  Here’s what you need (shown with superfluous stuff you don’t need):


  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs tenderloin from the center of the cut. Ask the butcher to take off the ends and give you the middle. That’s where the magic happens. My student, who was an animal science major ass an undergraduate, informs me that the butcher makes the tenderloin tender by basically “jelqing it.” I am sorry I googled that because it is not a culinary term.
  • Butter. We got butter from a local farm. My student referred to it as a “cock of butter” as the unit of measure. It was certainly log-like
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 8ish cloves of peeled garlic
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Sage and savory
  • A dish towel
  • Some meat bondage devices

Start by soaking a dish towel in water. The dish towel is a pretty crucial step and the right towel is important. I have white cotton dish towels that  we just use to dry clean dishes and I use those when they start getting a little thin. There are two keys to this.

1) The dish towel has to be wet. If it’s not, you’ll end up with meat that is on fire.

2) The towel has to be cotton without any synthetic fiber. If there is any synthetic fiber, you’ll end up with meat covered in burnt plastic.

Drape the wet towel over a pan and rub it with the cock of butter so that you have a light coating of fat. This creates a hydrophobic interface and is pretty key to tender meat and keeps the juices from the meat from dripping through the towel. Also, butter is delicious. Next, add the cloves of garlic and herbs. I’ve experimented with a lot of herbs and like sage and savory. Crack some black pepper over it and a healthy sprinkling of coarse salt. More salt than you think is necessary.


Add the tenderloin.


Then sprinkle more salt on top, and tie it up. We couldn’t find kitchen twine in the store so we ended up with these weird turkey bondage things. They were kinda sub-par, but the did they trick in a pinch.

This is really key. Let the meat rest for 45-60 minutes. All the salt you covered the meat in won’t make it salty. It dry brines the outside. You don’t need much brining time because tenderloin is already very tender, but it makes sure that the outer surface that gets cooked is equally tender. It is a crucial step. If you’re going to wrap this and cook it right away, you might as well stop and go make a box of Kraft dinner.  If you’re committed to delicious meat, go pour yourself a scotch while you let your meat take a rest.

After 45-60 minutes, put the meat on the grill. If, like me, you are not allowed to touch the grill because it always ends in mayhem, you need to give the griller very clear instructions. Nay, you need to threaten their life. Do not cook this meat beyond 122F at the center. If you do, you might as well grind it up and use it for Hamburger Helper because it will be worthless.

You’ll end up with cooked meat in a charred dish towel and the flavor that charred dish towel gives the meat will change your life. Unwrap the meat and slice it.  We had ours with brown butter scallops and other stuff from the local market.


9 responses to “Dr. Isis’s Towel-Wrapped Tenderloin

  1. Take it up to 127.

  2. Isis the Scientist

    You’d better shut your damned mouth.

  3. Interesting process! The meat looks delicious! But what happened to the scallops? You’re supposed to sear them like this:


  4. Isis the Scientist

    122 or get the fuck out.

    And the scallops were perfect.

  5. I don’t like scallops. Take that shit to Doc Becca.

  6. Isis, that tenderloin looks fucking amazing, and I am 100% on board with stopping at 122. A cut that tender needs very little cooking. However, I have to agree with PP that your scallops need a darker sear. Don’t listen to a word Dr24hours says, he is a closed-minded simpleton who hates everything delicious in this world and eats nothing but peanut butter and jelly.

  7. Isis the Scientist

    Nope. You all could not be more wrong about the scallops. Unless you all like gummy scallops.

  8. You people should not be let near food

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