Learn step by step how to make a smoked beef tenderloin on a Traeger pellet grill and why this is such a great way to prepare this ultimate beef roast.
How to Prepare a Beef Tenderloin for the Traeger Pellet Grill
Plan to trim and salt your beef tenderloin the night before you smoke it on your Traeger.
This is also a great time to prepare the horseradish cream in the recipe below ahead of time so you have one less thing to worry about the next day.
Trim the Fat and Silverskin
If your beef tenderloin comes fully trimmed, great, if not…you will need to do a little work before seasoning it and throwing it on the Traeger.
Use a good boning or filet knife like our favorite one from iMarku to first remove the silver skin from the top of the beef tenderloin.
This will allow you to better see where the chain attaches to the tenderloin. The tenderloin chain is the fatty piece of meat that runs along the side of the main tenderloin.
There’s nothing wrong with this cut of meat so don’t just discard it, but we want to remove it for our purposes for the main event.
Pull the chain away from the tenderloin and then cut it off. You will need to do this on both sides, although one side is usually a lot bigger than the other.
Then remove any remaining silverskin and fatty pieces until you have a nice cleaned up beef tenderloin in front of you.
Dry Brine Overnight
If you have the time we highly recommend dry brining your beef tenderloin overnight.
The best way to do it is to set up a wire rack on a baking tray. Here is a great set if you don’t already own this must-have combo.
It works great for dry brining all sorts of things including your thanksgiving turkey.
Use good KOSHER salt and apply a fair amount to the beef tenderloin on all sides. You can always brush off the extra in the morning but you want plenty of salt to penetrate overnight.
If you want to use a quality beef rub for dry brining your beef tenderloin, we are big fans of Bad Byron’s Butt Rub Seasoning on smoked beef because it is heavy on flavor, and has no sugar.
It also works great anytime you are reverse searing and you don’t want a sugary rub to burn at those higher smoking temperatures.
Once you’ve applied a healthy amount of kosher salt or beef rub, place the beef on the wire rack so you have airflow around the tenderloin and then place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Tuck and Tie
The next day, take the beef tenderloin out of the refrigerator and keep it on the wire rack so you keep a good amount of air circulating around the meat.
You can keep it on the counter for up to two hours while you season it and start the Traeger so that it comes up closer to room temperature before you start smoking.
You’ll notice one end of the beef tenderloin is much thicker than the other.
We are going to tuck the thin “tail” underneath and tie it so that the tenderloin is a more even thickness from end to end and therefore cooks more evenly throughout.
You can use some simple butchers twine to keep it in place. If the rest of the beef tenderloin is more flat than tubular, take some more twine and tie it around every inch or so to help the meat maintain its shape.
This will allow it to cook more evenly like a round roast rather than a flat steak.
The Best Seasonings for Smoking Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger
When it comes to an expensive cut of meat like a beef tenderloin, you want to keep the seasonings fairly simple and let the meat shine through.
For our recipe below, we are going to use fresh minced garlic and coarse fresh cracked pepper.
Then, while the beef tenderloin is smoking, we will baste it with a rosemary infused butter to keep it moist and give it some extra flavor and brown color.
Ideally use a HIGH smoke point oil to help the garlic and pepper adhere to the meat such as avocado or grapeseed oil, especially if you plan to reverse sear at the end of the cook as we go into detail on below.
The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking a Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger Pellet Grill
You have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing the right wood pellets to smoke a beef tenderloin on a Traeger pellet grill.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor.
Alternatively, you can also go for a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood pellets. Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry all give great results on beef brisket.
For beef, we are big fans of Bear Mountain Red and White Smoky Oak Pellets
For best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container rather than in the Traeger’s hopper outside.
Traeger pellets do not last forever, but will defintily last a LOT longer if stored indoors.
How a Traeger Pellet Grill Works
In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Traeger pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.
***Completely New to Using a Pellet Grill? No Worries!****
Hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works first if you are interested in learning more. We’ll be here when you get back!***
Add your Hardwood Pellets
First, you add hardwood pellets into a side hopper.
The Traeger pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.
The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.
How to Start up the Traeger
There is a specific start up process for the Traeger brand pellet grills you can read all about in depth here if you aren’t sure how to fire it up the first time.
Otherwise, here is the basic process for how to start a Traeger before throwing on your beef tenderloin:
- Plug in the grill.
- Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to “Smoke”.
- You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot. Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.
- Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill. This happens when the pellets are first igniting.
- Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
- Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
- While you are waiting, make sure you’ve got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.
- Put your grates on if they aren’t already in place.
- Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
- When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on your food!
How to Smoke a Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger Pellet Grill
Now that the beef tenderloin has been dry brined and seasoned, all that’s left to do is cook it!
With a Traeger, this is the easy part!
Like we described above, just add your chosen pellets to the hopper, plug in and start the Traeger grill up.
Let the Traeger go through its start up process and once it has come up to temperature and stopped producing the thick white “start- up” smoke, put the beef tenderloin directly on the grill grates positioned vertically, meaning one end facing the back and one end facing the front of the Traeger.
Since a lot of Traegers get gradually hotter in temperature from left to right, its best to position your smoked beef tenderloin this way so it’s more the same temperature all around the beef.
If your monster beef tenderloin is too long to do this, then position it with the thicker end facing to the RIGHT.
What Temperature do you Smoke a Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger Pellet Grill?
We recommend initially setting up the smoker to cook at 250°F.
This seems to be the sweet spot where its low enough that the outside doesn’t overcook but also high enough that the smoked beef tenderloin doesn’t cook for so long that it dries out.
Watch the Internal Temperature Closely
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked beef tenderloin while its cooking on the Traeger.
Ideally you want a good leave in probe thermometer like the Thermopro as well as a second instant read to spot check different points of thickness along the roast.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don’t need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
In fact, the thermometer itself is COMPLETELY WIRELESS, so no more awkward wires running out of the side of your smoker!
It’s got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, and current internal temperature.
It’s like a GPS for your meat!
Anyways, back to our smoked beef tenderloin…
We are going to slowly bring the internal temperature up to about 105-110°F, then crank the heat as hot as we can to reverse sear the smoked beef tenderloin until the internal temperature hits about 120°F and then remove it from the Traeger.
Perfect medium rare in the center means an internal temperature of about 130-135°F, and a good rule of thumb is to pull big roasts like this when they are 10°F shy of your target temperature.
Once you switch over to the start the reverse searing phase, and are rolling the smoked beef tenderloin around over a hot grill it’s much easier to use an instant read thermometer rather than the leave in probe kind.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
So keep it handy and use it often.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger?
A general guide is that it will take about 20-30 minutes per pound to smoke a beef tenderloin at 250°F up to 110°F.
So plan on a 3 lb beef tenderloin to take about 60-90 minutes to initially smoke during the “Low” portion of the cook.
Then we will crank the heat for another 3-5 minutes depending how long it takes to raise the internal temperature the rest of the way up to 120-125°F.
Then you will need to let the meat rest for about 15-20 minutes after cooking it before carving.
Unless you want those delicious juices running all over your cutting board instead of staying in the meat where you want them, you need to set aside time for the meat to rest.
Reverse Searing a Smoked Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger
“Reverse Searing” is just a fancy term for searing your meat at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you sometimes just can’t get from low and slow smoking alone.
In this case, we are not technically going to sear the beef tenderloin like we might do with a steak in a ripping hot cast iron pan like we did with our smoked ribeye steak recipe.
Rather, we are going to crank the temperature of our Traeger up as high as it will go right at the very end of cooking, and only for a few minutes, in order to get a nice, golden brown crust on the outside of our smoked beef tenderloin without overcooking the inside.
How to Reverse Sear your Smoked Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger
If you wish to reverse sear the meat, you will want to smoke it at 250°F only until it reaches an internal temperature of about 110°F. At this point it will still be very, very rare in the center.
Next, you will turn up the temperature setting on your Traeger to “High”, or the highest temperature setting it has available, depending on your model.
Both the newer Timberline and Ironwood series are capable of going up to 500°F.
Make sure you have plenty of pellets in your hopper for this part as it will burn through them quickly at these high temps.
You will need to watch your beef tenderloin VERY closely at this point as it may only need 3-5 minutes total once the Traeger comes fully up to the new high temperature.
Watch for the color to turn from grayish to medium-dark brown, and whatever you do, do no leave it unattended to burn or over cook!
Make sure to turn frequently and continuously spot check with your instant read thermometer.
Once the internal temperature has reached 120-125°F, remove it from the Traeger and place it on a cutting board.
Remember, it will continue to rise another 10°F as it rests after you remove it.
DO NOT cover or wrap in aluminum foil or it will overcook beyond this level from its own residual heat.
Using Grill Grates to Reverse Sear your Beef Tenderloin on a Traeger
If you are using an older model Traeger pellet grill that doesn’t have a high heat or direct grilling option, and finding it hard to get that high heat needed for searing, try laying a couple of Grill Grates over a section of the RIGHT side of grill.
These work great for creating a hot searing station on a pellet grill using the ambient heat the pellet grill is already creating.
You can then move your smoked beef tenderloin over to the Grill Grates, with the flat side of the Grill Grates up, and roll it around and cook it like you would on a hot flat top griddle.
How to Carve and Serve a Traeger Smoked Beef Tenderloin
You will then remove the smoked beef tenderloin from the hot Traeger and let it rest.
Let the roast rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
Carving the Smoked Beef Tenderloin
Although we tucked and tied the tail, and mostly slow smoked the beef tenderloin for ideal even cooking, the portions closer to the ends will still be more done than the very center.
This is nice because as you slice you can give the more done pieces on the ends to those that prefer them.
Then give the more medium rare slices from the center to those that prefer their meat less done.
Use a good meat slicing knife and cut the smoked beef tenderloin into nice thick slices based on how many guests you are serving.
We particularly like this meat slicing knife from Mairico.
What Other Foods Can I Smoke on my Traeger?
Looking for some more inspiration for things to smoke on that fancy Traeger?
Check out some of our favorite recipes below that can easily be modified to be done on any grill or smoker.
- Smoked Prime Rib on a Traeger Pellet Grill
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Hot and Fast Smoked Beef Brisket
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked and Reverse Seared Ribeye Steaks
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Smoked Flank Steak
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Honey Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Pellet Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Smoked Fresh Ham with Dark Rum Citrus Glaze
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Gas Grilled Bratwurst
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
- Traeger 3-2-1 Pork Ribs
- Electric Smoker Pork Butt
- Pit Boss Pulled Pork
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Smoked Turkey Breast with Cajun Butter Injection
- Pellet Grill Whole Thanksgiving Turkey
- Spatchcock Smoked Turkey on a Pellet Grill
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Other Odds and Ends
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Asparagus
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- Perfect Steamed Tamales
- Maple Bourbon Smoked Pineapple
Traeger Smoked Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream
- Traeger Pellet Grill
- Pellets for smoking, preferably hickory and oak.
- Boning or Fillet Knife
- Butcher's Twine
- Wire Rack and Baking Tray
- Dual Probe Thermometer
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Small Saucepan
- Basting brush
- Cutting Board
- Meat Slicing Knife
- 1 2-4 lb Beef Tenderloin may be 5-8 lbs untrimmed
- ⅓ Cup Kosher Salt
- Cooking Oil High smoke point oil like avocado or grapeseed oil
- 2 Tbsp Fresh minced garlic about 4 cloves fresh
- 2 Tbsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 sprig Fresh rosemary
- 1 stick Salted Butter
Horseradish Cream (optional)
- ½ cup Sour cream
- 3 Tbsp Prepared Horseradish drained
- 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp Stone ground or dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Chives finely chopped
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Trim the Beef Tenderloin (Day Before)
- Use a good boning or filet knife first remove the silver skin from the top of the beef tenderloin.
- This will allow you to better see where the chain attaches to the tenderloin. The tenderloin chain is the fatty piece of meat that runs along the side of the main tenderloin.
- Pull the chain away from the tenderloin and then cut it off. You will need to do this on both sides, although one side is usually a lot bigger than the other.
- Then remove any remaining silverskin and fatty pieces until you have a nice cleaned up beef tenderloin in front of you.
Dry Brine the Beef Tenderloin (Day Before)
- Place the trimmed beef on the wire rack placed on top of the baking sheet.
- Apply the kosher salt, or your favorite beef rub, to the beef tenderloin on all sides.
- Keep the beef on the wire rack so you have airflow around the tenderloin and then place it in the refrigerator overnight, or at least a minimum of 4-6 hours.
Tuck and Tie (Day of Cook)
- The next day, take the beef tenderloin out of the refrigerator and keep it on the wire rack so you keep a good amount of air circulating around the meat.
- Tuck the thin “tail” underneath and tie it with the butcher's twine so that the tenderloin is a more even thickness from end to end and therefore cooks more evenly throughout.
- If the rest of the beef tenderloin is more flat than tubular, take some more twine and tie it around every inch or so to help the meat maintain its shape.
Season the Beef Tenderloin
- Rub the tied beef tenderloin with a thin layer of the cooking oil.
- Mix the minced garlic and fresh cracked pepper together and rub generously all over the beef tenderloin on all sides.
- Leave on the wire rack on the counter for up to 2 hours to rise to room temperature while you start up the Traeger grill.
Start the Traeger Grill
- Load the hopper of the Traeger with your chosen wood pellets.
- Turn on the Traeger and move the dial to the "Smoke" setting.
- Leave the lid open for 5-7 minutes until you start seeing white billowing smoke coming out of the grill. This means the initial pellets are igniting.
- Close the lid and turn the temperature dial to 250°F. Allow 10-15 minutes for the grill to come up to temperature.
Smoke the Beef Tenderloin on the Traeger
- Once the temperature of the Traeger hits 250°F, place the beef in the cooking chamber with the thickest part facing towards the hotter right side. Place a temperature probe into the deepest part of the rib roast.
- Once the beef is on, melt the butter on low in a small saucepan with the rosemary floating in the butter. Keep the heat on low and baste the smoking beef tenderloin on all sides with a basting brush every 15-20 minutes.
- Cook at this temperature until the internal temperature of the beef reaches about 105-110°F.
Prepare the Horseradish Cream Sauce (optional)
- While the beef is smoking on the Traeger, you can also prepare the horseradish cream sauce if you wish.
- Combine all the horseradish cream sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to incorporate. Add extra salt and pepper as needed.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to serve with the smoked beef tenderloin later.
Reverse Sear the Smoked Beef Tenderloin on the Traeger
- Once the internal temperature of the smoked beef tenderloin reaches 105-110°F, turn the temperature of the pellet grill as high as it will go, preferably to 500°F.
- Watch closely to make sure it does not burn and cook until the internal temperature rises to about 120°F then remove from the Traeger.
Remove, Rest, and Slice the Smoked Beef Tenderloin
- Let the smoked beef tenderloin rest on a cutting board, uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Cut the ties off the beef.
- Slice the tenderloin in thick 1 inch slices for each guest starting at the thinnest end and working your way to the center. Only slice what you plan to serve immediately so that the peices do not dry out.
- Serve immediately with the horseradish cream sauce on the side.