One of the most prized and expensive cuts of meat on the market is the tenderloin. In Argentina, the tenderloin is known as lomo. Pork tenderloin is called lomo de cerdo but for beef it is simply lomo; beef country remember. Tenderloin is a long tube-shaped cut of meat that runs along the spinal section. This muscle section of the cow does not get much of a workout , therefore the meat is extremely tender. Cook it right and you will be rewarded with a meat so succulent and tender you will feel like it is melting in your mouth.
Around the world, well where beef is popular, you often see tenderloin treated with luxury. Sliced medallions, also known as filet mignon, topped with creamy rich sauces. For true meat lovers, perhaps they are just wrapped in bacon on laid on a hot grill. In Argentina, it is not uncommon to see lomo treated in the same manor except at some asados you may see a whole slab of lomo cooked on a grill.
Now let’s get back to the topic of cooking lomo on a parrilla. Lomo is grilled either whole, sliced, or cubed. The latter is typically only for use on skewers, known as brochette de lomo and I’ll cover that later. No matter how the meat will be cooked, the outer part should be well trimmed of any fat and muscle membranes. Lomo is a very lean cut of meat and therefore will end up dry, tough, and chewy if cooked for too long. Therefore, you should not cook lomo past a medium. This is my personal opinion but if you are going to cook for a crowd who wants their meat cooked medium well to well done, use another meat. Tenderloin is just too expensive and too good to waste for that sort of nonsense. Would you buy a $100 bottle of wine just to guzzle it down like water?
Lomo is offered in a variety of forms such as sliced, whole, trimmed, or untrimmed at the local butcher or market. Also, supermarkets or butchers allow you to buy lomo in vacuum-packed bags which have a longer shelf-life in the refrigerator yet are untrimmed. When purchasing a whole lomo, unless you are experienced in trimming, you should ask the butcher to do it for you. Slicing the meat on the other hand is quite simple, and therefore you can do perform that task yourself.
- Whole – You can leave the lomo as is or butterfly it. A whole slab of lomo has a thick end and a thin end, therefore some prefer to butterfly the meat at its thickest part. This will allow the meat to have an overall even thickness and also allows you to cook the meat faster. A medium-depth cut is made along the length of the meat and then the area is spread open. Many may argue that you should never butterfly a meat along the grain, which is what is done in this case, because the meat will lose juices and result in becoming less tender. This is another argument I’ll let others fight over. If you want nice round medallions then leave it whole and if you want a more flat-type steaks then butterfly it.
- Steaks – For your standard filet mignon type cuts, slice perpendicular to the length of the meat, which in this case is across the grain, to create portions that are a least 2 inches (5 cm) in thickness. To create large portions, often what you will find in parrilla restaurants, you’ll need to create a butterflied slice. Basically you create one large slice at least 4 inches (10 cm) thick. Then with that slice you cut across the grain as if to create two steaks out of one, except you only cut about halfway into the meat and spread it apart. (See image below)
As you can probably tell by now I prefer to salt most meats before cooking, however with the tenderloin I will only salt the meat either right before pulling it off the grill or at the table. Whether cooking steaks or a whole lomo, you’ll want to cook the meat over a hot fire with the rack fairly low. If you are going to cook a whole un-butterflied lomo, place more coals underneath the the thicker part. Now here’s the trick for good lomo. You want the side facing the grill to have nice charred stripes, not too too much mind you, before flipping. But, you want that to happen before any juices start flowing on the top. If the juices start flowing and you want to char the other side, the meat will be at least medium-well by the time you are finished. Remember that if you want your meat to be cooked above medium. For steaks, since they will be quite thick, expect about 5-6 minutes per side. For butterflied whole lomo just a tad bit longer. For whole un-butterflied lomo, you should cook each side for about 10 minutes. I’m tossing out times that work for me on average. Every grill, coal amount, thickness of cut, etc varies therefore, try to use your best judgment.
Suggestions: It is not uncommon to find restaurants offering lomo a la parrilla topped with demi-glace loaded with mushrooms or peppercorns. Some even offer creamy cheese sauces. Give it a try.