This post is written in partnership with Omaha Steaks. Rest assured all opinions are my own,
Beef Wellington when perfectly executed highly impresses me. For years I was intimidated to make one. My goal is to show you how to make Beef Wellington so it much less intimidating. Beef Wellington is a luxurious dish where puff pastry is wrapped around beef tenderloin then sliced into portions to serve. But it is more than that. There are different layers of flavor within the Wellington that make it truly spectacular. Make no mistake though, it’s a fabulous to dish to make year round.
I have seen a number of different beef Wellington recipes throughout my years. You start doing all the steps and assume that if you follow the directions, that you should be left with a perfect result. I’m here to tell you that this often isn’t the case sadly. I wanted to call this article “The Realist’s Guide to Beef Wellington” but I came to my senses.
My biggest problem in the past has been overcooking it or having portions of the pastry get soggy. I’ll explain why that happened and how you can prevent it. There are a few helpful tips and tricks I’ve learned along my culinary journey that I feel are worth sharing. Hence me writing an article on how to make Beef Wellington.
What is Beef Wellington?
When I think of a Beef Wellington recipe in its basic form, I envision beef tenderloin surrounded by duxelles, then wrapped in puff pastry. Beef Wellington can be made from a large center cut piece of beef tenderloin then sliced to serve. Before I get more involved in the recipe, I want to make sure everyone is familiar with some of the terminology.
What Cut of Beef Do I use in Beef Wellington?
A large center cut piece of beef tenderloin is used to make Beef Wellington. Beef tenderloin is the muscle that individual filet mignon steaks are cut from. A whole beef tenderloin however is fatter in the middle and tapered toward the ends. You can think of it as the center cut of tenderloin. What is left of the tenderloin is often cut into chunks or strips of beef for a number of different dishes. For my Beef Wellington I am using a 3lb Private Reserve chateaubriand from Omaha Steaks.
If we are being technical, the term “chateaubriand” in today’s terms refers to a filet mignon roast which is cut from the very center of the beef tenderloin. But chateaubriand is classically a method by which the center portion of the beef tenderloin is cooked and not the beef itself. The muscles or meat which was trimmed off the whole beef tenderloin were used to wrap around the center portion of the roast to protect it in the cooking process. Those pieces were then discarded because they were overcooked. I think it’s fairly easy to see why we don’t use this process in modern times.
If you prefer, you can cut off the portion where the two side muscle pieces are and be left with a solid chunk of meat. I prefer to tie that portion together with butcher twine to sear. When wrapping the Beef Wellington up with the duxelles and prosciutto, I form as tight and uniformly shaped cylinder as possible. A uniform shape is the key to an even cook.
Prior to putting the puff pastry on the Beef Wellington, you will quickly sear the beef tenderloin (chateaubriand). Note: you are just searing it, not cooking it at this point. Beef tenderloin or in this case chateaubriand is essentially a filet mignon roast.
Is All Of This Work Necessary?
Beef tenderloin, filet mignon, chateaubriand which are all the same piece of meat doesn’t have that extra beefy flavor that say a ribeye or strip steak does. This the reason that many restaurants serve a sauce with filet mignon. Essentially, it is beneficial to amp up the flavor. A Beef Wellington does just that. Beef with layers of duxelles, prosciutto and puff pastry add that special something to take this cut of beef over the top. There is one thing that beef tenderloin does have that other cuts do not. That is the soft mouthfeel of the beef. When cooked perfectly, it truly is the most tender cut available. Many choose to serve their Beef Wellington with a sauce and some prefer it without.
A Few Words About Puff Pastry
Before I scare those of you unfamiliar with puff pastry, you can find it in the freezer section of most grocery stores. For those who aren’t familiar, puff pastry although made from only a few ingredients is a fairly labor intensive to make.
Note: Do not confuse puff pastry with phyllo dough when you purchase it. You want puff pastry sheets.
Puff pastry is made from hundreds of layers of extremely thin dough with as many thin layers of butter in between. The butter has to be cold out pliable during this process. Imagine beating a bunch of butter until its very thin, then making a layer on top of a basic dough. Then fold that layer over and over. Next you flatten and roll that piece of dough. Repeat this process by folding the dough, rolling the dough while chilling the dough.
Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Maybe if you have an industrial machine to facilitate the process. Count me out. Learning how to make Beef Wellington is already quite labor intensive. Maybe someday I’ll be inspired to make my own puff pastry again but I don’t think that is happening anytime soon.
When I was a teen I would make homemade apple turnovers and make my own puff pastry. Back then I used to surprise my Mom with special treats I’d make in the kitchen. Then adulthood happens and we have to prioritize our valuable time.
Commercially Available Puff Pastry
There are a few brands of puff pastry available to purchase at your local grocery store. Most commonly where I live I find Pepperidge Farm brand. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is made using vegetable based fats. This is the variety I find where I live. Also available for many is Dufour brand which is made with actual butter. Trader Joe’s also carries an all butter puff pastry. If I had a choice, I’d pick an all butter version. However, I’ve used the Pepperidge Farm brand and it comes out fantastic as well..
Working With Puff Pastry
The goal with puff pastry to to keep it cool. I often will defrost mine in the refrigerator overnight. Typically I find that within 4 hours the pastry will be ideal to work with. If you go to unfold the puff pastry and it is rigid, let it warm up on your countertop until it is pliable enough to work with. Dust your work surface with just a little bit of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Don’t go crazy here. Remember, that dough has a bunch of layers within it so be gentle with it.
I like to roll my dough out on a silicone mat dusted with just a bit of flour. However, doing it right on your countertop is okay as well. I use the silicone mat so once the dough is rolled out to an ideal size, I can easily pop it back in the refrigerator to keep it cool.
To get that beautiful golden color on the pastry, an egg wash is applied to the pastry dough prior to baking. An egg wash of just a beaten egg or egg mixed with just a small amount of water will work. On my Wellington I just use all egg.
When making Beef Wellington, you can make the pastry as simple or decorative as you like. For years I just put the base wrap on it and then used scraps of dough to make simple decorations. Other times I just simply scored the pastry a bit with a paring knife and baked it just like that. I’ve always wanted to do a lattice and finally accomplished that with the help of a lattice cutter. They are available online and though making the lattice with a cutter is still a bit tricky, it certainly is doable.
Using a Lattice Cutter
If you are looking to make a stunning Beef Wellington, decorating the top with a lattice is gorgeous. You can find lattice cutters readily available on Amazon. After you roll out the cold puff pastry to the desired size, roll the lattice cutter across the surface of the pastry lengthwise. Make sure to use decent pressure to push down and cut all the way through the pastry. Make sure the pastry dough is cold when you do this. If the pastry is too warm it will not cut well.
Even if you are doing everything correct, there is a chance that some of the pastry will not be cut all the way through. If this is the case, use a paring knife to carefully cut through the lines the lattice cutter made on the dough. Now here is the tricky part. Ideally you want to carefully separate or pull apart the lattice so that the spaces between are visible. If you are able to pull it apart, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to put it on top of your base pastry dough on the Beef Wellington.
Not going to lie here, I started to pull mine apart and I had a lot of areas that I had to cut through with a paring knife. It was my own fault as the dough warmed up faster than I thought. Remember: if you have any doubt, toss the pastry back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so then proceed. The reason I put to get two packages of puff pastry dough in the ingredient list is purely for a buffer. SInce most grocery stores are closed on major holidays, you can’t just run out and buy more if you need it. Spend the extra $3 for piece of mind. If you don’t use it, no worries. You can make a number of delicious things with puff pastry.
Help! My Puff Pastry is Being Temperamental!
This applies more to those who are trying to create the perfect lattice on top of the Beef Wellington. Trust me, i’ve had my fair share of puff pastry issues in the past. Making a lattice just requires a little bit of extra love and attention. If you notice from my pictures of the lattice on my Wellington before it was cooked, I did not try to separate the lattice. By this I mean, slightly pulling it apart prior to covering the base layer with it.
I was intimidated to try to pull my pastry apart as it didn’t cut all the way through. So instead of rolling and cutting another piece, I picked it up and put it on my base layer. I then used my paring knife to lightly cut through the lines on the dough. I really wanted to test how this would work out. You see sometimes you just have to jump and try something new. How else would I know if it works right? In theory, as long as I cut through that top layer then the pastry should puff and separate. You could imagine how thrilled I was to peek through the oven door and see the pastry looking just gorgeous.
What will I do differently next time? I let my dough get too warm when I went to cut it and I attempted to cut it on my silicone mat. Now, if the dough was cold enough I’m sure it would have been just fine to cut on the mat. I should have picked the mat up and put it in the refrigerator prior to running the lattice cutter over it. In the future I’ll do a few experiments with the puff pastry and report back with my findings.
What is Duxelles?
Duxelles is a french term used for a mixture of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs sauteed in butter. As the ingredients are sauteed, the majority of the moisture is removed from the mushrooms and you are left with a thick mass of mushrooms. It can be made with the addition of some liquor such as sherry for additional flavor, stock or even a touch of cream.
Duxelles is made with a single or multiple varieties of mushrooms. Using more earthy mushrooms will give a stronger boost of mushroom flavor. White button mushrooms for example have a very mild mushroom flavor compared to cremini (which are baby portobello mushrooms). I personally like to use a mix of white button and cremini mushrooms for my duxelles because I prefer a milder profile. Feel to use any combination of mushroom varieties you prefer.
The most important part of making duxelles is getting the mushrooms cut down to a similar small size prior to cooking. Removing the majority of moisture from the duxelles helps to assure our pastry doesn’t get subjected to additional moisture when cooking. There are many applications for Duxelles in French Cuisine and it is not specific to just Beef Wellington. For starters, it would be excellent folded into an omelets, to stuff ravioli, served on toast points or stuffed in chicken breasts.
Most importantly the duxelles provides an insulating layer to protect the beef tenderloin from the heat required to puff the pastry. Remember, it is delicate dance to have the beef cooked a perfect medium rare and the outside pastry golden brown. My recipe calls for extra duxelles than some other recipes I’ve seen in the past because that layer is critical to getting a great result in the end.
The Origin of Beef Wellington
The true origin of Beef Wellington itself is actually unknown. We do know however that different versions of beef wrapped in pastry have existed for quite some time in a number of different countries.
As for the name, it is said to be named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Without going into a full blown history lesson here, Arthur Wellesley defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Defeat Napoleon, get a hunk of meat wrapped in pastry named after you. I mean, there certainly are worse things. Beef Wellington is quite spectacular.
The Two Biggest Concerns When Learning How to Make Beef Wellington
- How to cook the puff pastry perfectly without letting moisture ruin it and turning it into a soggy mess
- Knowing how to NOT overcook the beef tenderloin in the center of the Beef Wellington while having the outside golden brown
I promise you don’t need divine intervention to make a perfect Beef Wellington. What you need is gentile guidance. I cannot stress these points enough:
Get as Much Moisture Out Of The Duxelles as Possible. Too much moisture will ruin the puff pastry.
Keep all of your ingredients cold. Prematurely warm puff pastry = poor puffage in the oven. Chilling the Wellington also helps it keep a uniform shape.
Bring On the Prosciutto
Prosciutto (or Parma ham) comes in two forms. Prosciutto crudo (a raw cured ham) and prosciutto cotto which is a cooked ham. I will use prosciutto crudo for an additional layer in our Beef Wellington recipe.
Prosciutto (I will refer to prosciutto crudo as just prosciutto for the remainder of this article) is made from high quality pork legs. The legs are salted for a period of time then washed and hung to dry at a certain temperature for an even longer time period. The resulting meat is safe to eat raw because of the curing process. Depending where prosciutto is made, the length of time it is hung, and what it is seasoned with will all contribute to different flavor profiles.
When using prosciutto for this recipe, you can either order it sliced thin from your butcher or buy it pre-packaged. For this Beef Wellington recipe, you will lay down overlapping pieces of prosciutto to form a prosciutto blanket for the duxelles and meat. Since prosciutto doesn’t have a very high moisture content itself, it makes another barrier to protect our puff pastry from moisture.
Overlap the prosciutto to make a solid sheet of meat. Any holes will allow moisture to escape
Chill the prosciutto prior to trying to remove from the packaging. If it gets warm it will tear easily
Take your time when handling prosciutto. If it does tear, push it back into place to cover the hole
How to Bake Beef Wellington
If you’ve made it this far learning how to cook Beef Wellington, I assure you, the rest is easy! Preheat your oven to 425°F. Don’t even think about putting your meat in there until it’s fully preheated. I set up an oven rack in the lower 1/3rd of my oven. This will allow more for better browning of the bottom of the Wellington in most ovens.
Invest In a Cooking Temperature Alarm If You Don’t Already Have One
I used to just check the temperature of my beef with an instant read thermometer but there is a better option. A thermometer that you can leave in the meat while it is cooking saves you from opening the oven door is a great investment. I use a Thermoworks Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm to monitor my cooks both on and off the grill. It’s easy because I just put the probe deep into the center of the meat and I can see what temperature it is on their app or the device itself. For an instant read thermometer I use a Thermapen MK4. Thermoworks has a vast selection of cooking alarm and instant read thermometers at different price ranges as well.
When you have the egg wash on the puff pastry and are ready to bake the Beef Wellington, place it on a size appropriate sheet pan. Spray the pan lightly with cooking spray. If you don’t have cooking spray, rub a little bit of vegetable oil on the pan. Stick the probe of your cooking alarm deep into the meat. I prefer to stick it in from the end and as far as the probe will go. It won’t be in the center of the whole Wellington but as long as it is in the center of the beef it will be fine.
What Temperature Should I Pull It Out Of The Oven?
The million dollar question and the reason a lot of people mess up when making Beef Wellington is what temperature to pull it out of the oven. In my article about cooking a standing rib roast, I discuss carryover cooking. That is, a rise in internal temperature of the meat after removing it from the heat whether an oven, grill, or stove.
The important lesson to learn here is that the higher the temperature you cook a piece of beef, and the larger it is, the greater the temperature will rise upon resting after the cook. The most basic answer as to why this happens is that the cooler inside of the meat is forming an equilibrium with the warmer outside. In simple terms, that heat makes the inside temperature of the beef go up.
Carryover Cooking and Estimating the Final Temperature
So what on earth do we do now? How do you estimate the rise in temperature so you don’t overcook it? It’s a fine dance. You need the meat to rest so when you cut into it, all the juice won’t run out. That’s the last thing we want to happen, especially when puff pastry is involved. This is where I got into trouble in the past. I underestimated the big temperature rise after pulling it from the oven.
For medium rare beef I want a finished temperature of 13-135°F. I remember cooking a Beef Wellington last December thinking pulling it at 115°F was conservative. The beef unfortunately ended up being about 140°F. What’s the old saying about fooling someone? Oh yes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. I wasn’t letting that happen again. Some recipes say to pull at 110°F and although that may have been okay, this was a 3lb tenderloin roast, I pulled at 105°F. The lowest i’ve ever pulled a piece of beef out of an oven or grill. What’s the worst that happens, I borderline cook it rare?
The Suspense Was Killing Me
I set the Beef Wellington on top of my stove, and didn’t touch that temperature probe that was in it. If I pulled it out the juice would come with it. Think of it like a stopper. Don’t touch it! I needed it to stay in the beef to watch how fast the temperature would climb and what temperature it would climb to. I sat there watching my phone as the number kept climbing.
Would you believe that over the course of 30 minutes when the temperature finally stopped climbing, the beef measured 135°F. Let me say that again. This Wellington rose a full 30 degrees upon being removed from the oven. If I pulled it at 110°F, it would have hit 140°F. I was shocked honestly. I did it. At last, a perfect medium rare Beef Wellington. If there is any nugget of information you take from this article, that would be the most important one. What’s the worst that happens if you don’t quite high enough to the target temperature you want? As long as you didn’t cut the Wellington, stick it back in the oven for a few more minutes. No harm no foul.
Now remember, I reached 135°F because. I let it rest a full 30 minutes. If I would have only let it rest 15 minutes and wasn’t monitoring the temperature, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near that. Something also to note. My Wellington and the additional layer of puff pastry for the lattice on it providing an extra layer of insulation. The accuracy of your oven, the size of the roast, the thickness of the puff pastry, the thickness of the duxelles all will affect the length of the cook and the carryover cooking. When it comes to cooking meat, I always say, you can cook it more but you can’t go backwards.
How to Make Beef Wellington
- rolling pin
- lattice pastry cutter (optional)
- baking sheet or sheet pan
- pastry brush
- 3 lb beef tenderloin, center cut all silverskin trimmed off if any
- 4 tbsp dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp olive oil, canola oil, etc (to sear beef) or more if needed
- 32 oz mushrooms (white button, cremini etc)
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 tsp dry sherry (optional)
- 3 tbsp olive oil, grape seed oil, ghee or vegetable oil to sear beef
- 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced or 5 medium sized cloves
- 5 springs fresh thyme (leaves only)
- kosher salt to taste
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 2 boxes puff pastry dough (approximately 17.3oz per box (better to have extra as backup)
- 3 eggs beaten
- 14 slices prosciutto thin, chilled
Make Mushroom Duxelles
- Clean mushrooms if necessary using a paper towel, towel or brush. Finely chop the mushrooms, garlic and shallots with a chef knife or add to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Do not let food processor run continuously.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add butter. Saute shallots until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are caramelized. Keep a close eye on the mushrooms and don't allow them to burn. Throughout the process as the mushrooms caramelize, gradually add the sherry. Allow the liquid to evaporate. The mushrooms should appear dry. Mix in the fresh thyme leaves and set aside to cool. When cooled to room temperature, place in bowl and refrigerate.
Prepare Beef Tenderloin (Chateaubriand)
- Using butcher's twine, tie the tenderloin in multiple areas to create a more even cylindrical shape. This will allow for a more even cook.
- Pat the surface of the meat dry with a paper towel if wet. Lightly coat entire surface with oil.
- Preheat large skillet to medium-high heat.
- Quickly sear all sides of the beef including the ends. NOTE: You are only searing the meat not cooking it at this point.
- Remove beef from skillet. Cool to room temperature. When cool, place beef in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap to chill.
Prepare Prosciutto and Duxelles Layer
- Lay out multiple overlapping pieces of plastic wrap approximately 2 feet long on your countertop. Lay down approximately 14 overlapping pieces of prosciutto being careful not to rip the slices. You want the prosciutto to be able to wrap entirely around the Wellington as well as extend at least 3 inches beyond each end.
- Remove the duxelles from refrigerator and lay down an even rectangle of duxelles that is wide enough to extend an inch or so beyond the ends of the tenderloin. In addition, you want the duxelles layer long enough to wrap entirely around the meat. An offset spatula or a spatula with a little bit of cooking spray on it helps to push it down evenly.
Wrap Up The Tenderloin
- Remove the beef tenderloin from the refrigerator and coat in dijon mustard. Place tenderloin in center of duxelles. Use the plastic wrap to gently lift the prosciutto up and over the beef tenderloin. You want to wrap it as tight as possible in the plastic wrap to form an even log shape. Twist the ends of the plastic and secure. Place in the refrigerator to chill. This may be done a day ahead of time (preferred).
Prepare the Puff Pastry and Wrap the Wellington
- Lightly flour your countertop with white flour. Unwrap your chilled dough. If it is too rigid, allow pastry to warm up slightly until it is pliable. Chances are, your puff pastry even when rolled out might not be long enough to fully envelop the entire tenderloin. If this might be the case, gently press together the edges of 2 pieces of puff pastry until one solid piece is formed. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the pastry until it is approximately 1/3rd inch thick.
- Either working on a silicone mat, or on overlapping plastic wrap, place the tenderloin onto the rolled out pastry dough. Roll up the tenderloin in the puff pastry lengthwise first. At the seam where the dough meets to seal up, brush one side of the dough at the seam with some of the egg wash. Press the dough together completely to form a tight seal and fold under if excess dough. This seam will go on the bottom of the pan and the smooth area face up. At the ends, as if wrapping a package, tuck the dough underneath the Wellington and press down after brushing with just a little egg wash on one side of the pastry dough. If there is not enough pastry to tuck it under then end, then pinch the dough together to completely seal in the beef.
- If not doing a lattice top, brush the top of the Wellington with egg wash and it is ready to bake. Sprinkle dough with a bit of kosher salt after brushing with egg wash. You may use leftover scraps of pastry to make a pretty design on top
- If adding a decorative lattice top, wait to add the egg wash to the base pastry until just before you put the lattice top on. Using another rolled piece of cold puff pastry, on a lightly floured surface, carefully roll a lattice roller lengthwise over the dough using moderate pressure to cut through it thoroughly. Try to gently pull the lattice apart. If it is not cut all the way through, follow the lines gently with a paring knife to separate it.
- When your lattice is ready, brush egg wash on the base pastry then gently lift the lattice onto the surface of the Wellington. Tuck the pastry down around the ends to secure. After it is placed where you would like it, brush the lattice with egg wash as well.
Bake the Beef Wellington
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Set up a rack about 1/3 up from the bottom of the oven (this will ensure the bottom of the wellington browns nicely).
- Lightly spray a small sheet pan with baking spray and place prepared Wellington on pan.
- Bake until Wellington reads 105-110°F with a cooking alarm thermometer that you leave in the beef while cooking or when it registers 105-110°F with an instant read thermometer.
- Remove Wellington from oven and rest uncovered for at minimum 20 minutes. NOTE: temperature of the meat will continue to rise for at least 20 minutes afterwards. The finished temperature should finish at 130-135°F depending on the diameter of the Wellington you are cooking.
- Slice the Beef Wellington into at least 1 inch slices and serve immediately.