sirloin vs tenderloin

Sirloin vs Tenderloin: Choosing Between These Cuts of Beef


April 19, 2022

When it comes to beef, there are many different cuts to choose from. Two of the most popular choices are sirloin and tenderloin. Both of these cuts have their own unique benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we will compare and contrast these two cuts of beef so that you can make an informed decision about which one is best for you!

rib steak, strip steak, t bone steak

What is Beef Tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin is a cut of meat that comes from the loin of the cow. The loin area is located near the back of the animal and runs along its spine. The tenderloin is one of the most desirable cuts of beef because it is extremely tender because the muscle is rarely used so the muscle fibers are almost fork tender when cut. It is also relatively lean, which means that it contains less fat than other cuts of beef.

Is this cut Beef Tenderloin?

Beef tenderloin may also be sold under different names, depending on how large the cut is and the butcher shop or restaurant you go to. Here are some common grocery store names for beef tenderloin.

  • Filet Mignon
  • Filet or Fillet
  • Chateaubriand (when referring to the thick part of the tenderloin)
  • Tournedos (when referring to the thinner part of the tenderloin)

Flavor vs Tenderness – Beef Tenderloin or Rib Eye Steak

You might have guessed it from the name ‘tenderloin’ but beef tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef available which means it is one of the most highly prized beef cuts available. The low fat content poses a tradeoff between the fat built into the cut and limits the natural flavor. That’s why beef tenderloins are often served with strong sauces such as flavored a compound butter.

If you are looking for something more flavorful, that is, you don’t want to add a bunch of extra sauces to flavor the steaks then you should go with a rib-eye steak due to the naturally excellent flavor.

How to Buy a Tenderloin

As beef tenderloin is often one of the most expensive cuts, its important to know what to look for to celebrate a special occasion. While you can purchase pre-cut tenderloin steaks, like filet mignon, this is only advisable when cooking for small parties. If you are cooking for a large dinner, try asking for the whole roast so that you can cook it, usually via roasting in the oven, and then slicing it up yourself so that you won’t be stuck with uneven cuts that are difficult to cook at once.

Another important consideration for many cuts of beef, which isn’t so much of a concern for beef tenderloin is fat vs tender muscle. Usually a higher fat content will impart more flavor to the steak as it is cooked, but because beef tenderloin has such a low fat percentage it’s not really important when shopping for tenderloin steak. Higher priced prime cuts are therefore not as important for this cut. You should consider adding flavor to the meal with a homemade steak sauce or flavored butter to make up for the lack of natural fat content in the cut.

What are Sirloin Steaks?

Sirloin is a cut of meat that comes from the back of the cow. This area is located between the loin and the rump. Sirloin is a less tender cut of beef than tenderloin, but it is also more flavorful as sirloin will contain more natural fat.

Sirloin, Top Sirloin, and Bottom Sirloin

If you thought beef tenderloin vs sirloin was complicated? Well, there are also different types of sirloin. Here are the basics of what you need to know for each type.

Sirloin in North America usually refers to the bottom sirloin, which is generally less tender but more flavorful than the top sirloin. In some other countries, like Britain, you may see the term rump, which means the same thing. Sirloin cuts can often be very similar in shape to the ribeye cut, however, sirloin cuts will generally have less marbling, the thin strips of fat scattered throughout the muscle, than a ribeye cut will have.

The top sirloin is actually right below the tenderloin. Top sirloin has that name because it is next in tenderness behind the tenderloin, so butchers call it top sirloin to denote this perceived desirability.

sirloin steak, strip loin, round steak

Choosing Between Beef Tenderloin and Sirloin

Here’s how I decide whether a beef tenderloin or sirloin steaks would be the better choice. If I am cooking for a special occasion where the focus is on the beef, such as a large family get-together, I will usually go with beef tenderloin. The main reason being that it is more expensive and therefore seen as a more luxurious cut of meat. Sirloin cuts are my choice for more everyday occasions like having a few friends over for dinner.

t bone steak, sirloin steak, round steak

What’s the Occasion?

The first thing you need to consider when choosing between beef tenderloin and sirloin is what the occasion is. If you are looking for an impressive cut of meat to serve at a dinner party or other formal event, then beef tenderloin is the way to go as it will be sure to impress your guests with its tenderness and is not overly difficult to cook.

If however, you’re just looking for something to casually throw on the grill with a few friends, sirloin cuts would be a better choice. Sirloin cuts have more built in flavor and are more forgiving when it comes to timing than beef tenderloin so overcooking isn’t as much of a concern.

How Many People will you Serve?

Another thing to consider is how many people you’ll be serving. If you are cooking for a large group, it might be more economical to purchase a whole Sirloin roast or beef tenderloin and slice it up yourself, rather than purchasing pre-cut steaks which can sometimes be more expensive.

When serving large parties I find it easier to prepare the roast in the oven, slice them into separate serving sizes, and then sear them than prepare them using a more traditional method of cooking steaks one or two at a time in a pan.

Sirloin vs Tenderloin Wrap-Up

So there you have it, a brief guide to Sirloin vs Tenderloin. I hope this has helped you understand the difference between these two cuts of beef and given you some guidance on when it might be appropriate to choose one over the other. Whichever choice you make both of these cuts of steak can be turned into a great steak with various cooking methods. I always suggest medium rare for cooking steak (unless you’re serving someone who may be pregnant) and the best way to get it right every time is with a digital thermometer, part of my essential kitchen equipment for everyone who cooks meat.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them down below. Happy cooking!



Tamara is an avid foodie and successful restaurateur. She has dedicated a large chunk of her life to researching healthy food recipes and diet plans, and also teaching people how to improve their eating habits. Using Eatomology, Tamara shares the very best diet plans, cookbooks, and more. Also, for those on a quest to improve their kitchen, Tamara shares some awesome and high-quality kitchen equipment recommendations as well as buying guides on her website.