What is Beef Wellington? A Guide to This Elegant Holiday Centerpiece

Beef Wellington is a classic holiday centerpiece dish that impresses guests with its elegance and rich flavors. This baked filet of beef wrapped in puff pastry looks intricate but is easy to assemble with some advance preparation. Read on for a complete guide to Beef Wellington including its history, ingredients, and step-by-step instructions for making it at home.

A Brief History of Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington originated as a British dish, first appearing in printed cookbooks in the early 1800s. The dish was likely created earlier in the 18th century and some food historians trace its origins to the beef dishes served at the Brighton Pavilion, the pleasure palace of King George IV.

The dish rose to fame after Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Food writers in the 1800s named lavish beef dishes in the Duke’s honor. By the mid 1900s, Beef Wellington established itself as a celebratory dish for holidays and dinner parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

Traditional Ingredients in Beef Wellington

The classic Beef Wellington consists of the following components:

  • Beef tenderloin: The most tender cut of beef, roasted to perfection. Filet mignon is also a popular choice.

  • Mushroom duxelles: A paste of finely chopped mushrooms, shallots, thyme, and butter. It adds an earthy flavor.

  • Liver pâté or prosciutto ham: Traditionally, a layer of liver pâté covers the beef before wrapping it in pastry. Many modern recipes substitute prosciutto for a similar savory flavor without the liver.

  • Puff pastry: Flaky, buttery puff pastry wraps the beef and seals the layers together when baked.

  • Egg wash: An egg yolk beaten with milk or cream to brush the pastry before baking for a glossy golden crust.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making Beef Wellington

Follow these steps for perfect Beef Wellington every time:

Prep the ingredients

  • Take the puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw several hours before cooking. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

  • Prepare the mushrooms duxelles. You can make it 1-2 days in advance and refrigerate until needed.

  • Pat the tenderloin dry and tie it with kitchen twine to maintain its shape. Season with salt and pepper.

Sear the beef

  • In a skillet, heat oil over high heat until very hot.

  • Sear the tenderloin on all sides until a brown crust forms, about 1-2 minutes per side.

  • Allow the seared beef to cool then coat with mustard.

Assemble the Wellington

  • Layer prosciutto or paté over plastic wrap slightly larger than the tenderloin.

  • Spread duxelles in an even layer over the prosciutto/paté.

  • Place seared tenderloin in the center.

  • Use the plastic wrap to roll the tenderloin in the duxelles and prosciutto/paté. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Wrap in puff pastry

  • On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry into a rectangle larger than the beef.

  • Remove beef from plastic wrap and place in center of pastry.

  • Brush pastry edges with egg wash and fold over beef, pinching together seams.

  • Chill for 10 minutes to allow pastry to firm up.

Bake the Wellington

  • Place wrapped tenderloin on a baking sheet and brush with more egg wash.

  • Score the top of the pastry with a knife. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

  • Bake at 400°F for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and cooked to desired doneness (125°F for medium-rare).

  • Rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1-inch thick slices.

Tips for Making the Perfect Beef Wellington

  • Use high quality puff pastry. Look for all butter puff pastry for the flakiest results.

  • Cook mushrooms duxelles until all moisture has evaporated for maximum flavor concentration.

  • Chill wrapped Wellington before baking so pastry firms up and holds its shape better.

  • Use a meat thermometer to monitor doneness precisely. Cook to between 125°F for rare and 135°F for medium.

  • Let the Wellington rest after baking to allow juices to redistribute. This makes slicing easier.

  • Reheat leftovers in a hot oven until warmed through and pastry is crispy.

What to Serve with Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is rich, so pair it with lighter side dishes and vegetables:

  • Roasted asparagus or green beans
  • Creamed spinach or roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Scalloped potatoes or potato gratin
  • A crisp green salad with vinaigrette dressing
  • Yorkshire pudding or popovers

Make a Splash with Beef Wellington This Holiday Season

Beef Wellington makes a visually stunning centerpiece for holiday meals like Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve. The golden puff pastry exterior encasing the tender beef is sure to impress guests.

Despite its elegant appearance, Beef Wellington is easier to make than it looks. Much of the preparation can be done ahead of time. With prosciutto and mushroom duxelles wrapped in store-bought puff pastry, you can assemble Wellington like a savory beef cake.

Bring the beef from seared to spectacular with this recipe. Your guests will be amazed as you unveil the Wellington at the table. Then delight in the luscious layers of tender beef, savory mushrooms, and flaky pastry you have created.

How to Make Perfect Beef Wellington


What is so special about Beef Wellington?

It Consistently Combines Multiple Ingredients For example, it’s quite common to wrap the pâté and duxelles coated steak with parma ham to retain the meat’s inner moisture. What’s more striking is that all these ingredients combine in every slice and bite of beef wellington.

What cut of meat is a Beef Wellington?

A traditional Beef Wellington consists of a beef tenderloin wrapped in layers of pâté, duxelles (a finely chopped mushroom mixture), parma ham, and puff pastry, then baked. Rumor has it that Beef Wellington got its name from Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, who counted the dish among his favorite recipes.

Is the beef in Beef Wellington raw?

The traditional preparation of Beef Wellington involves wrapping a beef fillet in puff pastry and then baking it in the oven. The pastry creates a protective layer around the meat, which can give the illusion of rawness when it’s cooked to the desired temperature.

What does Beef Wellington taste like?

It is a sweet and savory blend of layers that melt in your mouth and tastes oh-so-good! Sear the Tenderloin: Generously salt and pepper your tenderloin. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Sear the tenderloin on each side for about 2-3 minutes until it gets a golden brown crust.

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