Become the ultimate salt bae with this traditional dish from Colombia: Lomo al Trapo. Translating to “beef tenderloin in a towel”, this salt-crusted event will blow your mind. Fired directly in the coals and sliced to a juicy perfection, Lomo al Trapo is an absolute showstopper.
Post Contributed by Brad Prose
The Drama Dinner – Lomo Al Trapo Style
Colombians perfected the concept of “less is more” with their traditional dish, Lomo al Trapo. First, we’ll trim a beef tenderloin and roll it with herbs, loads of salt, and wrap it in a towel soaked with liquid before cooking directly on the coals. Watching this for the first time will amaze you, but just wait until you’re cracking through the thick crust of salt with a knife.
Obviously, there are many questions to ask. Will the thick salt crust harden during the cooking process? Is the beef going to be incredibly salty when I eat it? What about the cook, will it be really dry? This is one of those dishes that you can read about extensively, but the best thing to do is jump in and cook it yourself to truly understand how amazing it is.
Don’t Be Salty… Be Lomo Al Trapo
You’d think every bite would be overwhelming with salt flavors, but it’s not. Beef tenderloin is pretty thick, so you get rich, meaty bites in the center to contrast the salty crust. Lomo al Trapo is typically served with charred vegetables, chimichurri, or Colombian aji to brighten the meal.
There are many types of salt to choose from, but it’s recommended to use kosher salt. Flakey salts won’t combine together for a solid crust. Finer-grained salt is more difficult to brush off, creating a much saltier flavor with each bite.
Quantity of salt isn’t as important as the thickness of the crust. Ideally, having at least ½” thick salt crust on all sides will ensure that the beef tenderloin is completely protected from the fire, providing the perfect insulation.
For other salt encased meals, check out my Salt Baked Salmon!
Lomo Al Trapo Timing
The beauty of this dish is the perfect timing of it all. Lomo al Trapo needs a 100% cotton towel which is traditionally soaked in either water or wine. Soak the towel for 20-30 minutes, just enough time to prep the fire and trim the beef. You don’t need to use a heavy-duty towel for wrapping, any simple terry cloth will do.
No need to prep the beef ahead of time, the salts would start pulling out juices through osmosis and evaporate during the cooking process. So, get ready to sear that sucker!
Now that we’ve wrapped with salt and spices, place the beef tenderloin directly into hot coals for exactly 9 minutes on each side. It’s important to check for the final temperature towards the end to make sure it doesn’t overcook. Fire is a finicky thing, don’t trust it blindly.
Stick to the Process
Lomo al Trapo is classic and traditional for a reason, and it works. Stick with beef tenderloin for the best experience. The lean, beefy flavors are perfect as there’s no need to slowly render out thick fats. The recipe below is more of a guide, counting on your intuition to kick in for this cook. Make sure you have enough coals, don’t forget to temp the meat, and allow it to rest for only a couple of minutes. You got this!
Lomo Al Trapo
- 1 terry cloth towel (about 16” x 16”) 100% cotton required
- 1 cup red wine for soaking towel
- Butchers twine (optional)
- 1 beef tenderloin 1 ½ to 2 pounds trimmed
- 2 cups kosher salt more as needed
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp chile powder
- 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
- 1 100% cotton towel about 16” x 16”
- 1 cup red wine for soaking towel
- optional butchers twine
- Place the towel in a small bowl and pour the wine over it, allowing it to soak for 20-30 minutes. You may need to stir it around a bit.
- Preheat the charcoal grill for high heat, removing the grates. We will be cooking directly in the coals. Lump charcoal or briquettes will work best.
- Squeeze out the excess wine from the towel gently, and place the towel on a large cutting board. Open it up into a diamond shape so a corner faces you. Pour out the salt across the towel into a thick layer, going from the left to the right side. Sprinkle the spices all over the salt.
- Prepare the beef when you’re ready to grill, not ahead of time. Roll the beef tenderloin in the spices, and place it in the middle of the salt. The tenderloin should sit parallel to your shoulders, with a corner of the towel pointing to you. Roll the cloth and salt, starting from the far end of the cloth, creating a compact roll. Take the points of the cloth at each end of the cylinder and tie them together on the top of the towel. Use butchers twine as needed if your towel is not able to be tied.
- Rake the charcoal into an even layer at the bottom of the grill. Lay the wrapped tenderloin directly onto the coals with the knot side up. Do not disturb it for exactly 9 minutes. Carefully flip it, cooking for another 9 minutes - or until you are within 5 degrees of desired temperature. The cloth will likely burn up, this is typical.
- Transfer the salted beef to a metal platter or baking sheet and allow it to rest for 2 minutes. Using the back of a chefs knife, hit the salt crust to crack it open. Remove the tenderloin and brush off excess salt, slicing it on a cutting board immediately.