Filet Mignon: The “Little” Steak that Could

Grilled Filet MignonPicture this…

You have reservations for one of the fanciest restaurants in town. White linen tablecloths, fine china and crystal glasses adorn the table. Your waiter has just lifted that iconic silver dome off of your gourmet steak dinner. We’re willing to bet that if asked what type of imaginary steak you are about to cut into, chances are you’d say it was a juicy, tender grilled filet mignon.

Amazed on how well we know your tastes? Turns out we aren’t actually mind readers at all. The filet mignon steak (pronounced “flayminyon steak”) has long been considered the crème de la crème of luxury beef. With its fork-tender iconic appeal, it’s easy to see why this particular cut can top the lists for both price and popularity. But just what is filet mignon and how can you go about preparing it at home to impress your family and friends? Never Fear! Steak University has the answer to all of your juiciest filet mignon questions.

What is Filet Mignon

At Steak University we are all about educating you in the art of steak. Before we delve into the why’s and how’s, let’s talk about what. In the U.S., Filet Mignon refers to a cut of beef taken from the tenderloin of the cow. In order to understand why this type of steak is so tender and juicy, we need a quick anatomy lesson.

filet mignon cut of beef

The tenderloin runs along either side of the mid-upper back portion of the cow. This isn’t exactly a high impact exercise area for the animal, which means the tenderloin muscles don’t see a lot of exertion, which can strengthen or toughen the tissue. This lack of heavy muscle straining is what makes the filet a particularly tender steak.

Steak U Tips: While filet mignon is extremely tender, the lean nature of the tenderloin can remove some of the flavor that is usually derived from fat or marbling in other cuts. Consider a sauce or infused butter (see recipes below) to increase your flavor impact.

The slender, and relatively small, tenderloin muscles run along either side of the back and are often removed in long, snake like cuts. These tenderloins are then sliced along the short-dimension to create your gourmet steaks. Only slices from the narrow front portion are technically filet mignon, although some companies will try to pass off any tenderloin cut under the name.

How to Cook Filet Mignon

Now that you know what sets this steak apart, let’s get down to the preparation. While your options for cooking are similar to most other steak cuts, the lack of excess fat or connective tissue in a steak filet naturally lends itself to a few different methods. Read on for the pros and cons when it comes to the various options for cooking a filet mignon.

Grilling Filet Mignon

There is something innately appealing about firing up the grill and gathering with friends and family to cook a great meal and enjoy some good conversation. As it turns out, filet mignon on the grill is an excellent preparation choice. Simply take your steak filets out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes in advance to allow to them to come to room temperature. Then just follow these simple steps for grilled filet mignon perfection.

How to cook filet mignon on the grill:

• Pre-heat grill to at least 450 degrees but not more than 500
• Give the meat a quick sprinkle of salt and pepper
• Withhold the excess oil on the meat when grilling filet mignon, given the open flame
• Cooking time should be about 6 minutes per side
• Flip after first 6 minutes
• Cook to an internal temperature of 140-150 degrees or desired doneness

Steak U Tips: After the first 3 minutes on either side, rotate steaks on the grill 45 degrees for impressive crosshatched grill mark action.

Filet mignon grilling times will vary depending on thickness, grill temp and weather conditions. Using an instant read meat thermometer to measure internal temperature will always be your best option for consistent and even cooking.

Pan Searing Filet Mignon

While barbecuing filet mignon is certainly the classic outdoors preparation, pan searing or pan frying filet mignon is a great opportunity to add seasoning to this tender, but lean, cut of steak. Since you don’t need to break down extensive amounts of connective tissue with a filet mignon steak, searing also is the perfect opportunity to get that warm, red center of a perfectly cooked medium rare piece of meat.

Cooking filet mignon in a pan:

• Preheat heavy duty pan in oven at 525
• Place pan on stovetop over high flame
• Season steaks with salt, pepper and oil of choice
• Sear steaks in pan for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on thickness
• Remove pan from flame and allow steaks to cook in residual heat of pan for another 2-3 minutes per side until internal temperature of 140-150 or desired doneness is reached.

Steak U Tips: Whatever your cooking method, filet mignon should always be allowed to come to room temperature before hitting the heat. Remove steaks from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to allow for the most even cooking.
When it comes to how to cook filet mignon, the pan method may be the best for adding infused butters (see recipes below) or taking advantage of pan drippings as a base for an excellent sauce or topping.

Broiled Filet Mignon

If you can’t take the steak to the grill, bring the grill flame to your steak filet mignon. Your traditional stove broiler is one of the most under-utilized weapons in your cooking arsenal. While you may be able to achieve that traditional wood or charcoal flavor, broiling filet mignon will allow you to easily control cooking temperature which will result in a more even level of doneness.

How to broil filet mignon:

• Preheat oven broiler for at least 15 minutes
• Place oven safe pan or broiler pan in oven and allow it to heat with oven temperature
• Thoroughly season and oil your steaks
• Place steaks in oven under broiler for 4-7 minutes
• Flip steaks once and cook on other side for 4-7 minutes additional, depending on desired level of doneness

Steak U Tips: Never overcook your steak. Steak texture and flavor is best at medium-rare to medium. A well done steak will be chewy and tough and is the quickest way to ruin a quality broiled filet mignon.

Broiling may be one of the best ways to cook a filet mignon. It combines all of the aspects of open flame cooking in an all-weather friendly indoor kitchen oven. Your filet mignon steak will have an excellent sear from being kissed by the flame, without all the fuss and mess of a traditional BBQ.

Filet Mignon in the Oven

If the idea of an open flame has you a bit nervous, never fear. Cooking in the oven may just be our favorite way to cook filet mignon yet. The key is to start with a very hot pan and plenty of oil to get that nice, crunchy crust on your steak filet mignon. Finishing in the oven after a quick sear will allow for even heating of the meat all the way through.

How to cook filet mignon in the oven:

• Preheat oven to 525 degrees
• Place well oiled, oven proof pan in oven (we like a nice heavy cast-iron option for this preparation)
• Once oven reaches temperature, remove to stovetop over high flame
• Sear beef filet mignon 1-2 minutes per side
• Remove entire pan to oven and cook for an addition 6-7 minutes depending on desired level of doneness

Steak U Tips:
Don’t forget to “rest” your steak before serving. Placing your steak on a platter or plate, loosely covered with foil or a pan lid for at least 5 minutes before serving will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Whenever a pan is involved it opens up the opportunities for seasonings and specialty oils and butters. Try placing a dollop of one of our favorite infused butters (recipes below) onto the top after searing the filet mignon and before transferring the steak to the oven.

Seasoning Your Filet Mignon

On a typical, well marbled steak, simplicity tends to be key and a basic salt and pepper regimen reigns supreme. When seasoning a filet mignon for cooking, stick to the same principle, but don’t be afraid to up the flavor profile a notch given the more delicate flavor of the steak. Additional seasonings or marinades may be just the extra kick your grilled filet mignon needs to make a big impression at your next dinner party.

Some of our favorite seasonings for filet mignon include:

• Pink peppercorns, cracked or whole
• Garlic salt or granulated garlic
• Celery salt
• Traditional barbeque dry rubs including the addition of a touch of brown sugar
• Paprika
• Worcestershire sauce as a quick marinade 30 minutes or so prior to cooking

Filet Mignon Recipes

When it comes to cooking a filet mignon, flavoring and oil will definitely be key. One of our favorite additions to any steak, but especially a lean and tender cut like the tenderloin filet, is an infused butter. Pan sauces and toppings are also a go-to with this particular cut of steak. Whether used to cook your filet mignon in a pan, as a dollop on top while resting or as a condiment on the side we think these recipes are certain to be the supporting cast in your next filet mignon cooking adventure.

Sundried Tomato Infused Butter

Bring one stick of butter to room temperature. Thoroughly mix in well-drained and diced sundried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes or chipotle chili powder. Refrigerate to bring butter back to solid state.

Optional Ingredients:

Unsweetened cocoa powder will give this southwestern inspired butter a bitter and earthy mole like kick.

Rosemary and Garlic Infused Butter

Combine finely minced rosemary, chopped garlic, salt and pepper with room temperature butter. If you’re feeling adventurous, whipping the butter with a hand mixer will add air and loft which will make the mixture extra spreadable.

Steak U Tips: When it comes to seasoning, fresh herbs are always best for flavor and texture. When using dried herbs, remember they tend to be a bit more concentrated and potent than their fresh counterparts. Add in smaller increments and taste test along the way.

Anchovy Infused Butter

Anchovy provides the perfect amount of salt and flavor kick for those adventurous enough to work with this much-maligned canned fish. Simply combine anchovy filets direct from the can with softened butter and mix or whip thoroughly. Anchovies will break apart easily during the mixing process. Add fresh herbs of your choice to brighten up this rich accompaniment to your gourmet filet mignon steak.

Mushrooms in Balsamic and Red Wine Reduction

The earthiness of the mushrooms combines with the acidic kick of the wine and sweetness of the balsamic vinegar to create one of steak’s most perfect accessories. Simply heat mushrooms in a pan until slightly soft, then add balsamic vinegar and good red wine in equal parts and allow to reduce to desired consistency. Onions and garlic are also great options in this preparation, or just use all three for a flavor explosion of epic proportions.

Steak U Tips: While you can buy “cooking wine” in baking or condiment aisle of the grocery store, you really shouldn’t. Instead, head to the wine section and look for an inexpensive bottle that you wouldn’t mind drinking on its own. The superior flavor of the wine will show through in your side or sauce and you’ll also have extras to sip while cooking your meal if you are feeling so inclined.

Brown Butter Shallot Pan Sauce

Shallots are the smaller, sweeter cousins to traditional onions. These can be tricky to find in most stores, so don’t be afraid to substitute for red onions or large sweet Spanish Vidalia onions if you can’t locate shallots. Begin by heating butter in a pan until it just begins to turn brown. Add in onions and cook until translucent. Throw in a pinch of salt to taste at the very end of cooking.

Steak U Tips: When cooking sauces and accompaniments for your filet mignon, don’t toss the oil and drippings from your steak pan. These cooking juices have typically been pre-flavored and can add an extra punch to your pan sauce after your steaks have been removed.

Blue Cheese and Heavy Cream Pan Sauce

Blue cheese and steak are a match made in steak heaven. Create your sauce by combining a pat of butter with about a cup of heavy cream in a pan. Over low to medium heat, slowly bring the cream to a simmer. Add in blue cheese crumbles and stir until melted. Allow to reduce until desired thickness. Onions or crumbled bacon make a great addition to this super simple sauce.