As your go-to source for everything steak, the team at Chicago Steak Company wants to answer a question we get asked often: Is a tenderloin steak the same as a perfect filet mignon? The two cuts appear to be similar in shape and size, and they even come from the same part of the animal. It would stand to reason, then, that they’re the same cuts of beef, right?
The short answer is no, but we want to explain. Buying steak can be confusing, but you have every right to know exactly what you’re paying for in that pricey cut. So, let’s dive into the differences between two trendy cuts of steak.
Beef Tenderloin vs Filet Mignon: Is Tenderloin the Same as Filet Mignon?
So, we know that beef tenderloin is not the same as a filet mignon, regardless of their look and taste being quite similar. However, there is a reason for their similarities: Both the tenderloin and filet are cut from the same part of the animal, the tenderloin. That’s right – the tenderloin is an actual part of meat on a cow that sits right below the sirloin.
You should actually think of the tenderloin as two separate pieces of meat, though. The longer end is the tenderloin that you’d get a whole beef tenderloin from. On one side of that tenderloin, though, is the filet mignon, which reaches into the short loin of the animal. The piece is known for being extremely tender with a melt-in-your-mouth texture when cooked.
In short: A filet mignon is part of the tenderloin, but the tenderloin is not a filet mignon. Let’s get a better look at each beef cut.
What Cut of Beef is Tenderloin?
The tenderloin is a long piece of beef that you can use to make a full roast or cut other steaks from. This piece comes from an area near the rear of the animal that sits in front of the round cut and under the sirloin. The tenderloin is quite small in comparison to the larger round, rib, chuck, and other cuts, which is one of the reasons it’s so coveted by steak enthusiasts. You won’t get as much meat from this cut as others, which leads to higher prices per pound at the butcher. It’s also known for being extremely tender because it’s a piece of meat that isn’t exercised by the animal much.
What Cut of Beef is Filet Mignon?
The filet mignon comes from the piece of tenderloin that reaches into the cow’s short loin. Like the tenderloin, the filet mignon is incredibly tender – but even more than the full loin. This area of the tenderloin gets so little movement by the cow that helps it become the most delicate piece of steak cut from the animal. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t cut a full tenderloin into filet mignon steaks. The beef tenderloin will only yield a few filet mignon cuts, making the filet rarer and pricier than other steaks.
All About the Tenderloin
We always want you to have all the information you need to get the right steak for dinner. In this section, we provide detailed information about the tenderloin roast, including its nutritional facts, pricing, and how you can get other prized cuts from one piece of tenderloin.
What Makes Tenderloin Steak Stand Out?
The beef tenderloin is known for its tenderness, hence its name. This part of the animal isn’t filled with muscle because it doesn’t move around much like the shoulder and leg areas do. Therefore, it has that beefy burst of flavor you love in steak without being chewy.
The tenderloin makes for a perfect tenderloin roast that you can rub with your favorite steak spices and roast for several hours. Or, you can cut it into pieces of steak to make tenderloin filet sections that look similar to filet mignon. You can also get T-bone and porterhouse steak from a tenderloin if the whole portion of the tenderloin is cut from the short loin with the bone. The chateaubriand roast – a thick cut of the center of the tenderloin – also comes from this delicious cut.
Trimmed vs Untrimmed Tenderloin
We can further categorize the tenderloin as trimmed or untrimmed. The untrimmed version is the one you’ll want if you want to cut porterhouse and T-bone steaks from the loin. You can get a lot of steak cuts from an untrimmed loin, which includes the bones, fat, and other untrimmed parts that surround the cut.
A trimmed version, on the other hand, will look cleaner and more appealing and is the right choice if you just want to cut beef filets from the loin or cook a roast. The trimmed loin, however, takes more time for a butcher to cut precisely, so it will usually cost a few dollars more per pound than the untrimmed tenderloin.
Pricing for a tenderloin can vary significantly like any other cut of steak, such as the strip steak or rib eye. It depends on where you buy it from, the quality you’re getting, and the expertise of the butcher. Generally, you can expect to pay between $20 and $25 per pound for an untrimmed tenderloin, while the trimmed version can run closer to $25 to $30 per pound.
The tenderloin roast is packed with the nutrition that you expect from most steaks, including being an excellent source of protein, iron, and Vitamin B6. It is, however, high in saturated fat content, so you’ll want to be sure to have any excess fat trimmed from your roast or filets before cooking to cut down on fat. It’s also good for monounsaturated fat, which is known for being a healthy fat can improve cholesterol.
A 3-ounce portion – the recommended serving size for steak – of tenderloin yields about 275 calories, 280 mg of Potassium, and about 20 grams of protein.
Cutting Tenderloin into Steaks
You can always purchase a tenderloin and cut it into your own beef steaks instead of having the butcher do it. This is a good option if you want to save some money on your meat and have a good idea of what you’re doing.
To cut filets from the tenderloin, you’ll want to opt for a trimmed loin so you won’t have surrounding fat and bones getting in the way of your filets. After cutting off the narrow ends of the tenderloin, you can slice the rest of the meat into 2 to 2.5-inch filets.
Remember that the T-bone and porterhouse steaks include both the New York strip steak and a filet mignon, so ask your butcher to leave your loin untrimmed with the right meat to cut into the steaks you want.
Cooking and Serving Tenderloin
Tenderloin is incredibly versatile in that you can use a portion of it for a roast while slicing filet mignon from the end or cut the full loin into other pieces of steak. As a roast, the loin can be used in virtually endless recipes, depending on the spices, sauces, and sides you use with the dish. For a yummy dinner idea, try our fresh herb roast rub and marinade recipe.
You can also grill the full tenderloin or the cuts you make from it. The loin stays tender even on the grill, but be sure to finish it off by cooking over indirect heat to avoid getting it too crispy on the outside and underdone on the inside.
All About Filet Mignon
Filet mignon is arguably the yummiest, most tender, and fanciest cuts of steak out there. The tenderloin filet has a one-of-a-kind flavor that pairs well with simple spices, herb butter, or au jus, making it perfect for upscale dishes. Here’s everything you need to know about the ridiculously tender steak known as filet mignon:
What Makes Filet Mignon Stand Out?
Ask any steak enthusiast what the most prized cut of steak is, and you will probably hear “filet mignon.” The tender, thick cut is a rarity on a cow, which is one of the reasons it’s so coveted. But it also has a texture that’s unlike any other steak you eat – one that’s almost light and airy in your mouth, requiring almost no chewing as you enjoy its rich flavors.
With that said, filet mignon is not everyone’s cup of tea. The steak isn’t quite as beefy flavored as other steaks, which is why it’s usually served in more elevated dishes that use au jus, gravy, herb butter, or other ingredients that bring out its flavor. It’s also common to wrap bacon around a filet and cook them together to add a super savory element to the dish.
Prime Cuts of Filet Mignon
Not all filet mignon is created equal. You may come across some more “affordable” filets that aren’t technically filet mignon at all. Some butchers and grocery stores label filets from the tenderloin as filet mignon, while others might even label filets they cut from other areas of the cow as filet mignon. Unfortunately, they aren’t a true filet that warrants the price tag of prime filet mignon cuts.
You’ll also see some labeled as “Choice” cuts while others are “Prime”. Choice beef makes up the top 50% of beef, so these filets will be the top 50% of filets according to the USDA. They’re a good choice, but your best choice is Prime. USDA Prime is the cream of the crop, especially when it comes to filet mignon. If you’re going to pay more for this cut, your money is better spent on USDA Prime Filet Mignon, which is the top 2% of beef.
What’s the Difference Between Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed Filets?
There are a lot of different feeds that farmers use to raise their cattle. The most common ones are grain feed and grass feed. What’s the difference, and is one better than the other?
Grass feed is made mostly of grass and other foliage. This is similar to what cows would eat naturally if they were on their own. However, this feed usually produces less fat content in the animal than other feeds, which generally results in less marbling.
Grain-fed beef produces the rich marbling that makes the filet so tender. Grain feed usually comes from corn and corn by-products, like the husks and cobs. It tends to make meatier animals and richer flavors than grass feed, and lends to the slightly sweet flavor people enjoy in steak, especially with filet mignon.
Filet Mignon Pricing
Filet mignon pricing runs the gamut from affordable to incredibly pricey. Again, this depends mostly on if you’re purchasing true filet mignon or another cut that’s passed off as a filet. True Prime filet mignon can cost between $20 to $90 per pound, with the higher prices saved for cream-of-the-crop cuts by skilled butchers and only the best beef. Still, buying this cut yourself to cook at home can save you a lot of money over enjoying it at a restaurant.
Filet Mignon Nutrition
Filet mignon has about 225 calories for a typical 3-ounce serving. With no carbohydrates and 22 grams of protein, this cut of beef could be a good choice for people looking to lose weight and build muscle when eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet. This steak is also an excellent source of niacin, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, and iron.
A true filet mignon should already come to you with the fat trimmed off it, making it one of the leaner cuts to enjoy. Even without the fat that other steaks rely on to keep them flavorful and tender, this one remains tender without it.
Cooking and Serving Filet Mignon
You can cook filet mignon in a cast iron skillet and finish it off in the oven. Or, make grilled filet mignon if you love the flavors of the grill. Remember, though, that this meat is thick, so any cooking method you choose is one you might need to experiment with.
The art of cooking filet mignon relies on using both direct and indirect heat. You’ll sear the outer sides of the filet with direct heat on a cast-iron skillet or the grill. Then, move it to indirect heat (your cast iron pan can go right in the oven to finish, or move the steak to a side with less heat on the grill) until it meets the internal temperature for medium rare.
Enjoying Filet Mignon
As we mentioned, filet mignon is usually paired with other ingredients that boost its flavor profile because it’s not an especially beefy steak cut. We love enjoying filet mignon with garlic herb butter drizzled on top or served on the side for dipping.
If wrapping bacon around your filet before cooking it doesn’t appeal to you, you might add some chopped pieces of crispy bacon to an au jus to pour over the steak right before serving. Or, add a small slice of butter on the top of your steak for a subtle, savory addition.
Are Aged Steaks Better?
Yes! Any steak is better with aging to give it the beef flavor you love. While the gorgeous red hue of brand-new beef is appealing to the eye, you will probably be a little disappointed by its flavor. And, aged beef gets more tender as it ages, which is exactly what you want for steak.
This holds true for tenderloin and filet mignon. Both cuts of meat are excellent agers, becoming more tender and flavorful as they age. At Chicago Steak Company, we have both wet-aged and dry-aged filet mignon. Both processes allow muscle fibers to break down over time to keep the meat tender, which also enhances its flavor in the process.
Is Filet Mignon Steak or Beef Tenderloin Better for Beef Wellington?
Beef Wellington is one of the most prized dishes in the steak world. The dish consists of a big hunk of steak that’s wrapped in a wine and mushroom mixture which is then wrapped in pastry dough. The Wellington gets baked until the dough is cooked through and golden brown, giving you a crisp, savory way to enjoy steak.
But is filet mignon or beef tenderloin better for beef wellington recipes? Honestly, either one will do. You can use the filet mignon if you’re shooting for a high-end Beef Wellington with that tell-tale filet mignon texture and flavor. But a sliced tenderloin works wonders for this dish, too.
Alternatives to the Whole Tenderloin and Filet Mignon
Tenderloin and filet mignon may be out of your price range to buy frequently, which is why it’s a good idea to know what other cuts of steak you might get in their place once in a while. Although nothing truly matches tenderloin and filet mignon, some steaks are just as loved and not quite as pricey.
In fact, you can buy a T-bone or porterhouse steak that includes the filet portion of the tenderloin for cheaper than you can usually buy tenderloin or filet mignon on their own. These cuts don’t have the filet portion trimmed off, so they are not as much work for the butcher and, therefore, aren’t as expensive.
You can also try ribeye, which is a pricier cut, but still falls below the tenderloin and filet mignon. Ribeye is popular for its rich steak flavor and beautiful marbling that, when cooked down, keeps the steak tender.
Beef Tenderloin vs Filet Mignon: What’s the Difference?
To sum up: Filet mignon is part of a beef tenderloin, but a beef tenderloin is not a filet mignon. Instead, it houses the filet mignon, which comes from the end portion of the tenderloin. The rest of the tenderloin can create other steak cuts or a delicious tenderloin roast to feed the family.
With that said, filet mignon and some tenderloin meat will taste similar. A trimmed tenderloin features only the tenderloin portion, which has a similar flavor to filet mignon. However, an untrimmed tenderloin will include parts of the short loin, too, which tends to have a richer flavor than the tenderloin.
There’s no wrong choice when it comes to beef tenderloin vs. filet mignon. These cuts are both perfect for an elevated dinner treat – and we have both of them in stock on our website. Visit Chicago Steak Company to order USDA Prime Wet Aged steaks online, which come flash-frozen and vacuum-sealed to preserve their freshness until you’re ready to enjoy them.