Thanks to its divine tenderness, filet mignon is one of the most sought-after cuts of meat. Because it can be grilled, sautéed, or broiled, filet mignon is a fitting choice any time of year. Along with instructions for choosing the best cut, we'll show you how to cook filet mignon, and even offer sauce recipes that showcase the premium cut at its best.
A filet is a boneless cut of meat or fish, and mignon is a French word that means cute or dainty. A filet mignon, then, is a "dainty filet." It's pronounced fih-LAY meen-YAWN.
A filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin, which lies in the middle of the animal's back. Because the muscles in this area are not overly exerted, their tendons do not toughen -- and that's why a tenderloin is so tender. Strictly speaking, filet mignon comes from the tail end (the smaller end) of the tenderloin; it is generally only 1 to 2 inches in diameter. However, you can use beef filet mignon and beef tenderloin steaks (cut from other parts of the tenderloin) interchangeably. Both are usually cut 1 to 2 inches thick, though beef tenderloin steaks tend to be larger in diameter (2 to 3 inches).
Note that what you gain in tenderness, you lose a bit in flavor -- the lack of marbling, fat, and bone diminishes the beefy taste of these cuts. That's why tenderloin steaks are often served with sauces, toppings, or pan juices. Steak houses also often serve beef tenderloin steaks wrapped in bacon to keep them moist while cooking and add meaty flavor.
You can have beef filet mignon cut fresh for you at a supermarket meat counter or butcher, which allows you to specify the thickness you like. A few guidelines:
The first step to cooking filet mignon: Put the slow cooker and stew pot away. The best way to cook filet mignon is quickly with direct heat, so opt for cooking methods such as grilling, pan-frying, or broiling. Long, slow cooking -- or any kind of overcooking -- will dry out this cut, robbing not only its flavor but its tenderness, too. In general, beef filet mignon tastes best at medium-rare to medium doneness.
Tip: Regardless of cooking method, test for doneness using an instant-read meat thermometer toward the end of cooking time.
How to Grill Filet Mignon
How to Skillet-Cook Filet Mignon
How to Broil or Bake Filet Mignon
Because filet mignon lacks fat and marbling, consider serving it with a sauce or topping to add flavor and moisture. Hollandaise Sauce is classic, or try one of these flavored butters, which can be made in advance. Simply place a tablespoon of the butter over the filet after the standing time and just before serving.
Try this recipe for Filet Mignon with Portobello Sauce.