What is Filet Mignon?
Our Recipe for Filet Mignon
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.
How to Choose a Filet Mignon Cut
When buying filet mignon, or beef tenderloin steaks, look for cuts with even edges that are about 1 to 2 inches thick, like the ones shown here.
Grilled Steak Recipes
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 meat should have good color and appear moist but not wet.
- Any cut edges should be even, not ragged.
- If prepackaged, avoid meat with tears in the packaging or liquid in the bottom of the tray. The meat should feel firm and cold to the touch.
- Count on serving 3 to 4 ounces of meat per person.
Tips for Selecting a Great Steak
How to Cook Filet Mignon
When deciding how to cook filet mignon, consider sauteing, broiling, or grilling the steaks, as shown here.
Tips for Grilling Filet Mignon
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
- For a charcoal grill, place the meat on a grill rack directly over medium coals; grill uncovered.
- For a gas grill, preheat the grill; reduce the heat to medium. Place the filet on the grill rack over the heat. Cover the grill.
- Use the following timings for grilling filet mignon, and turn once halfway through the grilling time:
For a 1-inch cut, grill 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees F) or 12 to 15 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
For a 1-1/2-inch cut, grill 15 to 19 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees F) or 18 to 23 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
- Transfer the meat to a platter. Cover the meat with foil and allow it to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Grill Steak to Perfection
How to Skillet-Cook Filet Mignon
- Select a heavy skillet that is the correct size for the amount of meat you are cooking. The meat should fit snugly in one layer. If the skillet is too large, the pan juices can burn. If it's too small, the meat may steam rather than brown.
- Measure the meat's thickness. Pat the meat dry with paper towels (dry meat browns better than wet meat).
- Lightly coat the skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Or use a heavy nonstick skillet.
- Preheat the skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Add the meat. Do not add any liquid and do not cover the skillet.
- Reduce the heat to medium and cook until medium rare to medium (145 degrees F to 160 degrees F). This should take 10 to 13 minutes for a 1-inch filet, longer for a thicker filet. Turn the meat occasionally for even browning. If the meat browns too quickly before the interior is done, reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Transfer the cooked filet mignon to a serving platter. Cover the meat with foil and allow it to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Tips for Sauteing Meat and Veggies
How to Broil or Bake Filet Mignon
- For cuts that are less than 1-1/2 inches thick, position the broiler rack so the steak will be 3 to 4 inches from the heat. For cuts that are 1-1/2 inches thick, position the broiler rack so the steak will be 4 to 5 inches from the heat.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Place the beef filet mignon on the unheated rack of the broiler pan.
- Using the following timings, broil the meat, turning once halfway through the broiling time:
For a 1-inch filet cut, broil 12 to 14 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees F) or 15 to 18 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
For a 1-1/2-inch filet cut, broil 18 to 21 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees F) or 22 to 27 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
- Transfer the broiled filet mignon to a platter and cover with foil. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Cook Steak in the Oven
Flavored Butters to Serve with Filet Mignon
Add flavor to your filet mignon in the form of a sauce or flavored butter. We topped these grilled filets with a whiskey butter that tastes complex but is easy to make.
Get the Recipe
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.
- Herb Butter: In a small mixing bowl beat 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme, and 2 teaspoons snipped fresh marjoram or oregano with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours.
- Blue Cheese Butter: In a small mixing bowl beat 1/2 cup softened butter and 2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours.
- Chipotle-Cilantro Butter: In a small mixing bowl beat 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, and 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro on low speed until combined. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours.
Try this recipe for Filet Mignon with Portobello Sauce.