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. When buying filet mignon, or beef tenderloin steaks, look for cuts with even edges that are about 1 to 2 inches thick. A few guidelines:
Cooking filet mignon is easier than you think! 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 it of not only its flavor but its tenderness, too. In general, beef filet mignon tastes best at medium-rare to medium doneness. Because tastes can vary, use your recipe's cook time for filet mignon as a guide and keep a close eye on your meat to prevent overcooking.
Tip: Regardless of cooking method, test for doneness using an instant-read meat thermometer toward the end of cooking time.
Learn how to grill filet mignon, and you can use this technique for any special occasion or fancy dinner. Follow these directions for grilling on a charcoal or gas grill:
Cooking filet mignon in a cast-iron skillet is a great way to make sure your meat is extra tender and flavorful. Even if you don't have a cast-iron skillet, you can still cook a delectable dinner on your stove top:
Learning how to broil a filet mignon makes serving an extra-special meal unbelievably easy. Follow these instructions and use the times below as a guide for cooking:
Make dinner even more decadent by cooking bacon-wrapped filet mignon.
Because filet mignon lacks fat and marbling, consider serving it with a sauce or topping to add flavor and moisture. Add flavor to your meat in the form of a sauce or flavored butter. Hollandaise Sauce is classic, or try one of these flavored butters, which can be made in advance. Simply place a tablespoon of the butter on the filet after the standing time and just before serving.
Try this recipe for Filet Mignon with Portobello Sauce.
Filet mignon recipes aren't the only route you can go if you're looking for a special occasion meal. Try serving an expertly grilled steak or feeding a crowd with a prime rib roast!