What is filet mignon?

Filet mignon steak is a high-quality, tender cut of beef that is prized for its delicate texture and mild flavor. It is sourced from the smaller end of the beef tenderloin, which is a long, slender muscle found in the rear portion of the cow’s backbone. Due to its location, the tenderloin experiences minimal use, resulting in the exceptional tenderness of filet mignon.

Often considered a luxury item, filet mignon is a popular choice for special occasions and fine dining experiences. To preserve its tenderness, the steak is typically cooked using methods such as grilling, pan-searing, or broiling and is best served at medium-rare to medium doneness. Though its flavor is milder compared to other cuts of beef, filet mignon can be seasoned and paired with a variety of sauces or accompaniments to enhance its taste.

In this post, I’ll delve into the origins of this luxurious cut of beef, I’ll try to do my best to explain its unique characteristics and the best ways to prepare it as an advanced home cook.

What is filet mignon steak?

Facts about filet mignon steak
Facts about filet mignon steak

Filet mignon steak, also known as tenderloin steak, is a highly sought-after cut of beef known for its tenderness and subtle flavor. Filet mignon is carved from the smaller end of the beef tenderloin, a long, slender muscle that runs along the rear portion of the cow’s backbone. This area of the cow experiences minimal movement, resulting in a tender cut with very little connective tissue.

Filet mignon steaks are generally smaller and thicker compared to other cuts, as they are taken from the narrower end of the tenderloin. One of the defining characteristics of filet mignon is its lack of marbling, which refers to the distribution of fat within the muscle fibers. While marbling is often associated with increased flavor and tenderness in other cuts of beef, the filet mignon’s minimal marbling contributes to its delicate, mild taste. The absence of significant connective tissue further enhances the tenderness of this luxurious cut. 

What does filet mignon steak taste like?

Filet mignon is known for its tender, buttery texture, and mild, delicate flavor. The taste of this cut is less robust compared to other beef cuts, such as ribeye or strip steak, which typically have more pronounced flavors due to their higher fat content and marbling. The flavor and texture of filet mignon are primarily impacted by its location within the cow, the lack of marbling, and the minimal amount of connective tissue present in the cut.

The tenderness of filet mignon is a result of its origin from the beef tenderloin, a muscle that experiences minimal use and therefore remains tender throughout the cow’s life. The absence of substantial marbling and connective tissue contributes to the steak’s mild flavor, as fat is known to impart a richer taste in other cuts of beef. This milder flavor can be seen as a blank canvas, allowing chefs and home cooks alike to enhance the taste with various seasonings, rubs, and sauces without overpowering the inherent qualities of the meat.

The texture of filet mignon is buttery and smooth, providing a melt-in-your-mouth experience that is highly sought after by steak lovers. The tenderness, combined with the steak’s mild flavor, makes filet mignon a versatile choice that can be prepared in numerous ways and paired with a wide range of accompaniments to create a memorable dining experience.

Different types of steaks from the tenderloin

As we all know, tenderloin is a versatile cut of beef that yields several different steaks. The primary steaks derived from the tenderloin include filet mignon, Chateaubriand, and tournedos. Here is a brief overview of each variation:

  • Filet mignon: As I mentioned earlier, filet mignon is sourced from the smaller end of the beef tenderloin. Known for its exceptional tenderness and mild flavor, it is a popular choice for special occasions and fine dining experiences. Due to its minimal marbling and connective tissue, this steak is best cooked using methods like grilling, pan-searing, or broiling and served at medium-rare to medium doneness.
  • Chateaubriand: Chateaubriand comes from the center-cut portion of the tenderloin and is generally larger and thicker than filet mignon. This cut is often served as a roast for two people rather than individual steaks. Like filet mignon, Chateaubriand is tender and has a mild flavor. It can be roasted or grilled and is typically served with a sauce, such as a béarnaise or red wine reduction, to enhance its flavor.
  • Tournedos: Tournedos are small, round steaks cut from the middle and tail end of the tenderloin. They are similar to filet mignon in terms of tenderness and flavor, although they may be slightly less tender due to their location on the tenderloin. Tournedos are often wrapped in bacon to retain moisture and add flavor during cooking. They can be prepared using various methods, such as grilling, pan-searing, or broiling.

How to cook filet mignon steak

Grilling filet mignon steak
Grilling filet mignon steak

Grilling, pan-frying, and broiling are all effective methods for cooking filet mignon, as they allow the steak to develop a flavorful crust while retaining its tenderness and juiciness. Here’s a brief overview of each method and why it’s suitable for filet mignon:

  • Grilling: Grilling is a popular choice for cooking filet mignon, as the high heat quickly sears the steak, creating a delicious crust while keeping the interior tender. To grill filet mignon, preheat the grill to high heat and lightly oil the grates. Season the steak with salt and pepper, then cook for 3-5 minutes per side, depending on the desired doneness. Grilling is suitable for filet mignon because it imparts a smoky flavor, and the direct heat ensures even cooking.
  • Pan-frying: Pan-frying, or pan-searing, allows for precise temperature control and results in a beautifully browned crust. To pan-fry filet mignon, heat a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat and add oil or butter. Season the steak with salt and pepper, then sear for 3-4 minutes per side or until the desired doneness is reached. 
  • Broiling: Broiling is another excellent method for cooking filet mignon, as it uses high heat from the top of the oven to quickly sear the steak. To broil filet mignon, preheat the broiler and place the seasoned steak on a broiler pan or oven-safe skillet. Cook the steak for 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the desired doneness. 

How does filet mignon steak compare to other similar cuts?

Filet mignon is often compared to other cuts of beef, such as ribeye, New York strip, and sirloin, based on factors like flavor, tenderness, and fat content. Here’s a brief comparison of filet mignon to these similar cuts:

  • Ribeye: Ribeye steaks are known for their rich, beefy flavor and juicy texture, mainly due to the higher fat content and marbling throughout the meat. In contrast, filet mignon has a milder flavor and a more delicate, tender texture, as it comes from a less-used muscle with minimal marbling. While both cuts are considered high-quality, the choice between them often comes down to personal preference for a richer, fattier flavor or a more subtle, tender texture.
  • New York strip: The New York strip, also known as strip steak or strip loin, is another popular cut with a pronounced beefy flavor and a slightly firmer texture compared to filet mignon. While the New York strip has less marbling than a ribeye, it still contains more fat than filet mignon, contributing to its stronger flavor. Those seeking a balance between the robust flavor of a ribeye and the tenderness of a filet mignon may opt for a New York strip.
  • Sirloin: Sirloin is a leaner cut of beef with a meatier, slightly chewier texture compared to filet mignon. While still tender, it lacks the melt-in-your-mouth quality of filet mignon. The flavor profile of sirloin is moderately beefy, falling somewhere between the mildness of filet mignon and the richness of a ribeye or New York strip. Sirloin is often more budget-friendly and can be a good choice for those seeking a leaner yet flavorful steak.

Here’s a detailed comparison between New York strip steak and filet mignon. Click on the link if you want to learn more.

How to choose a quality filet mignon steak

Selecting a good quality steak, whether at a butcher shop, online, or in a supermarket, can significantly impact the flavor and texture of the cooked meat. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing filet mignon steak:

  • Grade: In the United States, the USDA grades beef based on factors like marbling and age, with Prime, Choice, and Select being the top three grades. Prime steaks have the most marbling and tenderness, followed by Choice, while Select is leaner and less tender. Opt for Prime or Choice steaks when available, as they generally provide a better eating experience.
  • Marbling: Marbling refers to the fat dispersed within the muscle fibers. A well-marbled steak will have a more tender, juicy, and flavorful result. Look for a steak with a good distribution of white flecks of fat throughout the meat. For filet mignon, which naturally has less marbling, focus on the steak’s overall appearance and freshness.
  • Color: Fresh, high-quality beef should have a bright, cherry-red color. Avoid steaks with a dull or brownish hue, which may indicate that the meat is no longer fresh. Note that steaks vacuum-packed or stored in a low-oxygen environment might appear darker but will regain their bright red color once exposed to oxygen.
  • Thickness: A thicker steak, ideally between 1-2 inches, is more likely to retain its juiciness during cooking and provide a better eating experience. Thinner steaks can become overcooked and dry more quickly.
  • Butcher Shop or Online Retailer Reputation: If you’re shopping at a butcher shop or online, consider the reputation and quality of the supplier. Look for customer reviews, their commitment to sourcing from reputable farms or producers, and their adherence to proper handling and storage practices.
  • Packaging: When shopping in a supermarket, inspect the packaging for any damage or excessive liquid. The packaging should be intact, and the meat should be free of excessive moisture or unpleasant odors.

How to store filet mignon steak

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines for safely storing various cuts of beef, including filet mignon. Here are several methods to store filet mignon steak according to USDA recommendations.

If you plan to cook filet mignon within a few days of purchase, you can store it in the refrigerator. Place the steak in its original packaging or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent exposure to air. Store the steak in the coldest part of the refrigerator, ideally at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below. Consume refrigerated filet mignon within 3-5 days of purchase for optimal freshness.

For longer storage, freezing filet mignon is a suitable option. Tightly wrap the steak in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or freezer paper, ensuring there is minimal air exposure. You can also use a vacuum sealer for an airtight seal. Label the package with the date and contents, and store it in the freezer at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below. Frozen filet mignon can last for up to 6-12 months, although its quality may diminish over time.

To thaw frozen filet mignon, the USDA recommends three safe methods: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method, although it takes the longest. Place the steak in a leak-proof container or on a plate to catch any juices, and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, depending on the thickness. For quicker thawing, submerge the steak in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Lastly, you can use the defrost setting on your microwave for the fastest thawing, but cook the steak immediately after thawing to prevent bacterial growth.


How long should I cook filet mignon?

Cooking times for filet mignon will vary depending on the thickness of the cut and your preferred method of cooking. For example, pan-searing a 2-inch thick filet mignon might take 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare, while grilling could take 4-6 minutes per side. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate cooking temperatures.

Should I season filet mignon before cooking?

Yes, it’s recommended to season filet mignon with salt and pepper before cooking to enhance its natural flavors. More elaborate seasoning options, such as herbs and marinades, can also be used, but the mild flavor of filet mignon is often best enjoyed with simple seasoning.

What side dishes go well with filet mignon?

Filet mignon pairs well with a wide range of side dishes, including roasted or mashed potatoes, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, risotto, and salads. Consider selecting sides that complement the flavors and textures of your filet mignon without overpowering it.

Can I store and reheat leftover filet mignon?

Yes, leftover filet mignon can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days in an airtight container. To reheat, use a low-temperature method, such as a warm oven or a covered pan on low heat, to minimize further cooking and retain the steak’s tenderness.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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