Filet Mignon: What is it & How to Cook

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Picture this: you have a reservation for the fanciest steakhouse in your town. There’s fine china and crystal glasses everywhere. A waiter, with a classic silver tray, comes to your table. He puts it down, takes the dome off it, and reveals a nice, juicy steak.

What kind of steak is it?

If we know anything about our readers – and we think we do – most people imagined a big Filet Mignon steak in front of them.

Tenderloin Filet, or more commonly known as Filet Mignon is probably the first thing on most people’s minds when thinking about expensive meals. As many of you know, the name comes from French.

… But do you know what Filet Mignon actually means?

Filet means exactly what you think it means, while Mignon is a word with three different meanings. It can mean either “dainty,” “tender,” or even cute. If you want to be literal, you can translate the name of this delicious dish to “cute meat slice.”

Want to find out more about this cute slice of meat? You’ve come to the right place! We’re about to teach you how to cook a Tenderloin Filet at home and impress your friends.

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What is Tenderloin Filet?

Everyone and their mother know about Filet Mignon. However, not all know what the steak actually looks like or how it’s prepared.

Here’s how “The New Food Lover’s Companion” defines Filet Mignon: “… boneless cut of beef that comes from the small end of the tenderloin.” Most often, the stake is between one and two inches thick, extremely tender, but has a distinct taste.

Why is it so tender and why does it taste different than pieces of beef with the bone attached? To understand this, you need a quick lesson in anatomy…

The tenderloin is an oblong muscle called the “posas majoran.” The muscle is located high in the back. This prevents it from getting any exercise. Since the tenderloin comes from a muscle that doesn’t carry any weight, there’s little to no connective tissue in it. 

That’s what makes the muscle so tender.

The problem is that this muscle makes up only around 8% of the meat on a cow, which is why the meat is so expensive. The meat needed to prepare the Tenderloin filet is relatively hard to get. Short supplies of tenderloin beef create a large demand and a higher price in the process.

So does that mean that you can’t really buy a good piece of the tenderloin and prepare the ultimate Filet Mignon for your friends?

What to Keep In Mind When Buying Beef Tenderloin

For some, the most intimidating part of preparing something for the first time isn’t the actual cooking part. As weird as it may sound, some find shopping to be the hardest part (if that’s you – consider ordering your steaks online).

When you take into account that a tenderloin comes with a large price tag and that you need to buy a specific part of it to prepare Filet Mignon, the pressure becomes somewhat reasonable.

So before we talk about how to prepare a tenderloin filet, let’s answer a few questions concerning shopping, starting with…

1. How Much Meat Should You Actually Buy?

The answer to this depends on how many people you’re preparing the meal for. A rough estimate would be ½ pound of beef tenderloin per guest.

Also, take into account that around 2 oz of meat per pound will be lost during cooking. Speaking of meat…

2. What Meat You Need for Filet Mignon?

Beef tenderloin has two parts. The meat used for Filet Mignon comes from a small strip attached to the entire tendon.

In many butcher shops around the US, a Tenderloin Filet is cut into 2-inch steaks from the entire beef tenderloin. And finally, should you buy…

3. Trimmed or Untrimmed?

Most butcher shops and supermarkets sell tenderloin both trimmed and untrimmed. Untrimmed comes with excess skin and fat at a lower price.

If you’re skilled with a knife, we recommend saving a few dollars. However, if you’re not, you should pay more for the trimmed to save a lot of time.

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How to Cook a Tenderloin Filet (Filet Mignon)

We’re finally here.

How to cook a Tenderloin Filet mainly depends on the tools you have in your kitchen.

A traditional Filet Mignon is best prepared on a grill. However, you can also wow your dinner guests with a pan-seared Filet Mignon. You can even put it in the oven if you don’t want to slave over the stove. And we’ll explain all three ways to prepare it…

Let’s start with…

1. How to Cook a Tenderloin Filet on the Grill

Like we said above, preparing a Tenderloin Filet on a grill is as traditional as it gets. You can use either a gas or charcoal grill, a pellet grill, or even a hibachi grill – whatever you have at your home.

You just need to make sure that the meat is at room temperature before you start grilling, and then….

  1. Heat up the grill, while searing the meat
  2. Place the meat over the hottest parts of the grill
  3. Sear both sides for 1 to 2 minutes
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and grill according to the chart below
  5. When you’re halfway through, start turning the meat every 60 seconds
  6. After you’re done, use a meat thermometer to check if the meat is at 130 °F
  7. Leave the meat to rest, and after 5 minutes the temperature should be 135 °F
HOW DONEPREPARATION TIME
RareBetween 8 and 10 minutes
Medium-RareBetween 9 and 11 minutes
MediumBetween 10 and 13 minutes
Medium-WellBetween 11 and 14 minutes

2. How to Cook a Tenderloin Filet in the Pan

If you don’t own a grill, don’t worry. You can in fact sear your Filet Mignon in a pan. This searing method can give you great results as well. It will give the steaks a nice golden shade and make them more flavorful.

  1. Take the meat out of the fridge at least half-an-hour before preparation
  2. Heat up a cast-iron skillet for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat
  3. Once the pan is really hot, place the steaks on the pan
  4. Make sure that there’s enough room for every piece
  5. Do not add any water or oil to the pan or try to cover it while cooking
  6. Make sure to turn the pieces of meat every 60 to 90 seconds
  7. The stakes should be done after the temperature reaches 130 °F
  8. After finishing, take out the steaks, put them on a plate, and cover with foil
HOW DONEPREPARATION TIME
RareBetween 5 and 7 minutes
Medium-RareBetween 7 and 8 minutes
MediumBetween 8 and 9 minutes
Medium-WellBetween 9 and 10 minutes

3. How to Cook a Tenderloin Filet in the Oven

Every decent chef will tell you that the key to perfect Filet Mignon is the fine, salty crust. You can make the perfect, salty crust by preparing your Filet in the oven. Here’s what to do:

  1. Turn on the oven, set it for broil, and heat for about 10 minutes
  2. In the meantime, season the meat as desired with salt and pepper
  3. Take a broiler pan and place the steaks so that the meat is 3 inches from the heat
  4. See the times below, and broil your meat until you feel it’s ready
  5. Take the steaks out of the oven and rest them for 10 minutes before serving
HOW DONEPREPARATION TIME
RareBetween 7 and 10 minutes
Medium-RareBetween 9 and 12 minutes
MediumBetween 10 and 13 minutes
Medium-WellBetween 11 and 14 minutes

Love Beef Tender, Love Beef True

Filet Mignon is the ultimate treat. It’s great for anniversaries, casual dinner parties, and birthdays. The fact that preparing one costs a pretty penny may scare some people, but (if you can afford it) – indulge yourself every once in a while.

Learn how to prepare a Tenderloin Filet and give yourself a few hours in flavor heaven. Hey, it will cost you less than going out to an expensive local restaurant or steakhouse, that’s for sure.

Trust us, it will be just as yummy at home.

Ever cooked a Tenderloin Filet before? What’s your favorite recipe? If not, have we managed to persuade you to try it?

Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. While you’re at it, you can also take the conversation outside the blog by clicking the share button and talking to your friends on social media about it.

Frederik Nielsen

By Frederik Nielsen

Frederik is a writer and BBQ enthusiast. He leaves no steak unturned in the pursuit of grilled perfection. He currently aspires to become the next Salt Bae.