Unless you’re used to selecting cuts of beef at the butcher shop, the difference between tenderloin and filet mignon can be kind of confusing. I once asked my dad to pick up filet steak from the store on his way to a barbecue. Instead of tenderloin, he came with a sirloin!
Beef tenderloin and filet mignon come from the same section of the cow. Tenderloin is the name of the large cut before it’s sliced into 2-inch steaks across the grain of the meat and the fat is trimmed off of it. Once sliced, the steaks are called by their French name, filet mignon, which means “fine steak” or “delicate steak.”
Filet mignon is a scarce and costly steak. It’s short in supply and high in demand (which explains its higher price). It’s very tender because it comes from the least-worked section of the least-worked muscle on a cow—the tenderloin along the back.
We often think of fat as bad. That’s not necessarily the case when cooking steak. Fatty steaks are more moist and tasty because the fat will render into the meat while cooking. Since the saturated fat has been trimmed off of filet mignon, this type of steak should never be overcooked. If you leave it for too long on the grill, it’s going to dry out and come out tough.
When to Season Filet Mignon
Season filet mignon immediately before cooking. The best seasoning for filet mignon, as with any beef steak, is coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
An alternative way to season filet mignon is 60 minutes before cooking. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per 8-9 ounces of steak. Sprinkle on both all of the filet. Crack black peppercorns or peppercorn blend. Let it rest at room temperature on a wire rack in a baking sheet.
Using this method, the salt will draw the juices out to the surface of the meat and mix with them to form a salty brine. Letting the steak rest for enough time allows the meat to re-absorb the salt brine, turning naturally juicy and well seasoned.
Learn more about this delicious method of cooking steak in my recent blog post, Should You Season Meat Before or After Cooking?
How to Cook Filet Mignon in a Skillet
There are plenty of ways to cook filet mignon. My favorite by far combines two cooking methods: searing and baking. This works best for thicker cuts of filet mignon, about 1.5 to 2 inches, so that they brown well on the outside and stay tender on the inside.
The secret to cooking the perfect filet mignon at home is to first sear it in the pan, then bake it in the oven. This cooking method gives you a charred and caramelized outside that’s perfectly juicy on the inside. Use a cast iron skillet, so that you can transfer your stake from the stove top to a preheated oven without needing to change the cookware.
Season the filet mignon on all sides with salt and pepper to taste. Preheat a cast iron skillet on high, add a little butter, and sear the steak for maximum 2-3 minutes per side, until you get a nice and dark golden brown color.
Transfer the steak to the oven preheated to 400°F and cook, for 3-6 minutes, to the right internal temperature depending on how you like your beef.
How to Grill Filet Mignon
If you’re cooking filet mignon on a gas grill, preheat it to 450°F. Most gas grills will achieve this temperature when you set them to medium high.
Season the filets with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then put them on the grill and close the lid. Grill for 5 minutes on each side to make medium done steak. Give it 1-2 minutes less for medium rare and rare, or 1-2 minutes more for done or well done.
If you’re just getting started in grilling or making filet mignon for the first time, you’ll still need to develop your chef’s intuition. Use a meat thermometer and check for readiness to the temperature to your taste.
Internal Temperature for Filet Mignon
Use a meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature. You want to take the temperature at the center, right where the thickest muscle is.
Here’s the right internal temperature for filet mignon based on how you like your beef:
- 120-125°F for rare filet mignon with a cool-to-warm center with a soft and tender texture.
- 125-130°F for medium-rare filet mignon with a warm red center and “steakhouse” texture.
- 130-140°F for medium filet mignon with a hot pink center and slightly firm, but still fairly tender, texture.
- 140-150°F for medium-well done filet mignon with a mostly brown center that still has some pink in the middle and firm texture.
- 150-160°F for well done filet mignon without any pinkishness or redness in the middle that’s very firm and significantly drier.
How Much Does Filet Mignon Cost?
I checked the price of filet mignon at 5 butcher shops from different states. On average, a “standard” filet mignon steak that weighs 6 ounces (0.375 pounds) will set you back $30.
|Allen Brothers||USDA Prime Filet Mignon: Complete Trim||6 oz|
|Lobel’s||USDA Prime Filet Mignon||6 oz|
|Kansas City Steak Company||USDA Prime Filet Mignon||6 oz|
|Snake River Farms||USDA Prime Filet Mignon||6 oz|
|Omaha Steaks||Butcher’s Cut Filet Mignon||6 oz|
Filet mignon is cheaper compared to butcher shops if you buy it at a supermarket like Walmart ($17.82/pound for Beef USDA Choice Angus), grocer like Kroger ($19.99/pound for Private Selection Angus Beef Fillet Mignon) or wholesaler like Costco ($36/pound for Beef USDA Choice Black Angus).
There are ways to bring down the cost of filet mignon even more. Filet mignon is tenderloin that’s been trimmed from the fat and cut into 2-inch steaks across the grain of the meat. If you buy the tenderloin whole and untrimmed, then trim and cut it yourself at home, you’re going to pay less while enjoying the same quality of beef.
Please note: All prices listed in this article were up-to-date at the time of publishing it. For comparison purposes, the prices were averaged down to their 6-oz and 1-pound servings where cuts or packs of cuts of this size were not available.
What Are Different Beef Cuts?
Figuring out the different cuts of beef can be a real challenge. That challenge only gets bigger if you’re into American BBQ as much as you’re into international cuisines, where each cut carries different names (and is sometimes so specific to the cuisine it comes from, it has no equivalents abroad).
If you know the English cuts and their French equivalents, you can order the right cut for any recipe in pretty much every butcher shop in the U.S. or Canada.
|#||English Cut||French Cut|
|2||Rib eye, Scotch fillet||Côtes, entrecôtes|
|4||Tenderloin, Fillet steak||Filet, filet mignon|
|6||Round (part topside and part thick flank)||Rond de gîte|
|7||Rump steak||Tende de tranche|
|8||Thick flank||Gîte à la noix|
|9||Rump steak (less known as spider steak)||Araignée|
|10||No equivalent cut||Plat de tranche, Rond de tranche, Mouvant|
|11||Skirt steak||Bavette d’aloyau|
|14||Rump steak or flank steak||Aiguillette baronne|
|15||Flank steak||Bavette de flanchet|
|16||Rib steak||Plat de côtes|
|17||Shoulder steak||Macreuse à bifteck|
|19||Twin steak||Jumeau à bifteck|
|20||Twin steak (used for making French pot-au-feu stew)||Jumeau à pot-au-feu|
|21||Shoulder steak (used for making French pot-au-feu stew)||Macreuse à pot-au-feu|
|23||Part topside and part thick flank||Gîte|
|25||Flank steak that includes the lower part of the ribs||Tendron|
|26||Brisket||Gros bout de poitrine|
|28||Cheek||Plat de joue|
Yes, filet mignon is made from the same cut as the tenderloin. Filet mignon is actually the tenderloin itself after the fat has been trimmed and the meat has been sliced into 1.5-inch to 2-inch thick steaks.
Tenderloin and filet mignon are the most expensive cuts of beef. And for a good reason. They are the most least-worked section from the least used muscle of the cow, which makes them very tender and juicy.
To cook filet mignon, sear the steak in the skillet for a couple of minutes, then finish it in the oven. Or simply put it on the grill and cook it to the internal temperature to your taste (the shorter the cooking time, the lower the temperature, and the rarer the meat).
Before putting the steak in the pan or on the grill, always give it a generous amount of seasoning. It’s best to use something simple like kosher salt and black pepper. This will give it just enough spice to let the quality and aroma of the meat speak for itself.