Filet Mignon, translated from French as ‘cute fillet’ or ‘dainty fillet’, is often referred to as tenderloin steak. It has a very mild beef aroma and mild beef flavor when compared to other steaks and needs additional steps to make it more flavorful. Some chefs call filet mignon overrated, but most of us love it. When cooked right it’s very tender, flavorful and tasty.
The best way to cook filet mignon
Filet mignon can be cooked many different ways, but pan-searing it first in some oil and butter, then finishing in the oven is by far one of the best ways to cook it. A friend of mine who works at a local steakhouse shared this method and the recipe with me. I was skeptical at first, but once I tried it I knew I would never cook my filet mignon any other way.
Filet mignon, being a very lean cut, is quite flavorless. To compensate, you must use butter and herbs. You pan-sear the meat with butter and oil over a fairly high heat, to give it a beautiful, intensely flavored crust. Then immediately transfer the pan into a preheated oven to complete the cooking which will result in a buttery-tender, perfectly cooked steak. This is it. This technique is simple and very effective.
Picking and preparing your tenderloin steak
To cook a perfect tenderloin steak you need to start with good meat, I think that goes without saying. Use the highest grade meat you can buy. Butter or not, good marbling will make filet mignon more tender and taste better. Beef tenderloin is a very tender cut, but you can tenderize it even further. This is not a required step, but I always do it and swear by it, and so does Meathead Goldwyn. About two hours and up to three days in advance, liberally salt both sides of each steak and put back in the fridge. Let the salt melt and be pulled back into the meat. Salt tenderizes and amps up the flavor.
Flavorize your steak
Another trick the pros have for making a perfect filet mignon is to serve it with a pan sauce, Bearnaise sauce or herb butter. The sauces take additional time and effort to prepare but that can be totally worth it. If you are like me and want things to be super simple, make some herb butter which takes about 5 minutes.
My favorite combination to complement tenderloin steak is fresh garlic, rosemary, parsley and oregano. These herbs add complexity and a balanced flavor to the steak.
Don’t overcook you steak
So, what are the pros doing and what will you get at your local restaurant? Below is the table of temps that summarizes that very nicely. It’s based on a fairly unanimous opinion of my friend and such respected sources as AmazingRibs.com, CertifiedAngusBeef.com and other.
|Steak Doneness||Remove from Oven at this Temp||Final Cooked Temp|
To ensure even cooking, flip the steaks right before putting them into the oven, and then again halfway during oven baking. This will also help the steaks cook faster. Oven and pan heat is unidirectional, resulting in bottom side cooking faster then the top one. Flipping helps even things out.
How to tell when the steak is ready?
There are several ways to tell when the steak reached the desired doneness. I use the one and only method that works best for me – a BBQ thermometer. This little gadget makes things so simple and fool-proof that I use it practically daily, both for grilling and for oven cooking.
- 4 filet mignon steaks (tenderloin steaks should be 2-inch thick)
- 2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Black pepper (coarsely ground, to taste)
For the compound butter:
- 8 Tbsp butter (1 stick, unsalted)
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 1/2 Tbsp fresh oregano (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (blanched for 1 minute in hot water, then minced or pressed)
- Preheat oven to 410F.
- To make the compound butter, take the butter out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature while preparing herbs and garlic. In the meantime, rinse rosemary, parsley and oregano, chop and set aside. Blanche garlic, if needed, by bringing 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan, taking the water off the heat and letting the garlic blanch in hot water for 1 minute, then cooling in cold water. If the butter is too hard, microwave for 10 seconds or pound by a pasta roller.
- Add the chopped herbs and minced garlic, and mix in until evenly distributed. Shape into a log and refrigerate until ready to use. Remove the butter from the fridge 10 minutes prior to using.
- Remove filet mignon steaks from the fridge about 45-60 minutes before cooking and let come up to room temperature. Liberally season with salt and pepper on both sides just before searing. See Note.
- Heat the olive oil and the butter in a large (12") cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts smoking and turns dark brown in color, place the filets in the pan and sear undisturbed for about 2 minutes. Flip and sear for another 2 minutes. Flip the steaks again and immediately transfer the pan into the preheated oven.
- Bake to desired doneness: rare - 120F-125F, medium rare - 130F-135F, medium - 140F-145F, medium well - 150F-155F and well done - 160F-165F.
- Remove the filets from the skillet and place on a platter. Cover with foil and let the steaks rest for 3 minutes. Top with a slice of compound butter and serve immediately.
This post was updated on November 7, 2018