Steak refers to thick and flat cuts of meat taken from the fleshy part of an animal, usually a cow. Most steak cuts come from slicing perpendicular to the muscle fiber, with some exceptions. Steaks can be cooked to a delicious finish even on a normal kitchen stovetop. One of the tastiest steaks is the filet mignon. This cut comes from the small end of a beef tenderloin. A butcher takes the tenderloin from the loin of the cow, the part of the animal below the rib cage and above the round. The filet mignon
then comes from the tip of this section.
The filet mignon is a highly sought after cut of beef because of its tenderness. In fact, the filet mignon
is the tenderest cut of beef available. Because the muscle itself does not bear weight, the cut contains very little connective tissue. This makes it tender. American writer O. Henry appears to have been the first to use the term filet mignon for the cut in his book The Four Million. In French it means “dainty filet”. Since then, it has become one of the most popular cuts of steak in high-end restaurants. But you can have the same flavor at home from a stovetop.
Filet mignon is healthier for you than most cuts of steak. In fact, when eating steak, the American Heart Association recommends filet mignon
. This comes from the fact that filet mignon contains relatively little fat and caloric content, making it much better for you than other red meats. Alongside this low fat content, filet mignon contains a high amount of nutrients. It provides the body with a source of healthy protein. Organic cuts, recommended for a better tasting filet, are rich in vitamins B12 and B6
. These vitamins provide a number of benefits, including promoting heart health
. Filet mignon also contains a lot of zinc
, which can help clean clogged arteries and boast circulation.
The recommended amount for a single serving, 7 oz., contains only 282 calories, making this an exceptionally lean beef meal. Within that, the steak only contains 16% of the daily recommended value of fat. It also has lower cholesterol than many other cuts. With a high protein, calcium, and potassium
content as well, filet mignon provides many nutritional benefits without the negatives of meats higher in fat and calories. While you may have heard to eat less red meats, this applies far less to healthy lean cuts like filet mignon.
To cook filet mignon on the stove top, you will need to begin by gathering the tools and ingredients that you need. Have these available ahead of time to make the process go as smoothly as possible.
You will need the following tools:
1. Heavy skillet
3. Instant meat thermometer
4. Paper towels
Getting the Proper Tools
You want to make sure that you use the right tools before getting started. Better tools made for the job yield better end results.
Your skillet should be a heavy one; the heavier the better. Heavy skillets hold in heat and gives you the crusty delicious searing that you want on a good steak. This comes from a heavier, well-made skillet spreading the temperature more evenly across the surface. You should use a skillet made of either aluminum of cast-iron.
Meat thermometers measure the internal temperature of a piece of meat, letting you know whether or not it is truly done before you take it off. Not only does this make sure that you only serve safe meat, but it allows you to get a better feel for how the process works in your kitchen. Stovetops and skillets will have some variation, and a meat thermometer will help you discover exactly how long to cook a steak for in your unique setup.
The tongs allow you to flip the steak quickly. As you will see later, you should limit yourself to one flip per steak, and a good set of tongs makes this much easier.
You will need the following ingredients:
1. 7 oz. round filet mignon steak (see the section below for how to pick the best cut)
2. 1 tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
3. Kosher salt
4. Fresh ground pepper
Step 1. Let the Meat Reach Room Temperature
Once you take your steak out of the refrigerator, allow it to reach room temperature on its own. This not only cuts down on the cooking time, but makes the cook more even. Otherwise, the cold steak will decrease the temperature of the skillet upon being placed within it. This should take around 40 minutes, so plan ahead.
Step 2. Pat Down the Steak
This simple step really adds to the quality of the finished steak. By patting down the cut, water is drawn to the surface and you get a more balanced sear.
Step 3. Salt the Steak
Now is the time to salt the steak, but do not add pepper yet. Place a pinch of salt between your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. Put twice this amount on each side of your steak.
Step 4. Heat up the Skillet
Turn your stovetop as hot as it can go and place the skillet. The goal is to get the entire skillet hot before putting the meat on it. Put a tablespoon of oil in the skillet. When white smoke begins coming up, wait 10 seconds.
Step 5. Put the Steak in the Skillet
Place the salted steak directly in the middle of the skillet. You should notice an immediate sizzle, letting you know you have heated the skillet properly.
Step 6. Cooking the Steak
The amount of time you leave the steak on each side depends on how done you want it. The steak should be cooked 2.5 minutes on each side for rare, 3 minutes for medium-rare, and 3.5 for medium. So for medium-rare, you cook for 3 minutes on one side, flip, and then cook for 3 minutes on the other. Keep things precise and limit the steak to one flip.
30 seconds before finishing the sear on the second side, use your meat thermometer to check the temperature. For a medium-rare steak, you should have an internal temperature of between 130-135F or 55-57C.
Step 7. Resting and Seasoning
Now you can apply the pepper to taste on each side of the cut. After doing so, put the steak within some aluminum foil and let it stew in its own juices for about two minutes. You want the juices to rest and distribute more evenly throughout the steak.
Step 8. Cut the Filet Mignon
To maintain a fantastic taste throughout the whole cut, you want to keep the juices from escaping all at once. You can accomplish this by cutting against the grain of the steak.
Optional steps: Spicing up Your Steak
A properly salted and peppered steak cooked as instructed above yields a delicious result. But sometimes you want to try something different. You can use these tips to try different recipes with the steak, though the basic cooking instructions remain the same.
• Try a variety of marinades with your steak
. Many recipes exist, and are as easy as putting the marinade in a Ziploc bag and storing the meat inside the juices in the refrigerator.
• Add butter and garlic to the skillet at the last second. This results in the same great sear, but by adding more ingredients in the last few seconds, you add a whole other dimension of flavor. This works best with steak that has not been marinated.
• Combine the juices left over in the skillet with a few drops of lemon juice. This makes a steak sauce that compliments the steak beautifully while also adding some zesty accents.
Picking the Best Cut of Filet Mignon
You can cook the steak following all the steps above to maximize the meat’s potential, but the end result is only as good as the cut of meat that you purchased. You need to make sure that you are buying a good cut of filet mignon; the type of steak that will really blow you and your dining guests away. A good cut of meat will forgive some cooking errors, but even a flawless sear can only do so much for a poor cut of meat. So, when shopping for your filet mignon, keep these tips in mind:
1. Look for organic meat. Organic grass-fed beef
comes from cows that were not pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones like testosterone. Cows feed a natural diet tend to have more flavorful and tender meat. These more juicy organic cuts will start you from the right place. You should not settle for bland, generic meat when you can get organic flavorful meat.
2. Marbling should be a primary concern when picking a filet mignon. The more marbling, streaks of fat, in the center, the better the cut. This fat provides more juice and flavor.
3. Getting the correct size. A filet mignon for one person should be about 7 oz. The thickness plays a large role in how well it cooks as well. You want a cut that is about one inch thick.
4. Look for a matured and dry-aged cut
. Meat aged this way involves a process that minimizes the moisture in the final cut, ensuring that the moisture comes from the meat’s own juices. This makes for a bolder, more concentrated flavor. If possible, look for a filet mignon that has been aged between 14 and 21 days from a trusted butcher who does it right. While this type of meat is not to everyone’s taste, many who try it swear that it is a vast improvement over lesser-aged cuts.
Serving Filet Mignon
You do not want to serve that perfect filet mignon all by itself. You need some sides to make sure that it does not get lonely on the plate. A basic filet goes well with vegetable and potato sides. You can add a lot to a meal with a side of healthy grilled and seasoned vegetables. Using the same salt and pepper you put on the steak, season some mix vegetables and sauté them quickly with some butter or oil. For an extra kick of flavor, do this in the same skillet that you just used to make the filet, allowing the vegetables to absorb some of the savory left over juices. For a heartier side, grill some onions and portabella mushrooms together and serve on the side. Potatoes properly prepared can also compliment filet mignon, so long as the starch is not too heavy that it overwhelms the meat. Herb roasted potatoes with some butter and garlic give a nice side dish that plays with the flavors of the meat. Potatoes Gratin is a heavier dish, but can be a good solution if serving a larger group of people. If you choose to go this route, make sure that you do not include too large of a portion on the plate, as starch can quickly fill the eater up too quickly to enjoy the main dish.
The other major consideration in serving filet mignon comes from what wine to serve. Like with the sides, you do not want to overwhelm the subtle and nuanced flavors of a properly cooked filet. Because of this, avoid any wine with too much of a fruity taste. Lean beef demands a red wine, but not a red wine with a bold flavor that screams for attention. Rather, you want a subtle playful red. Pinot Noir pairs well with filet mignon, with the softer tannins complimenting the beef well. Cabernet Sauvignon can also pair well, but you must be more careful, as some cabernets have a bolder flavor than others. You want to make sure to use the cabernet on the softer side.
Now you know the whole process: you know what to look for to get the perfect filet mignon, you know how to prepare it, you know how to cook it, and you know how to serve it. Following these steps will give you a great filet at home without needing an expensive setup. Diners know that nothing quite compares to a well-cooked filet mignon, and now you can get that flavor yourself in your home. Once you have mastered the techniques and suggestions above, many more possible filet mignon recipes await you, using varied techniques. Feel free to experiment to find the best flavor you can. But always remember, cooking a simple classic filet always satisfies. And if you would like properly cooked to perfection filet mignon, come visit Atlas Steakhouse where we serve the best steaks in Brooklyn