The single most important thing to learn about beef: different cuts call for different preparations.
You may have come to this page searching for preparation directions specifically for filet mignon. If you’ve got the time, I really recommend exploring further on this site. It contains a wide variety of instructions and the reasons behind those instructions.
I feel that if you read about proper beef marination techniques you will benefit, even though I highly discourage you from marinating your filet.
I encourage you to read about pan searing ribeyes, so that you understand the similarities and differences between cooking perfect filet mignon and ribeye.
Read more so that you understand some of the theory behind cooking a good steak. It will allow you to play around in the kitchen and to create something wonderful all your own.
The steaks we are describing here are cut to 1 1/2 inches thick. Eight oz. of pure, delectable beef. Cooking times have to be adjusted depending on the thickness of your steak. Filet mignon should not be overcooked. A real cowboy wants a rare or medium rare filet.
We are discussing pan seared filet mignon. Use a Cast Iron Skillet if possible. Definitely do not use a skillet with a plastic handle. Oh, and it you do this inside, be prepared to open the windows.
Filet mignon is a steak cut from the tenderloin. The tenderloin runs along either side of the spine. While the tenderloin is sometimes sold whole, what we are discussing here is the short end of the tenderloin after it has been butchered into portions for cooking.
This portion is known as filet mignon or the filet.
Because the loin muscle is non-weight bearing, the filet is the most tender cut of beef. Because the average moo-moo cow provides only approximately four to six pounds of filet, it is the most expensive beef cut.
Bring Home the Bacon
The filet is not a very fatty steak. And since we’re going to sear this steak in our cast iron skillet, we’re going to want to add a little bit of fat to the cooking process.
One way to do this is to add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the skillet and tilt it around to give full coverage.
A better way to do it is to rub the oil on the filet immediately before we add it to the pan. This ensures complete coverage on the beef.
Cowboy Solution: Forget vegetable oil. Wrap one strip of bacon around each filet mignon securing it with a toothpick. Bacon will both add flavor and keep the filet from drying out during the cooking process.
Preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven at 550 degrees. Start the oven with the pan in it, and leave it in there for 15 minutes after the preheat is over.
If your grill has three burners, turn the middle burner to low or off, leaving the 2 outer burners on high. If you have two burners, one should to be set to high and the remaining burner should be set to low. Your goal is to get the grill to 350 degrees while leaving an area of the grill with low direct heat.
Once the oven is done preheating, start your grill.
When the oven and skillet have reached 550 degrees and grill is 350 degrees, using very, very good oven mitts, take the skillet out of the oven and put it on the grill. The skillet should be placed over one of the burners that are pumping out high heat. The other burner is on low.
Place the filet mignon in the skillet for 2 minutes on each side to sear. Take it out of the skillet and place the ribeye over the area of the grill with the least direct heat. With the lid closed, cook for 5 minutes on each side.
After the steak has come off the grill, it is important that you let it “rest” for 10-15 minutes before putting it on the table.
At least 10-15 minutes.
It’ll be worth the wait.
I just told you to sear in the skillet for 2 minutes a side and then fire on the grill for 5 minutes a side. Cooking steaks to your likeness takes practice. Don’t expect to have restaurant quality on your first try.
The first thing you need to unlearn about how to cook a steak is to stop cutting into the meat to see if its done. For the tenderfeet out there, get yourself an instant read digital meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (away from the bone if there is one).
Stick the meat thermometer in at 90 degrees to the grain of the meat, your “juice loss” will be considerably reduced.
Cowboy Note: Hamburger must be cooked to an internal temp of 160ºF. Ground beef has more places for bacteria to lodge.
While USDA temperature guidelines are valuable for food safety, a Cowboy finds them to be overdone. Many restaurants cook to the “gourmet” temperatures above.
Follow safe food handling guidelines.
For a steak with no bones, such as a filet mignon, you want to take it off the grill once the the internal temperature has reached to within five to ten degrees of your desired doneness. While it is resting lightly tented with aluminum foil for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting, convection will bring it up the rest of the way.
Cowboy Solution: As you cook more steaks, you’ll begin to learn how to tell temperature by feel. For example, if you press on a fillet with your finger and it yields completely, it’s just about raw. If it yields, it’s rare. In other words, the firmer the steak feels the more “done” it is.
With a ribeye, the Cowboy simply seasons it with salt and pepper, sears it properly and doesn’t use any kind of sauce. But with the tenderloin or filet we’re going to enhance this prime cut of beef.
We mentioned before that the filet has very little fat in it. Often, what little fat there is gets trapped in the skillet. You will end up with little bits of caramelized beef stuck onto the pan. This is called “fond” and will be the foundation of your sauce.
Fond dissolves in the wine we will add to the pan to make the sauce in a process called deglazing.
Begin the sauce after you’ve moved the filet’s to the grill. Add wine to the pan and scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to remove the fond from the bottom of the pan. Add one tablespoon of flavored butter. Bring it to a boil, reducing the liquid to half.
When the liquid is thick enough to coat back of a regular spoon, remove from heat, whisk in two tablespoons of flavored butter and stir until the butter has melted and fully mixed in with the sauce.
Remove the resting steaks from their foil and stir any steak juices in the foil into the sauce.
Pour the sauce over the filets just before serving.
Cowboy Solution: Try using this recipe for roasted garlic butter, instead of plain butter.
Cowboy Note: If you’re using the oven as the second half of the searing/roasting process use a different vessel for the roasting, and make sure its preheated.