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How to Cook Filet Mignon

Get tips on how to cook filet mignon, including in a pan and on the grill.

Broiling, pan-searing and grilling are all good ways to cook filet mignon. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Broiling, pan-searing and grilling are all good ways to cook filet mignon.

Though cooking professionals may disagree on how to cook filet mignon, all would agree that this tender, rich-tasting prime cut of beef is considered the Rolls-Royce of steaks. The French gave the filet mignon its name, which means a dainty yet thick slice of beef without bones, and popularized the American favorite in the 19th Century.

Compared to other steak cuts found in the market, filet mignons are small; about 2 inches thick with a diameter extending no more than 3 inches. The sublime texture of filet mignon has much to do with the cut of beef it comes from. Filet mignon steaks are cut from the tenderloin, a section of the short loin. The meat from the short loin is tender because cows do not overexert these muscles.

Filet mignon is the steak of choice at upscale bistros and renowned steak houses, many of which have built their reputation on how they prepare this exquisite cut of beef. Because filet mignon costs more than any other steak, Americans have come to associate it with chef-prepared meals rather than everyday food.

Filet Mignon Nutritional Information

Filet mignon remains a sound choice for health conscious individuals who crave the rich taste of beef. Filet mignon is low in calories and fat, but still a great source of Vitamin B12, which can help prevent certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. A typical 3-ounce piece of filet mignon contains less than 200 calories and approximately 9 grams of fat.

Preparation Before Cooking

By the time filet mignons are packaged for consumers, they have been trimmed and cut into serving pieces. According to The Cook's Thesaurus, naturally tender filet mignon does not require soaking in salty brines or acidic marinades prior to cooking.

Pan-searing Filet Mignon

The dry heat method of cooking, known as pan-searing, is well-suited for cooking filet mignon. This stovetop technique seals in delicate juices, while at the same time creating a perfectly browned exterior and enough cooking residue to prepare a reduction sauce.

Adapting the Bon Appetit method of pan-searing, start by heating either a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet that is at least 10 inches in diameter. Use paper towels to pat the filet mignons dry, and then season the steaks on both sides with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Some chefs even press the seasonings gently into the meat to ensure proper coating. When the skillet is hot, add a thin coat of oil, or a mixture of both oil and butter, and brown the meat for several minutes on each side. Then, lower the heat and continue cooking for 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove the steaks to a heated platter and cover loosely with foil while preparing the pan sauce. Add garlic slivers and chopped shallots to the pan and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a healthy dousing of red wine and about 4 tablespoons of low-sodium beef broth. Allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or so. Remove from the heat and swirl in two pats of butter. When the butter has melted, return the steaks to the pan, turning them in the sauce. Serve the filet mignon with all of the pan juices.

Broiling or Grilling Filet Mignon

Both broiling and grilling can produce delectable filet mignon when proper steps are taken before and during actual cooking. Chefs recommend bringing the meat to room temperature before grilling or broiling. This ensures the steak cooks quickly and evenly.

Season the beef on both sides with salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs. Make sure the broiler or outside grill achieves its maximum heat setting, then brush the steaks lightly with olive oil and place on the grill or broiler pan. Allow the steaks to cook for at least 3 minutes on one side before flipping them over. Avoid piercing the meat with a knife or fork. Instead, use tongs or a spatula to turn them.

After 2 or 3 additional minutes, remove the steaks from the heat and allow them to rest on a warm platter for at least 10 minutes. According to Fine Cooking, this resting period is essential for the steak to retain its pink color and natural juices, even after it has been sliced.

Chefs and professional cooks regard a filet mignon cooked past the medium rare stage as a gastronomic fiasco. Not only does overcooking the meat purge it of its natural juices, it also produces a tasteless, grey-colored steak. According to The Filet Mignon Cooking Time Chart, filet mignon reaches the medium rare stage when the meat registers 130 to 135 F on an instant-read cooking thermometer.

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