The Butcher’s Guide: What is a Filet Mignon?
- by Omaha Steaks
The filet mignon is much, much more than just a fancy-sounding expensive steak. It’s the steak that built Omaha Steaks. Over the last 100+ years, our butchers have cut and shared more of these super-tender steaks with people across the country than any other, and for good reason – people demand it! The filet mignon is an elegant steak with fork-tender texture and mild flavor. It’s the steak that you choose for special occasions. A steak that’s designed to impress.
So what is a filet mignon and what makes it so tender and decadent?
Cutting a Filet Mignon
The filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin, which is part of the loin primal. The tenderloin itself runs through the short loin (which also includes the strip) and the sirloin (which includes the top sirloin) sections of the loin primal. This highly-prized cut of beef only represents 2-3% of the total animal. That’s why it’s so rare, and why it tends to be more expensive than other steaks.
The tenderloin is trimmed into filet mignon steaks or a chateaubriand (tenderloin) roast. If the butcher leaves the tenderloin intact through the short loin, the short loin will be cut into T-bone and Porterhouse steaks.
Why So Tender?
The secret of the filet mignon’s tenderness is due to its location on the animal. The tenderloin is a non-weight bearing muscle and remains relatively unused. Inactivity keeps the muscle from growing too tough through repetitive movement.
Although incredibly tender, filet mignon contains less marbling – the small streaks of intramuscular fat – compared to popular steaks like the New York strip or ribeye. But cook your filet mignon right and it’s more tender than any – you can cut it with a dull butter knife. The mild flavor and low marbling of the filet make it a great plat form for seasonings, sauces, or a bacon wrap, and best cooked rare to medium-rare.
Butcher Cut Matters
Every Omaha Steaks tenderloin is hand-selected for quality by an experienced beef expert, often by 5th generation family owner Bruce Simon himself. Then, the beef is aged 28+ days for natural maximum tenderness and trimmed into filet mignon steaks by our team of master butchers. But… there’s more than one way to trim a steak. In fact, Omaha Steaks has FIVE distinct cuts of filet mignon, each with a unique set of trim and age specifications. Here’s how to choose, and what it means for you:
TRIM: The more times a filet mignon is trimmed, the leaner the steak.
AGING: The longer the age, the more the natural tenderness is amplified.
How to Cook a Filet Mignon
Omaha Steaks butchers recommend cooking filet mignon rare to medium-rare – these lower temperatures are ideal for experiencing tenderness. Filet mignon is not the most marbled steak, so be careful – the steak will dry out if you overcook it. Season liberally with coarse sea salt and fresh black pepper to prep the steak. Cook to perfection indoors using the pan-seared method or sous vide and sear cooking method or outdoors on the grill.
Filet mignon’s mild flavor makes it a perfect companion for rich toppings. Try a compound butter, wine-based sauce, or butcher’s butter. This steak is also delicious wrapped in bacon, a time-tested flavor combination found a lot of traditional steakhouses.
Wagyu Filet Mignon
Wagyu is a rare breed of cattle prized the world over for producing the most intensely marbled beef. That marbling makes a unique filet mignon experience, since this steak is not normally the most marbled. A wagyu filet mignon has decadent marbling, the white flecks of fat that melt into the meat as it cooks, which adds uncommon richness to the super-tender filet mignon steak profile.
Filet Mignon Recipes
More Butcher’s Guides:
- What is a Ribeye?
- What is a New York Strip?
- What is a Top Sirloin?
- What is a T-bone?
- What is a Tomahawk Steak?
- What is a Flat Iron?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.
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