Tips for Cooking Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon…those two words cause a steak lover’s mouth to water. Lean, tender, and full of flavor makes it one of the most prized cuts of steak. Dining out at your favorite restaurant for a filet is always an enjoyable way to treat yourself. Still, cooking filet mignon at home is also a treat and quite rewarding. Once you’ve perfected the skill, you can impress friends and family with this elegant culinary delight.

There aren’t many things that compare to a perfectly cooked filet mignon. According to Omaha Steaks, this particular cut is from the tenderloin and involves only two to three percent of the entire animal, which is why it’s often the highest-priced item on a menu. In this article, we’ll discuss some tricks for cooking a perfect filet mignon every single time. Don’t be intimidated by this expensive cut of meat. A filet cooks quickly and after doing it a few times, you’ll be a pro.

Choosing your filet mignon

The first step in cooking a perfect filet every time is to pick the right filet to begin with. The right cut will make cooking a breeze. Filets vary in size. If you prefer your steak well done, a thinner filet might be a better choice so it cooks through easily. If you like a rare steak, a thicker one is more likely to end up with the redness you like.

To find a filet, you can go to a local butcher, the meat counter at your favorite grocery store, or cut your own from a beef tenderloin. According to Jess Pryles, to cut your own filets from a tenderloin you’ve purchased, first cut away the silverskin, which is that grayish skin that covers part of the tenderloin. It’s tough to chew and needs to go. Next, cut the tenderloin into four to eight steaks (filets), skipping the tapered ends. Make the steaks as thick as you like. Don’t waste the ends. You can use them in stew or other dishes. They’re just too small to be a filet.

Refrigerate your fresh filets or cook them immediately. At the butcher or grocery store, you’ll see regular filets, usually six or eight ounces, and you’ll also find filets wrapped in bacon. You don’t have to get the ones wrapped in bacon but many people enjoy the additional savory flavor it adds to the filet. Besides that, the grease from the bacon helps out in creating an extra crispy sear on the steak (via Just Cook.ButcherBox). You can also wrap bacon around the filets you cut yourself from the tenderloin. Hungry yet?

To freeze or not to freeze?

Is it worth it to stock up on filets when they’re on sale and then freeze them? Or is it best to run to the butcher and grab fresh filets every time? If you hear rumors that it’s shameful to freeze a good cut of steak, tune them out. Steak School by Stanbroke explains that there’s nothing wrong with freezing steak. The only secret is doing it correctly. So, next time you see a great deal on your favorite cut, go ahead and stock up. You can freeze what you don’t use right away.

To properly freeze steak, use a couple of layers of protection. If you have a vacuum sealer, perfect. That should be your first layer of protection. If not, you should first, wrap individual steaks in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Then, slide the wrapped steak into a plastic, zip-top bag and seal it up. You can even marinade the steaks if you like. Just skip the aluminum foil or plastic wrap and seal them in two plastic zip-top bags instead, removing as much air as possible. When it’s time to thaw the steaks, put them in the refrigerator for 24 hours, with a plate underneath to catch any defrosting drips (via My Chicago Steak). Never refreeze defrosted meats.

Bring the filets to room temperature

Whether you’ve defrosted the filets, brought them right from the butcher or store, or are pulling them out of the refrigerator, you need to allow time to bring the filets to room temperature as this ensures uniformity in cooking. If you throw a frozen steak in the skillet, some areas will defrost quicker than others and you’ll end up with a cold center and possibly an overdone outer part of the steak. Plus, when cooking a steak to rare or medium rare, a cold steak may not have a chance to warm up even though it looks done.

A thinner cut of meat isn’t affected as greatly by temperatures as a thicker cut. To keep meat safe when bringing it to room temperature, shoot for 72 degrees Fahrenheit (via ThermPro). The size of the meat makes a difference in how long it can sit out, so keep checking the temperature. Meat left sitting out too long builds bacteria and can make you sick. If it looks gray in color, feels slimy, or has a foul odor, throw it away.     

Heat up a cast iron skillet

You may love your nonstick cookware, but do yourself and your steak a favor, and invest in a cast iron skillet for your filet mignon. Cast iron is naturally nonstick and helps to give any steak that crispy searing on the outside. You can put your cast iron right into the oven with the steak in it, after you’ve used it to sear the steak. Not only that but each time you use it, if you wash it properly, your skillet gains more and more seasoning, adding additional flavor to your steak.

Cast iron even has health benefits. Your typical nonstick cookware can’t claim that. Food actually absorbs iron from the cast iron as it cooks. That’s good news since iron is needed for healthy red blood cells, neurological development, cellular functioning, and synthesis of some hormones (via National Institutes of Health). As if you need another reason to cook your filet mignon in a cast iron skillet, there’s just something rustic and satisfying about creating such a decadent dish in a piece of cookware that’s famously used around campfires, yet also used in the finest kitchens to make the perfect filet.

When your steak is done, clean your cast iron skillet with hot water and a small amount of dish soap. There are scrapers designed for cast iron skillets to help remove stuck-on food. To use one, simmer some water in the pan for a few minutes, then scrape to help remove stubborn pieces, if necessary. Dry the skillet thoroughly so it doesn’t rust. You want to treat your skillet gently, so you don’t strip all the seasoning. Never put it in the dishwasher.

Add butter and seasonings

Now that your cast iron skillet is hot, add some butter and seasonings. Butter makes everything better, and steak is no exception. You may use oil, as some cooks prefer, to sear the steak, but then add butter as it sears, for basting and decadent flavor. Filet mignon is famous for being fabulously tender and is often described as cutting into a piece of butter. This stems from the fact that it’s cut from an area where there’s very little muscle, so it doesn’t get tough. Still, although it’s tender, filet mignon can dry out when cooking because of its lack of fat. Enter, butter.

Once the cast iron skillet it is nice and hot, add enough butter to the pan to allow for basting the filet while it sears. This helps it remain moist and gives your filet additional flavor that only butter can give. Along with the butter, you can add other herbs and spices if you like. Garlic, onion, and rosemary are popular options. Get ready for a kitchen filled with wonderful aromas.  

Season the steak and sear it

Searing quickly cooks the outside of your filet, without cooking the inside. This way, you can get the desired doneness of your steak when it goes into the oven. To sear something is to burn or scorch it, using sudden and intense heat, per Food Fire Friends. That being said, the goal isn’t to turn out a black, deeply charred piece of meat. Searing is using the same principle of quick scorching. It’s a high heat and a fast cooking, turning, and basting of the filet to give it just enough of a sear so that the outside looks beautiful and has a slight crust to it.

Besides sealing in juices and giving the filet a slight crust, an unseared piece of meat looks gray and unappealing. Sear your steak about five minutes per side. That’s it. Keep the heat at a temperature that allows the meat to sear quickly, but also allows the butter not to burn, usually around a medium-high flame on a gas stove. Once your filet is seared on the outside, it’s time to get it in the oven to cook on the inside.

Cook in oven to the desired temperature

Rare or well done? It’s a never-ending debate and everyone thinks their answer is correct. For those who love a red, slightly cooked steak, there is good news you can arm yourself with when defending your need for a seductively red center filet mignon. According to Y.O. Steakhouse, grass-fed beef is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which lower cholesterol and the risk for heart disease. It also contains linoleic acid, another fatty acid that is thought to help block tumors from spreading in the body. And how about a little extra iron in your diet for energy? Your rare steak contains a higher level of those fatty acids and iron, compared to a well-done steak which is cooked longer.

In all fairness, let’s defend the well-done steak fans as well, and all those in between. The goal is to eat your filet mignon in a way that satisfies you and leaves you wanting to do it again. So, cook your steak to the temperature you prefer. Use a meat thermometer to check your steaks temperature to see if it’s done. For rare steak, 125-130﮿ F, medium rare, 130-140﮿ F, medium, 140-150﮿ F, medium well, 150-160﮿ F, and well, over 160﮿ F (via The Majestic Restaurant). Heat the oven to 400ﹾ and put the filet in the oven, cast iron skillet and all. They’ll be done in 3 – 5 minutes and you’ll be closer to eating.

Let the steak rest and prepare your sauce

Yes, your steak needs to rest. It’s been through a lot. No, seriously, allowing steak to sit for five to seven minutes after cooking will give you a perfectly cooked, juicy filet. Take your steak out of the oven at about 115 degrees for a medium-rare steak. It continues to cook to the right temperature as it rests. So, if your filet needs ten minutes to reach its full potential, five minutes in the oven is enough, then five minutes of resting. Chef Angie Mar tells Martha Stewart, “When meat is hot, the juices are more liquid. When you cut into a very hot piece of meat, all of the liquid is going to come out. If you rest it, it allows everything to relax and redistribute the juices, which creates a more tender, juicier cut.” Yes, please.

While calculating time and checking temperatures, keep in mind that any steak cooked past medium has less flavor, fewer vitamins, and is less tender. In other words, it’s sinful to cook your filet mignon to well-done. To check the temperature of your filet, insert the thermometer through the side and make sure the tip is in the center of the meat (via Certified Angus Beef). While your filet rests, it’s time to make a sauce if you desire one.

The skillet is now full of useful drippings. Butter, herbs, salt and pepper, and anything else you chose to add have all melded together into a glorious, bubbly, concoction. Continue the simmer of this liquid gold and add a bit more butter (because why not) to the mix. For a rich, decadent sauce, a little red wine or cognac will reduce beautifully. Last, finish it up with heavy cream. Add a little at a time until you get the color and texture you want. Pure heaven. You can also use beef stock if you don’t want to use alcohol.

Sides to complement your filet mignon

A filet is such a magical thing, it can stand on its own and satisfy those who’ve been smelling the aroma of it cooking. Still, the right side paired with filet mignon takes it to another level. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse explains that potatoes are always the perfect side with any steak. For example, the softness of mashed potatoes complements the firmness of a ribeye, while a classic baked potato brings out the best in a tender filet mignon.

In a steak dinner, it’s the steak that is the star. The simple potato acts as the costar, allowing the steak flavors to shine, while the mild flavor of the potatoes rounds off the meal. Now that you’re dreaming of potatoes, there are other options as well. Asparagus is always a favorite with filets, as is a salad or the classic lobster tail for surf and turf. When the steak is done to perfection, you can’t go wrong with the side you choose. As good as a side is, it will take a backseat to the main attraction.

Wine to complement your filet

Just when you thought a filet couldn’t get any better, you now get to pair it with red wine. When it comes to steak, they’re simply isn’t a finer option. With so many reds though, how do you choose? Cabernet Sauvignon is typically the go-to when it comes to wine and steak. There’s good reason for the pairing. Cabs are big and bold, just like steak. They can handle each other. Still, the filet is the most tender, dare we say, delicate of all the cuts. For such a unique and expensive steak, look to a Malbec. “Softer cuts of steak like filet mignon or porterhouse are best with wines like Malbec,” says Anna Maria Kambourakis, a certified sommelier and wine blogger at Unraveling Wine. The fruity palate of the malbec, along with its richness and tannins, partner with a filet without overwhelming it.

Another red wine that pairs well with leaner cuts, such as the filet is Touriga, which comes from the Touriga Nacional grape in Portugal. Tourigia may not be a common wine name you recognize, but it’s quickly gaining popularity. In the end, you can try wine recommendations, but be sure to always drink what tastes best to you.  

Save the leftovers

Although steak is best served fresh out of the oven, you can save the leftovers so it doesn’t go to waste. The trick is to reheat it properly. If you used plenty of butter during the cooking of your filet, you’re ahead of the game. Butter gives the lean filet cut the extra fat it needs to stay juicy and tender. That will help you’re your leftover filet stay moist.

It’s recommended that you store your cooked steak in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking it (via Still Tasty). That shouldn’t be a problem since the goal is to serve your steak hot and eat it. When stored properly, your filet can stay in the refrigerator for three to four days. If you’d like to freeze it, you can store it in an airtight container or freezer bags and freeze your leftover steak up to two or three months. There’s no need to waste all the hard work you put into cooking filet mignon. However, the chance of leftovers is slim to none, when using a few tricks for cooking the perfect filet mignon.


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Meet Melissa

Bourbon stole my heart a few years ago when I had several opportunities to write about it. Food stole my heart when I was lucky enough to be raised by a mom who managed to make nearly everything from scratch when we were growing up.