Filet mignon is the small medallion steak cut from the narrower tip of the tenderloin muscle – a non-weight-bearing muscle running along both sides of the back. It is the most tender of all the beef cuts available – or any animal for that matter. And because a whole steer will only yield a few pounds of tenderloin (most of which is left as the smaller side of the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks), it is also one of the most prized (and expensive) cuts of meat available. So prized, in fact, that many people are too intimidated to try cooking at home in fear they will ruin it and be left with a very expensive pet treat.
The key with filet mignon is to cook it rarer than other cuts of meat – as it has very little fat or marbling to maintain interior moisture when cooked longer. There are a lot of methods – most involve hot, fast searing on both sides followed by finishing at a lower temperature, often under a broiler. None of them are particularly difficult. In fact, filet requires perhaps the least amount of “prep” of any cut out there. Personally, I like filet grilled; first over direct high heat for a minute or so on each side and then moved over to indirect medium heat until a thermometer reads about 130 degrees in the center. I will usually simply brush the outside with olive oil and give a light sprinkling of black pepper (no salt) beforehand. The other night, however, I thought I’d experiment a little…
- 3 grass-fed beef filet mignon steaks, about 7 ounces each and 1-1/2″ thick. (You’ll notice these aren’t super “neat” cut, so they contain a little of the surrounding fat and muscle. As long as it’s grass-fed, leave it there for even more flavor!)
- 3 tbsp dijon mustard¹
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
- 8 fresh sage leaves, rolled and chopped to form shreds
- 8~10 fresh large basil leaves, rolled and chopped to form shreds
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, picked from the stems
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
In a small prep bowl, mix together everything (except the steaks of course!) to form a paste. Use a paper towel to pat dry one side of the steaks, then spread a healthy serving of the herb-dijon paste over each steak (using all of it). Set aside, and get the grill started for indirect medium or medium-high heat (about 375 degrees). I highly recommend using some smoking chips as well to add a little extra flavor.
When the grill is up to temperature and stable, place the steaks on the grate – dijon side UP – and away from the heat source so they cook evenly. Poke a small-probe meat thermometer into the center of the thickest one and let them cook undisturbed until the thermometer reads 130 to 135 (you can also do the finger poke test, aiming for rare to just barely medium rare). Undisturbed means don’t even think about lifting that lid for the first 20 minutes. In my case, at closely controlled temperature of 375, these took 35 minutes to be perfect.
Remove them from the grill and cover loosely with foil to rest for about 5 minutes while you plate your side dishes (some grilled butternut squash and a garden salad would be excellent choices). Slice into 1/2″ thick slices, trimming any pieces of exterior fat that have turned tough and “grisly.” Arrange on your plate, and enjoy. It should be tender enough to cut with your fork!