How to Cook a Filet Mignon
Many people like to throw t-bones or ribeyes on the barbecue grill outside, and are happy with the results.
My husband used to be one of those, but in recent years he’s become more “picky” about beef, and so these days, if he eats steak, it must be grass-fed filets. As a result, I had to learn to cook filet mignons inside; it’s not always barbecue weather.
A filet is a cross-wise slice from a beef tenderloin. If you’re trimming one yourself, you can get about 6-7 intact filets from the main tenderloin, depending on the thickness of course.
For quite a few years I’ve ordered grass-fed beef tenderloins from various sources. It’s less expensive to buy them whole as opposed to two filets at a time. Plus, after trimming the tenderloin and cutting filets, you’re left with about 2 pounds of beef tenderloin that I usually turn into a stir fry.
I prefer my filets a good inch in thickness, but however the thickness, it’s important to cook them properly. My point with this post is to show how straight forward it is to pan-cook a filet to perfection.
Have your filets close to room temperature. Salt generously; you can season after cooking.
Have a large cast-iron skillet on hand with some grapeseed oil, long-handled tongs, and a plate topped with a rack. You’re going to be resting the cooked filets and you want them to “breathe” on all sides.
The skillet should hold the steaks without crowding. The maximum number I cook in my 10” cast-iron skillet is four, shown browning in bacon grease.
When you’re ready to start, place the skillet over high heat. Turn on the fan.
Pour in some grape seed oil – about 1 tablespoon per steak. When the oil is hot, place a filet in the skillet. Repeat with remaining steaks if cooking more than one.
Brown on that side for at least one minute, then turn them over and brown the other side.
Now here’s the deal. Many people at this point would place the skillet of browned filets in a hot oven to finish. If your steaks happen to be 3” thick you might have to do that. But I do something different. I take advantage of my stove.
Turn the filets back over and turn down the heat! Give them a couple of minutes, turn them over, and let the insides cook for maybe a couple more minutes, and they’ll be perfect.
I used to use a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature didn’t go above 125 degrees. That is a very good technique, but it’s easy to learn when the steaks are ready by squeezing them with your tongs. If the steaks are mushy, then they’re still undercooked. Alternatively, if they’re getting firm, get them the hell out of the skillet.
Cover them loosely with foil. After at least 10 minutes of resting, generously season the filets with coarsely ground pepper or garlic pepper.
Today I served the filets with green beans cooked with shallots and tomatoes, and topped with pine nuts.
Also, there’s truffle butter…
Here is a garlic pepper I highly recommend.
Oh wow looks perfect 😋 Mouthwatering 😋😋
That’s funny. I love grilling, but prefer cast iron for Filet Mignon, too. I’d like to try your truffle butter on it. Mmmmm.
I bought the truffle butter. Addicted to truffle oil as well. It’s pretty tasty on a steak!
Oh okay! I just bought some, too, for Ina Garten’s truffle butter macaroni and cheese.
It looks delicious! Hubby loves his T-bones and rib-eyes, too. But we’ll have to try filet mignons soon. Nice directions.
Thank you so much. I like rib-eyes, but my husband doesn’t want to deal with any fat or gristle!
Looks fantastic, Mimi! Love your technique and tips. Resting them on a rack is a great idea!
I used to rest them on a plate, but the bottoms can’t really rest that way. Or, at least not breathe!
I have to try this but the most of the time I am not aloud to cook steaks. My husband always barbecues them. He is very good at that.
And they do have great flavor. My husband only uses charcoal. My husband didn’t let me cook steaks inside for ages!
A perfect lesson. I cannot imagine doing them in the oven – out of control! The only thing I do differently is I test ‘doneness’ with a finger, not tongs. I do the same to get chicken breasts perfectly cooked.
Yes! But you must have tough fingers!
Yum! Beautiful Filet.
Thank you Angela!
Perfectly cooked steaks! Totally agree about buying the whole tenderloin and cutting it a home. Also love stove top preparation, though with larger quantities (which brings back nightmarish restaurant days’ memories!) would still pop them in the oven, and check with fingers. Old habits die hard! :)
UGH. The exact reason I could never have cooked in a restaurant. I’ve done 8 at a time, but that’s it!
It had its advantages at the time (adrenaline, mostly…), but now I look at it with awe and glad it’s over! :)
Oh i bet. I guess if I had to it would have been when I was younger… not now!
A filet mignon is my favorite cut of beef and during warmer months I cook them on the grill. Inside I’ve always broiled them on low towards the center of the oven. They cook slowly but don’t have a nice sear. I will have to try pan frying them. When I cook for a crowd I buy the whole tenderloin but normally it’s just for a few so I prefer my butcher’s filets who has the best beef in town – they also have a restaurant!
It’s so nice to have a butcher you love. I started buying tenderloins when I’d buy filets in a package at my grocery store and when I got home they’d fall into pieces. I was always so mad. Such cheating!
I love the tip about resting them on a rack – I never knew that! Thanks!
Oh yeah! Not sure how seriously a difference it makes to use a rack, but it’s what I do!
Perfect Chef! I do mine on a French Grill to give them the criss cross pattern, then rest as you describe. Your’s look perfect. I am hoping I can learn to determine the correct ‘doneness’ as you describe – right now I am still using my probe thermometer. What a delicious meal! 😊
Nothin wrong with using a thermometer. I convinced my husband to use one at one point, when he was cooking chicken outside on the grill, and I saw him poking and poking and poking for minutes on end. I now cook the chicken!
Great walkthrough Mimi. I am privileged here in Ireland, where all our beef is grass fed and nearly all of a very high quality. It’s normal for me to ask my butcher(s) to cut my fillet in front of me. It allows me get a thicker piece of meat. Greedy, but very tasty, cooked towards rare.
Not greedy at all. It’s nice they’ll do that for you. It’s not done where I live, which is another reason I started buying my own tenderloins. I’d buy a package of 2 filets and they’d fall into pieces once I got the plastic wrap off.
Yes, I’ve been there with the pieces disguised in the wrap. Foolish behavior as all it achieves is a quick sale and a lost customer.
Those tenderloin steaks look mouthwatering. I have to agree with you about stove-top finishing the steaks. Anything under an inch and half thickness stay out of the oven. Lately, I’ve been using my sous vide circulator and finishing the steak on the grill. Have you tried your sous vide with a filet?
I haven’t. I guess I should, I’ve just assumed that filets are already so perfectly tender that sous vide would be silly. So you recommend it?
We usually throw our steaks on the grill but when it comes to cooking them inside I am with Ron, who thinks sous vide is the best way to cook most meats. I love that you buy tenderloins whole as opposed to two filets at a time. I never thought of that. I love your resting combination. I learned a lot on this post. Thank you for such great information.
You are so welcome! I’ve only used sous vide for tough meats, and especially love what it does to brisket and flank steak. I don’t know why I’ve not tried it with tenderloin!
Nothing better than a juicy steak- especially one topped with truffle butter! I got caught out once in Paris when I prepared a ‘filet mignon’ for some dinner guests. I forgot ‘Rule Number 1’ in France, where ‘filet mignon’ refers to pork meat (I don’t think my guests noticed)!
I didn’t know that!!!
Oh my how wonderful this! I saw your photo on Instagram and it had me instantly salivating!
Ha! That’s so sweet. Yes, this is my tutorial on cooking filet mignons!
Oh man, these steaks look perfectly cooked, Mimi! That’s a great tip about the cast iron skillet here. I also prefer my cast iron for filet. Ribeyes and NY Strips are great on the grill, but a filet belongs in the cast iron. :-) And that truffle butter…I’m drooling over here!
Thanks. My husband still wonders why he resisted “allowing” me to cook filets inside for so many years! I don’t understand the “barbecue only mentality” for meat, but I have a friend who literally barbecues everything, and it works! And she uses charcoal!
I love a nice tender filet mignon. I love the idea of cutting them from the tenderloin. Thanks for the cooking tips.
You are so welcome!
Hi Mimi, I am lazy, so what I do is I first heat them in the sous vide to about 120° and then just brown them for a minute or so per side.
I don’t know that it’s much less effort, but at this point it’s a habit! I have a very spoiled husband who eats a lot of filets!
It is mostly a question of attention (and risk of overcooking). Butchering the whole tenderloin is what takes most effort.
It is work for sure! I don’t love it.
Perfectly cooked! I love a filet and my hubby will grill even if it’s below zero! If he’s not home, your method looks spot on! P.S. struck out yesterday on the enchilada sauce, but I’ll check the other markets as I shop this week :)
I’m pretty sure I can find the one you recommended. Going to the store tomorrow morning! Thanks again!
YUM! I’m such a snob. Filet is the ONLY cut of meat I will eat!!! :-)
Hahahaha! Well there were many years my husband was a vegetarian, and then many years we couldn’t afford them. Fortunately now, he gets to eat what he wants, and he wants the best!
There’s nothing (nothing!) my 15-yr-old loves more to eat than a delicious Filet Mignon. I like that you finish them on the stove — I’m going to do that next time. These look so perfect. My son will be happy you’ve inspired me to make them soon. :-)
Oh lovely! A growing boy loves his beef!!!
What a great idea to turn the trimmings into stir fry! I shall have to adopt that when next I get an entire fillet.
The other day I made Pipian Roja, which is a Mexican nut, sweet, and chile pepper sauce, and just cooked the chopped up beef in that. I’ve even made curries, but don’t cook the meat for hours of course. It changes the recipe process a bit, but it’s definitely doable!
That looks mouthwatering. I have never cooked filet mignon, it is sooooooo expensive and I am always afraid I would ruin it! So, I only had it in restaurants a couple of times – even more expensive – but at least cooked the right way. :) You explain the procedure very well, I might be courageous enough to try it some day. Pinned! :)
Thank you! Once the steak is browned and you’ve turned the heat down, it would be hard to overcook it. Filets are definitely expensive in restaurants!
You’re seriously making me hungry right now! Hubby makes some delicious filet mignons when we want a special date night in. That, some crusty bread and vino and I’m set :) Looks delicious!
Thank you! I don’t eat many steaks, only because they’re a bit heavy for me, but when I do, there’s nothing quite like a perfectly cooked filet!
In many ways searing a steak in a hot cast iron is even more appealing than grilling. No better way to get that beautiful, delicious crust…
Well thanks! I can’t get a great crust using my stove and ventilation system, but I’m still happy with the results!
I always use the “feel” test to determine if my steaks are done, too. Although I usually use a thermometer to confirm. And I like to cook steak on top of the stove, too, particularly thinner ones. Easy and fast, and I can make a quick pan sauce too. Good post — thanks.
Yes, a pan sauce – I have a sautéed mushrooms post coming up. So simple, yet so delicious. Nothing I would have thought to blog about before, but maybe some people don’t know what they can do?!! We’ll see… Thanks!
Those look delicious! Thanks for sharing how to cook them…I usually just cook steaks on the outside grill, which is very limiting.
Pretty filets. GREG
Mmmmmmm! Now this is perfection! First of all, I agree about grass fed beef. So much tastier and so much better for you. Secondly, how can you ever go wrong with cooking them in bacon grease and topping them with truffle butter. Wow!! I love the tip about the steaks remaining on the stovetop. I’ve always put mine in the oven to finish it off. But I will have to try this. Thanks.
I’ve never tried a filet mignon, so I appreciate the guidance!
You are welcome!
Mimi, I love reading your posts and how you interject yourself in a personal way. Your posts are always so informative and your recipes are fantastic. Love this “how to cook a fillet mignon.” Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much. That means a lot.
Wen I grill, it’s also only with charcoal. I like grilled meats now and then, but I actually prefer an indoor, cast iron sear for beef – especially fillets.
Interesting! Glad there’s a club!
Oh perfect. Will try
I remember being a server and people ordering filets well done and butterflied! I think I’ll stick with your method lol!
I know it’s a sin!
My mother, 91, was just telling me about going to France with her new American husband, and he asked for his filet well done at a typical family bistro. I guess it really caused quite a scene! But the chef/owner won him over!
Oh goodness that had to be a scene!
I think it really was! It was back in the early 1960’s, but the guys never ordered a well done steak again!
Great story for sure!!