How to Cook a Filet Mignon

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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.

My Favorite Barbeque Sauce

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Barbeque sauce never passed my lips until I moved to Dallas, Texas, for my first job after college. I moved a lot as a child, but never lived in any barbecue states, so to speak. I’ve lived in California, Washington, New York, and Utah, plus France, and barbecue was unheard of in these places, at least growing up.

When I first tasted barbeque sauce, I wasn’t that impressed. It was probably because I also wasn’t impressed with the meats with which they were served. Especially ribs – they’re so fiddly and messy to eat. And I thought brisket was dreadfully stringy. But looking back, I can see why many barbeque sauces didn’t appeal to me. Some are overly sweet, some are overly tangy, some are overly smokey.

Then I started making my own. Of course, some of them weren’t quite traditional, like adding rum and plums or whatnot, but it seemed to me that it was pretty darn easy to make a good, basic barbeque sauce. I especially detest the over-sweetness of purchased barbeque sauces, but that’s something you can definitely control in your own kitchen.

So now I have my own favorite barbeque sauce. I don’t know really how it began, but it evolved over time, just like all of our favorite recipes we customize as home cooks. It’s a little bit different, but I warn you it is delicious and addictive. Here’s to sharing recipes!

My Favorite Barbecue Sauce

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3 – 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon, strained

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.

Then add the seasonings.

I just wanted to point out my favorite garlic pepper. I’m not fond of the smell of most garlic powders, so I use this brand for some extra garlic punch.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or so over low heat, uncovered.

Add the vinegar and stir to combine. Simmer for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

It’s really good with grilled chicken or slow-cooked ribs, but it’s especially good with spicy, smoked brisket!