Chicken steaks and fillets are among the tenderest cuts available from a beef carcass. The former is derived from the uppermost portion of a steer's shoulder, the chuck section. The latter refers to the tenderloin, a name given to the muscle running beneath the ribs, parallel to the steer's spine. The smaller, tapered end of the tenderloin is often served sliced into medallions. These are the filet mignon, French for "small fillet" or "dainty fillet."
Chicken Steak: The Blue Collar Cut
Chicken steak has been available as a retail cut of meat for decades. It is but one of several cuts that come from the chuck, the shoulder region, along with ground chuck, pot roast, chuck eye steak, seven-bone, shoulder steak and mock tender. High-heat methods like pan-searing, grilling and broiling are great for cooking chicken steak, but you can just as successfully braise or stew this cut. Despite being the second most tender cut of beef, chicken steak is typically inexpensive.
Chicken Steak's Multiple Personalities
Over the years, chicken steak has adopted many other names, all of which are still used interchangeably on restaurant menus, in butcher shops and at supermarket meat counters. Chicken steak's aliases include charcoal steak, top blade steak, butcher steak, book steak, lifter steak, petite steak and flatiron. Flatiron is worth singling out. It is chicken steak's newest incarnation, the exact same cut but with its central piece of gristle removed.
Beef Fillet 101
Fillet of beef is simply another name for beef tenderloin. The tenderloin is a naturally boneless muscle, the psoas major, running along both sides of the steer's spine, under the sirloin. Teardrop-shaped, this muscle enables external rotation at the waist and the backward and forward movement of legs. Because steers seldom pivot at their waists and their leg movements do not place great stress on their psoas major, the muscle remains virtually unused. This and the absence of gristle and sinew account for tenderloin's prized texture despite it having very little marbling.
Cooking Beef Fillet
Both pan-searing and oven roasting are ideal ways to cook beef fillet medallions. Because the fillet is so low in fat, recipes sometimes call for wrapping it in bacon or some other kind of fat. The entire fillet holds up well to oven-roasting, and is commonly brushed with mustard or olive oil and sprinkled with herbs like thyme or rosemary and kosher salt and pepper. Fillets are also the basis of Beef Wellington, essentially beef fillet medallions and chopped liver covered with pastry, then baked until golden.
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