Filet mignon presents a contradiction for cooks. It is exceedingly tender yet bland in flavor. Filet mignon is cut from the smaller end of the beef tenderloin, a lean, fine-grained muscle. This means cooking a filet to be flavorful, as well as tender, can be a challenge. USDA Prime or Choice are the best grades to purchase. Preparing a fillet mignon correctly from the moment it is removed from refrigeration is necessary for the best results.
The Proper Temperature Before Cooking
For best results, remove the filet from the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before cooking. Allow it to come to a temperature of approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The muscle fibers of a cold steak contract immediately when placed on a hot grill, or into a hot oven or broiler, and the meat will not cook evenly, or as well, as a warm, relaxed steak. Cook the steak at medium temperature so the steak is not shocked into contracting.
Dry the steak with paper towels and do not salt it before cooking. Salting the steak draws just enough moisture to the surface that, when heated, it steams the steak. The steak then turns gray and has a mushy texture. By not salting the steak, it will brown with a firm texture. An alternative method is to salt-cure the filet to extract most of its moisture so it doesn’t move to the surface during cooking. Although it takes more time and effort, this method results in a steak that browns with an obvious and delicious crust and tender meat inside. To salt-cure steak, use a filet that is at least one-inch thick and coat it heavily with kosher or sea salt. Leave the treated filet out of refrigeration until it reaches an internal temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the salt off the filet with warm water and pat it completely dry with paper towels before cooking.
Cook With Dry Heat
Filet mignon is cooked with dry heat, such as an oven, grill or broiler. Cooking with dry heat extracts the sugar from the interior of the meat. This sugar collects and is caramelized on the surface, creating a tasty crust. Do not marinate the steak before cooking or add liquid in any form during the dry-cooking process.
Flavoring the Filet Mignon
Before cooking, filet mignon is usually laid flat and wrapped with a thick slice of smoked bacon around its circumference. As the bacon cooks with the steak, some of the smoky flavoring of the bacon grease is imparted to the filet. The steak can be topped with sauces such as béarnaise, Danish herb and bleu cheese, or red wine. Fresh mushrooms sautéed in butter also complement the flavor and texture of the filet.