Filet Mignon: Its Location, Names, Flavor Profile, and Size

Famous for its extremely tender texture, filet mignon ranks as one of the most popular cuts of steak worldwide. The high price tag and its mild taste led many steak enthusiasts to label filet mignon as “overrated.” As a lover of robust, beefy flavors, I find some truth in this statement. Yet, we cannot ignore the exceptional tenderness this cut offers – it is, without a doubt, a steak you must try at least once. But because of the price and flavor, filet mignon may not become your go-to choice unless you prize tenderness over flavor.

I invite you to read the rest of the article in which I will present more interesting facts about filet mignon.

What is Filet Mignon?

Filet mignon is a beef cut from the central section of the psoas major muscle in the loin primal of the steer. Although this is a lean cut with little to no marbling, resulting in a mild flavor profile, filet mignon offers a unique advantage. It’s known for its superior tenderness, boasting a buttery texture that truly sets it apart as the most tender cut of beef. However, being a premium cut means it also ranks as one of the most expensive cuts of beef.

What does filet mignon mean?

Filet mignon is a French term that translates literally to “cute fillet.

Raw Filet Mignon A Closer Look
Raw Filet Mignon A Closer Look

What Are the Other Names for Filet Mignon?

Listed below are other names for filet mignon in the United States:

  • tenderloin steak
  • filet
  • fillet
  • chateaubriand (when cut as a large, center-cut roast)
  • tournedo (this term is used when the cut is from the smaller, tapered section of the tenderloin closest to the rib primal).

What Part of The Cow is a Filet Mignon?

Filet mignon is cut from the loin primal part of the cow, specifically from the central section of the psoas major muscle. This particular muscle, notable for its length, is minimally used by the cow – that’s why filet mignon is so tender.

filet mignon location on cow

Filet Mignon Nutrition Facts

NutritionPortion size: 3 oz = 85 g
Calories227 kcal
Total Fat14.5 g
Protein22.5 g
Zinc4.05 mg
Potassium280 mg
Vitamin B-60.471 mg
Vitamin B-121.33 µg
Nutrition facts based on cooked 3-oz filet mignon (all-grade).

What to Consider When Choosing a Filet Mignon?

Listed below are factors to consider when choosing filet mignon.

  • Cooking Method: First, consider how you plan to cook the filet mignon. Are you aiming for a simple preparation with just salt, pepper, and garlic powder, or would you prefer a sauced version? The choices you make influence the type of filet mignon you should pick. Different techniques require adjustment based on the steak’s thickness and your desired level of doneness. For example, you’ll need a thicker cut if you opt for classic pan-searing at a high temperature. However, the thickness is less crucial when grilling or using reverse searing.

  • Size and Thickness: Two primary reasons make the steak’s thickness and size important. Firstly, it impacts the portion you serve per person. It’s essential to plan the size properly to avoid leftovers or a serving that’s disappointingly small. Secondly, the thickness of the steak plays a significant role in achieving the perfect balance between a crispy-seared exterior and a well-cooked interior, especially if you’re aiming for medium doneness. Bear in mind that with a thin steak (less than 1 inch), most cooking techniques struggle to form the ideal crust before the inside reaches the desired level of doneness. On the other hand, a steak that’s too thick (over 3 inches) might develop a heavily charred exterior when cooked at high temperatures, leaving the inside potentially undercooked.

  • Budget: Once you’ve decided on your steak’s cooking technique and size, your budget becomes the next important factor. It’s your wallet that ultimately determines the type of steak you can afford. Remember, buying a top-quality steak at a low price is simply unrealistic. If you’re planning a special occasion, don’t compromise on quality; instead, accept that this might be a rare larger expense.

  • Grade: After setting your budget, the next step is choosing the grade of your steak. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has established a beef grading system to evaluate beef quality. This system rates the beef based on factors such as tenderness, juiciness, flavor, and the level of marbling. For a high-quality steak, opt for a filet mignon labeled USDA Choice or USDA Prime. However, if your budget allows for more luxurious options, consider premium varieties such as Japanese Wagyu, American Wagyu, or Australian Wagyu beef. Note that Wagyu uses a different grading system.

  • Marbling: Pay close attention to the marbling of the steak. More marbling (intramuscular fat) means a tastier, more tender, and juicier steak. Higher grades of beef have more marbling. However, be aware that too much marbling can be overwhelming, especially with fatty steak cuts like Japanese wagyu ribeye.

  • Aging: First, understand the differences between dry aging and wet aging. When selecting filet mignon, remember that a dry-aged steak costs more than a wet-aged steak or a fresh steak.

Where to Buy Filet Mignon?

Generally, the best and easiest way to buy filet mignon is to go to a good butcher store. This is a more expensive option but worth it if you care about quality. If you’re looking for top quality or something specific (Wagyu, for example), the best way is to look through the offerings of butcher stores that deliver to your door. 

The downside of online steak delivery companies is that you’re not 100% sure what you’re getting. Fortunately, many companies on the market have a very good reputation and can be trusted; however, I always recommend caution and checking the seller’s reviews before you place an order.

What Are the Best Methods for Cooking Filet Mignon?

Filet mignon has a low-fat content, making it cook faster than most other steaks. As a result, filet mignon is more prone to drying out. To preserve its juiciness and tenderness, I recommend using pan or grill cooking techniques and cooking the filet mignon to no more than medium rare. This way, you achieve a delightful crust on the outside while maintaining its juiciness and flavor on the inside. Be careful not to overcook the filet mignon, as it will become very tough and dry.

How Much Does a Typical Filet Mignon Weigh, and How Long Is It?

The weight and length of a filet mignon vary based on its cut, thickness, and the part of the beef it comes from. On average, its length ranges from 2.5 to 4 inches, while its weight falls between 4 to 16 oz.

An 11 oz filet mignon, measuring 3.5 inches in length and 2 inches in thickness.
An 11 oz filet mignon measuring 3.5 inches in length and 2 inches in thickness.

What is The Average Thickness of Filet Mignon?

Filet mignon is usually cut to a thickness of about 2 inches. However, you might occasionally find it as thin as just over 1 inch or as thick as 3 inches. In my opinion, the ideal thickness ranges between 2 and 2.5 inches.

2-Inch Thick Filet Mignon
2-Inch Thick Filet Mignon

Is Filet Mignon Tender?

Yes, filet mignon stands out as the most tender cut of beef, boasting an almost buttery texture when it’s of high grade and cooked properly (no more than medium doneness). It doesn’t require additional steak tenderizing techniques, as its tenderness comes naturally. The filet mignon comes from a muscle in the cow that sees little to no activity, contributing significantly to its tenderness.

Raw filet mignon on a wooden cutting board
Raw filet mignon on a wooden cutting board

Is Filet Mignon Lean?

Yes, filet mignon is lean. When compared to other premium steaks, its fat content is notably low. A 100-gram portion of raw filet mignon contains 6.5 grams of fat, 2.41 grams of saturated fat, and 65 milligrams of cholesterol (source).

The USDA guidelines specify that for a beef cut to be labeled “lean”, 100 grams (approximately 3.5 ounces) of it should contain less than 10 grams of fat, no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol. For a cut to be “extra lean,” the same amount should have under 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.

Filet mignon, New York strip, and ribeye on a wooden cutting board.
Filet mignon, New York strip, and ribeye on a wooden cutting board.

Filet mignon has less intramuscular fat (marbling) compared to popular cuts like ribeye or New York strip. While it might not boast the rich flavor of a ribeye or strip, I can confidently state that, due to its tenderness, filet mignon remains one of the best lean cuts, even with its milder flavor.

What Does Filet Mignon Taste Like?

Filet mignon has a very mild taste, unfortunately. This mildness comes from the fact that it’s a lean cut with little intramuscular fat (also known as marbling), the primary source of flavor in the meat. Some steak enthusiasts may find it not worth the premium price, particularly if they prioritize flavor. Considering the cost, you might be disappointed with filet mignon if flavor is your main concern, and you could explore other cuts that provide more robust tastes without spending as much. However, if you value tenderness most in a steak, filet mignon ranks as the number one cut. Despite its mild flavor, I strongly recommend trying it to judge whether it’s worth paying the often high price.

Also, please remember there are numerous ways to improve the filet mignon flavor. You might consider wrapping the filet mignon in bacon or pairing it with a favorite creamy sauce or compound butter for steak

Is Filet Mignon Expensive?

Yes, filet mignon is expensive – I can safely say it ranks among the most expensive steaks available. What are the reasons behind its price? The limited supply, paired with significant demand, is a major driver for the price of filet mignon. People are willing to pay premium prices for the incredible tenderness that filet mignon offers. Additionally, there is a relatively small amount of filet mignon per cow compared to other cuts.

Is Beef Tenderloin The Same as Filet Mignon?

Technically, beef tenderloin and filet mignon aren’t the same. The beef tenderloin is a long piece of meat that you can cook whole as a roast or divide into smaller portions. From the whole beef tenderloin, you can get cuts such as the side chain (or side muscle), the tail, the center-cut tenderloin roast (known as Chateaubriand), a couple of medallions (referred to as petite tenderloin), and the short end of the tenderloin, which you can cut into fillets and medallions. 

Thus, while the filet mignon comes from beef tenderloin, it’s wrong to say they are the same. Every filet mignon is from the beef tenderloin, but not every part of the beef tenderloin qualifies as filet mignon

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over five years and knows a lot about them, including the different types of steak cuts, how long to cook them, and the best ways to cook any steak.

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