Homemade is Better—Filet Mignon

This past week, I struggled to develop a recipe until I pulled out some tenderloin steaks.  I was inspired to create a simple, but still delicious (as long as you eat meat, that is) recipe.  The filet mignon is traditionally cut from the smaller end of the beef tenderloin, and in North America it is usually wrapped in bacon and served with a sauce such as Bearnaise.  In France, though, and some of Europe for that matter, filet mignon refers to a pork tenderloin, not beef.  If you’re across the pond and want a beef filet mignon, you’ll want to ask for a filet of boeuf.

I prefer to cut my own beef tenderloin, a surprise to none of you, I’m sure.  I will often buy it from Costco, then let it age in my fridge.  However, if you ever find it at a local butcher or your local grocery store, then pick some up.  You can get beef tenderloin that is not wrapped in bacon, thus permitting you to do so yourself.

Why bacon, you ask? Great question.  The beef tenderloin comes from an area that is not exercised due to the muscle around it.  Thus, it’s very, very tender (hence the name tender loin) and usually doesn’t have much fat in it, making it a very lean cut of meat.  However, the lack of fat also creates a dilemma.  If cooked too long, it dries out.  Enter the bacon, specifically the fat of the bacon.  The bacon fat (the white part of your bacon) provides a forcefield, if you will, so the steak doesn’t dry out while it’s cooking.  You still have to rest the meat after it’s cooked, though.

A few interesting facts about beef tenderloin  It can stand up to more cook time, so if you prefer your steak medium to well done, a tenderloin cut is perfect because it will remain tender as long as you remember to rest it.  If you like more cooked than shoe leather, then save your money on this steak.  Tenderloin is also one of the more expensive cuts, hence why I buy mine whole, age it, then cut it.  Several excellent YouTube channels can demonstrate the process of trimming and cutting beef tenderloin.  Two of my favourites are Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode “Tender is the Loin,” and videos by a set of brothers from Ohio whose channel is called the Bearded Butchers.  Scott and Seth Perkins are great to watch because they explain where the cut of meat comes from, show you how to break it down, and you get an insight into what it is that butchers do all day.  I don’t mean they just make YouTube videos, but the actual art of processing different meats.  It’s very fascinating to me.

When I’m cooking filet mignon, I like it to be no more than medium, so around 130F, maybe 140F.  I will wrap a slice of thick-cut bacon around it, use a toothpick to hold it in place and then get my grill hot.  You want high heat because this is a reasonably quick-cook item, so the higher the heat, the better.  You will have to watch it, though; it might be 2-3 minutes per side if you’re looking for medium-rare to medium.

I hope you go out with confidence and make an excellent filet mignon for you and your friend or partner!

Filet Mignon

Ingredients:

4 beef filet steaks – cut about 1-1.5″ thick
4 thick-cut strips of bacon
4 toothpicks
Steak spice of your choice (I use Montréal steak spice, but salt and pepper are great as well)

Directions:
  • Remove your steaks from the refrigerator 3 hours before you want to cook them and bring them to room temperature.
  • Heat your oven or grill to 450F – 500F (hotter if you’re using your grill and it gets that hot).
  • While your grill or oven is heating up, grab your bacon, toothpicks, and steaks. Wrap the bacon around the steaks and use the toothpicks to hold the bacon.
  • Season one side of your steaks, then put the seasoned side down on your grill.
  • Season the side that is showing.
  • Watch your steaks and after 2-3 minutes, flip them.
  • If you’re not good with telling steak temperature by, feel or by looking for how the juices change colour, then grab a digital probe thermometer and test the thickest steak. You are going to around 125 – 135F (for medium-rare to medium).  That is the temperature you are pulling your steaks, and you still want to rest them for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • After resting the steaks, remove the toothpicks and enjoy!
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