There is no reason to be intimidated about cooking a filet mignon.  While I have many friends and family that get nervous about steaks…they really are one of the easier things you can cook.  To me,  the Perfect Filet Mignon has a salty, crispy outside, and tender, juicy, medium rare center.  The perfect Filet has aromatic hints of rosemary, and the savory nuttiness of brown butter.  Below, and in this recipe video, we’re going to talk about how to cook the perfect filet mignon.  Well go through the core cooking techniques that you need for just about any steak, but also talk about the specific things for filet mignon, that you need to know, for it to come out absolutely perfect.  My one disclaimer regards doneness.  I personally like my filet mignon medium rare, but I understand that reasonable people can like it more or less done.  If your idea of the Perfect Filet is one that’s well done…go for it – although there is tiny place in my heart that really hopes you’ve at least tried medium or medium rare ;-)  Hope you enjoy it!

How to Cook the Perfect Filet Mignon

About the Filet

  • Filet Mignon is the tenderloin, a muscle that does very little work; thus it’s tenderness.  It is also quite lean, with very little fat…which is great health wise, but….
  • With steak (and most meat) fat means flavor, and juiciness. Because filet mignon is so lean, there’s little fat to melt and lubricate the meat while cooking.  As it gets closer to well done, more of that scarce fat melts away, and the dryer the meat will get
  • Choose your desired doneness wisely – before you starting cooking
  • Buy good quality filet mignon, from a butcher if you can.  I like them thick cut – at least 2, preferably 3 inches thick.  And the filet should be a single muscle, with a firm feel – some cuts from the end of the tenderloin are two muscles barely held together by thin connective tissue - pass on these.
  • The thickness will heavily influence the time you cook the filet to get your desired doneness.  You don't use temperture to control the donesss of the steak - using high heat for well done, and low heat for rare.  Use high heat for it all.  Becuse the filet cooks from the outside in…and you always use high heat, to get more done, you simple cook the steak longer so the heat penetrates deeper.

Cooking the Filet

  • Philosophically, high heat = great meat.  Cook the filets at high temperature to get a great sear on the outside that is crunchy, tasty, and great looking.  Control the doneness (from rare to well done) with the length of time you leave the filets in the oven – Not the temperature.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees
  • Take the filet mignon out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cook it, and season it liberally with salt and pepper
  • That time allows the meat to come to room temperature – which will help ensure you cook it to the right doneness
  • Getting a good sear on the filet is critical.  Bring your heaviest sauté pan up to temperature over very high heat, and add a few tablespoon of oil – I generally use olive oil, but only for convenience.
  • Lay the filet mignons down in the pan, and let them sear on that side for 3 – 4 minutes depending on thickness.  Don’t touch, don’t move, don’t fiddle. Just let it sear.
  • Turn the steak over, and allow it to sear for another 3 – 4 minutes
  • Near the end of those 3 – 4 minutes add a couple tablespoons of butter, and the herb of your choice.  I love rosemary, thyme also is great.
  • Baste the steaks with melted herb butter
  • If you like your steak very rare, you can probably take it off now.  Use the feel technique I describe in the five rules for the perfect steak
  • For more well done filets, slide the pan into the hot oven.  Generally speaking, every few minutes will move the steak up a notch on the doneness scale from rare to medium to well. They really should never take more than another 7 – 8 minutes in the oven set to the right temperature…but
  • The best ways, in order, to tell doneness is 1) Judgment.  Because you’ve cooked a few filets, and you know how to do it you'll eventually just know  2) A combo of judgment and the feel test I mentioned above, 3) A distant third is a meat thermometer.  What’s not on this list?
  • Please don’t cut into the filet to tell doneness.  First off it’s a bad way to tell, as the steak is still cooking and constantly getting more cooked.  Second, and more important, cutting into the filet while it cooks, will cause the juice to run out of the meat, horribly drying it out. It makes me cry when I see that.
  • Feel free to continue to baste the filet with the butter once the meat comes out of the oven, but remember, pouring hot oil/butter on the filet continues to cook it…do watch doneness.
  • Remove the steak and put it on a holding plate, and cover with foil for 5 minutes.  That allows the filet mignon to rest, and the juices to settle, so they don’t run out when you cut into it at the table.
  • After five minutes, serve up that perfectly cooked filet mignon, and if you’re feeling really decadent, spoon a bit of the herb flavored brown butter right over the top.

Makes my mouth water.

Wine Recommendation: 

Many full bodied reds with go great with a Filet Mignon.  I’d go for a California Cab in a heartbeat.