There are few finer things in life than a steak dinner. Whether you eat one in your own kitchen, or a 5 star restaurant, it is always a luxury experience that makes you feel like royalty.
Beef tenderloin and filet mignon are renowned for being the first cuts of the cow, and for good reason. The melt-in-your-mouth tenderness of these steaks is a texture that for meat eaters, makes them to die for.
However, there is a bit of misunderstanding surrounding beef tenderloin and filet mignon. Although both of these cuts come from the same part of the cow, they are not the same. There are a few key differences, and knowing them will help make your finer steak choices a little easier.
So the question in today’s article is: is beef tenderloin a filet mignon, and what is the difference?
Let’s not waste any more time, and get the steak lesson underway!
Is Beef Tenderloin A Filet Mignon
In short, no. Beef tenderloin and filet mignon both come from the same muscle in the cow, the psoas major, but filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin. They have very similar textures, look the same, and usually cost roughly the same price.
This is where the confusion usually stems from, especially as the psoas major is commonly referred to as the tenderloin.
Now let’s go into more detail on each of the cuts, and learn why they are different.
What Is Beef Tenderloin
Beef tenderloin is the entire tenderloin (psoas major) muscle, and it is the larger cut of meat.
A large muscle, the tenderloin is long and runs from the loin primal, to the sirloin primal. It measures roughly between 18 and 24 inches depending on the cow, and is near the animal’s backbone.
Because of its location, the tenderloin muscle gets little exercise. This means that the muscle fibers do not grow very big, and stay nice and tender.
What Is Filet Mignon
Now let’s clear up the filet mignon. This cut comes from the front part of the tenderloin muscle. Here it is narrow, and is also close to the short loin. The filet mignon is a healthier beef cut. This is because it is lean with little connective tissue.
But a leaner cut does sacrifice some flavor. Fat cis one of the factors which gives steak its beefy flavor, so less of it means less distinct taste.
However, for many people this is not an issue, as the extremely tender texture is what creates the experience, and makes up for any lack in taste.
A filet mignon is the smaller of the two beef cuts. And ‘mignon’ is a French term which translates to ‘small’ in English. This cut usually measures between 1.5 and 2.5 inches in diameter, which adds to the tenderness of its texture.
Because it is a small piece of meat, the filet mignon tends to be the most expensive. And they are usually prepared in a simple way so that the fine texture is not overwhelmed by the taste.
Beef Tenderloin Vs Filet Mignon
So those are the two cuts of beef. As you can see, they are similar, yet very different at the same time. The main difference is that the filet mignon is a small part of the tenderloin, located at the front. whereas the tenderloin is the whole muscle.
Now let’s dive a little deeper into their differences, and look at them in more detail.
The beef tenderloin is the larger cut, and it is the cut of meat from which the filet mignon is then cut. Buying an entire tenderloin is a good idea if you want to cook up a dish for a few people.
Well, you do not necessarily need the entire cut, but a decent portion of it. But if it is just a single steak that you are after, then a filet mignon is the better choice.
When it comes to these cuts of meat, different countries and cultures do things slightly different from each other. And two countries which have distinctly different ways of preparing them are the USA and France.
In France, a butcher will cut the meat from a cow carcass muscle by muscle. They will then chip up the muscle into its different sections. So the filet mignon will come from the front, the châteaubriand from the middle, and the bifteck from the thicker end of the tenderloin.
Whereas in the USA, the tenderloin is not cut away from the carcass as an individual muscle. It is cut out as part of a larger cut, such as the T-bone.
Then from the T-bone steaks including the filet-mignon can be cut, as well as porterhouse steaks including the châteaubriand.
Because of their different amounts of fat and other tissues, the filet mignon and beef tenderloin also cook a little differently.
When meat cooks, fat and bones insulate heat, increasing the time needed to cook. So because the filet mignon has little fat, and no connective tissue, it cooks relatively fast.
When cooking, each side of the steak only needs a couple of minutes. If prepared in the oven, before it goes in, all it needs is about two minutes per side of searing until it gets a nice brown crust.
Then pop it in the oven for a few minutes to finish it off. You can also skip the oven completely, and just sear it on high heat for a few minutes longer on each side.
The larger beef tenderloin makes a good roasting beef. Get yourself a roasting rack, and set the oven to 425 F, leaving the beef for an hour to cook to medium-rare. You want the beef itself to be at around 135 F internally.
Beef Tenderloin And Filet Mignon
And that is it, that is pretty much everything you need to know about the differences between beef tenderloin and filet mignon.
Hopefully this has cleared things up for you, and you can crack on with cooking these cuts in confidence.