Filet mignon, prized as the pinnacle of steaks, is the perfect centerpiece for any special occasion or holiday dinner. This tender and flavorful cut, steeped in luxury, is often associated with a hefty price tag due to its scarcity – it’s a petite cut from the tenderloin, a small section of the cow that doesn’t see much action. This is why it’s a must to handle and cook filet mignon with great care to preserve its premium quality.

Unraveling the Mystique of Filet Mignon

At its core, filet mignon is a cut from the smaller end of the tenderloin, a region in the middle of the cow’s back. Because these muscles aren’t heavily utilized, they don’t toughen, resulting in an incredibly tender steak. Often, you’ll find this delicacy cut into 1 to 2-inch-thick slices, although the dimensions can vary based on your preference.

However, the journey to flavor isn’t always straightforward. While the lack of marbling, fat, and bone in filet mignon contributes to its velvety texture, it also diminishes the meaty flavor often associated with other cuts. This is why you’ll frequently find tenderloin steaks served with accompanying sauces, garnishes, or pan juices. Steak connoisseurs might even wrap their beef tenderloin steaks in bacon before cooking to imbue them with extra moisture and a more robust beefy flavor.

The Art of Grilling Filet Mignon

Beef filet mignon on cutting board.

The million-dollar question here is, “How long should filet mignon be grilled?” As with most culinary endeavors, the answer isn’t a simple one. Cooking time varies widely depending on numerous factors like the cooking method, the steak’s thickness, and your desired level of doneness.

If grilling is your method of choice – a popular one due to its ability to amplify flavor – you can expect to spend anywhere between 14 to 20 minutes cooking your filet mignon. Here’s a helpful guide to grilling times based on your preferred level of doneness:

  • Very rare or rare: 120° F to 125° F, 4 minutes per side
  • Medium rare: 125° F to 130° F, 5 minutes per side
  • Medium: 135° F to 140° F, 6-7 minutes per side
  • Medium well: 145° F to 150° F, 8 minutes per side
  • Well done: 150° F and up, 10 minutes per side

Note that these are just averages, and actual cooking time can vary based on numerous factors.

Understanding the Grilling Process

You might wonder why grilling filet mignon can take a relatively long time compared to other cuts. The reasons are multifaceted:

  1. Temperature: The grilling temperature directly influences cooking time. A higher temperature leads to quicker cooking, and a lower temperature extends it.
  2. Thickness: A thicker steak takes longer to cook than a thinner one, but it often results in a superior texture and perfectly cooked meat.
  3. Preparation Time: Factors like marinating the meat and pre-heating the grill significantly affect the overall cooking time.
  4. Personal Preference: Your preferred level of doneness will also determine how long you grill your filet mignon. A well-done steak, for example, takes longer to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked.

Seasoning Your Filet Mignon

When it comes to seasoning, simplicity is the key. Salt and pepper, the tried-and-true duo, work wonderfully to enhance the natural flavor of your steak.

Why Does Grilling Filet Mignon Take Time?

Now, you might be scratching your head and wondering, “Why does grilling filet mignon take so long?” There are a few reasons:

  1. Temperature: The grill’s temperature plays a pivotal role in cooking time. Higher temperatures speed up the grilling process, while lower ones lengthen it.
  2. Thickness: The thickness of the filet mignon also influences grilling time. Thicker pieces are often favored due to their superior texture and perfectly cooked interior, but they do require more time on the grill. Conversely, thinner cuts grill faster.
  3. Preparation: From marination to pre-heating the grill, the pre-cooking steps also add to the overall cooking duration.

Remember, while the temperature is a key consideration, your personal preferences hold significant sway. If you like your filet mignon medium rare, the grilling time will be shorter than if you prefer it well done. Grilling a well-done filet mignon takes the most time to ensure thorough cooking.

Grilled steak meat (mignon) on the dark surface. Dark background

Is Seasoning Necessary for Filet Mignon?

Absolutely! Seasoning your filet mignon is crucial to bring out the best of its flavors. I usually opt for a rub of finely chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper, followed by a light coating of olive oil. For a flavor boost, serve it with garlic and herb butter.

You can also experiment with other seasonings. From simple salt and pepper to a combination of garlic powder and steak spices, the options are limitless. Remember, though, if you plan to cook your filet mignon to medium well or well done, marination is advisable to avoid losing flavor due to overcooking. Allow the steak to sit with the seasoning for at least 5 minutes before grilling or refrigerate for up to 2 hours for the best results.

Gas or Charcoal Grill: Which is Better for Filet Mignon?

This depends on your culinary preferences. A charcoal grill delivers that distinct smoky, southern BBQ flavor loved by many. However, if you’re seeking a flavor that’s closer to bacon’s smokiness, a gas grill may be your best bet.

That being said, don’t rush out to buy a new grill just to cook your filets. Regardless of the grill type, as long as you manage the temperature and cooking time well, you’ll have delicious filets.

Grilling Temperature and Techniques

Filets should be grilled over medium-high heat. If you’re using a gas grill, aim for around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. For charcoal grills, place the filets directly over medium coals. This will give them a fantastic sear, similar to what you’d get from a pan sear, with the outside crisp and the inside tender.

However, to continue cooking the insides without burning the outside, you’ll need to use indirect heat. Simply move the filets away from the flames on the grill, letting the smoke infuse the meat.

Pro Tips for Grilling Filet Mignon

With the basics covered, let me share some additional tips to help you achieve that perfect cook every time:

  • Choose filets that are at least two inches thick for more even grilling.
  • Lightly grease your grill racks with olive oil before pre-heating the grill to prevent the steak from sticking.
  • Monitor the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer during the cooking process. Remove the steaks from the grill when they reach 125 degrees for a medium-rare cook.
  • Let the filets rest for 5 to 10 minutes off the grill under a foil tent. This allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, making it juicier.
  • Finally, remember that grilling is as much an art as it is a science. Even with the perfect recipe and technique, it takes practice to learn to read the grill and the meat. But don’t worry – even if you don’t get it perfect the first time, filet mignon is a forgiving cut of meat. As long as you don’t drastically overcook it, it will still be delicious.

Serving Suggestions

Filet mignon is a rich and flavorful cut of meat, so it pairs well with side dishes that can complement and balance its richness. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Creamy Mashed Potatoes: These are a classic accompaniment to any steak. The creaminess of the potatoes works well to balance the richness of the meat.
  2. Grilled Vegetables: Grilled asparagus, bell peppers, or zucchini can add a refreshing, smoky flavor to your meal.
  3. Sautéed Mushrooms: Sautéed in a little butter and garlic, mushrooms are a perfect pairing with filet mignon.
  4. Red Wine Sauce: A red wine reduction sauce can add a lovely depth of flavor to your steak.
  5. Wine Pairing: Choose a wine that matches the rich flavor of filet mignon. A full-bodied red wine, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot, is a classic choice.

Remember, the most important thing is to enjoy the process of grilling and the delicious meal you’ve prepared. Whether you’re grilling for a special occasion or just for a regular dinner, it’s all about enjoying good food with good company. Happy grilling!