Beef tenderloin is cut from the loin of a cow. It comes from the short loin, or the psoas major of the beef carcass. Because the muscle is not weight-bearing, it contains less connective tissue, which makes it tender. Although it is generally not as flavorful as some other cuts of beef, it is greatly desired for being the most tender cut of beef. Several steaks are actually cut from this region, including the filet mignon, chateaubriand, and tournedos.
These cuts are usually lean and trimmed of all fat and connective tissue. The tenderloin is also called the filet in France or the "fillet" in England.
Whole tenderloins are sold as either "peeled," "unpeeled," or "pismos," which are terms that relate to whether the fat, connective tissue, or side muscle have been removed or not. Pismos, which is the pronunciation of PSMOs, stands for peeled, skinned, and side muscle (the "chain") left on. The most expensive option pound-for-pound, PSMOs offer considerable savings over other tenderloin options as they require little handling by the chef since the fat and trimmings have already been removed.
Best Way to Cook
Tenderloin steaks are best cooked hot and fast and benefit from their time on the grill. Hot and fast means exactly that. This is the sort of steak that should be charred on the surface, and its temperature should be no more than medium in the middle. Marinades are usually not required as long as you do not overcook the meat. You can add a little additional flavor in the form of a spice rub.
Filet Mignon and Other Cuts
The three main cuts of the tenderloin are the butt, the center-cut, and the tail. The filet mignon is cut from the large end of the tenderloin from a steer or heifer. In the U.S., both the central and large end of the tenderloin is often sold as filet mignon in supermarkets and restaurants. The French terms for these cuts are tournedos for the smaller central portion, and châteaubriand for the larger, most tender central portion. Tournedos are cut from the smaller end of the tenderloin.
Since it is the tenderest part of the animal, beef dishes requiring exceptionally tender meat, such as steak tartare are ideally made from the tenderloin. The butt end is usually suitable for carpaccio. Cutting a whole tenderloin into steaks of equal weight will yield proportionally very thin steaks from the butt end. The filet mignon or tenderloin steak is often the cut of meat prepared in beef Wellington. The tail, which is generally unsuitable for steaks due to size inconsistency, can be used in recipes where small pieces of a tender cut are called for, such as beef Stroganoff.
Filet Mignon Recipes
Filet mignon, which means "dainty filet" in French is the most tender cut of beef and is also arguably the most desirable and therefore the most expensive. Check out these recipes for a perfect filet mignon.
- Herb-crusted filet mignon
- Martini-marinated filet mignon with sautéed spinach and pine nuts
- Grilled filet mignon with ginger and red wine
- Southwest-style filet mignon
- Cumin and black pepper crusted filet mignon
- Filet mignon with peppercorn-thyme butter
- Bacon-wrapped filet mignon