Steak isn’t something that I eat a lot of. It’s something that I cook even less. But when I’m in the mood for steak, I tend to go all out, but within reason, of course. There are many cuts of steak that one can get, but there is none quite as coveted and universally well-liked as a good filet. There are also very few that are as strongly disliked as a bad filet. The difference, by and large, is in how it’s cooked. The filet, or filet mignon that we’re all accustomed to, is a cut of beef from the tenderloin. As one might imagine, it’s a very tender cut, until it is mercilessly overcooked at the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to cook it properly.
Guess what. That was me. For a long, long time. Until I learned how to cook it. It wasn’t difficult. Just picking up a method, trying it, and honing it a couple times. The key with filet, and many meats, is to sear it on the outside in order to create a protective barrier, so to speak, to keep all the juices locked inside, and then finish cooking it. Sounds simple, but it’s one of those evasive techniques for someone who is rather accustomed to choosing a heat that won’t burn something, and “cooking until done”.
The myriad of ways this filet can be dressed up with toppings and sauces are almost unending. This rather short recipe is simply to help you produce a perfectly-cooked filet mignon. What you do with it from there is virtually limitless.
From there, you have the ability to backtrack just a bit and produce a popular Steak au Poivre, by using a lot more peppercorn to crust it with before cooking, and then finishing by making a sauce from the remnants of the pan with some cognac, heavy cream, butter, shallots, and dijon.
Pair it with shoestring fries and it’s Steak au Frites. Or perhaps you’d like a rich Truffle Bearnaise sauce, a Creamy Horseradish, a Bordelaise, a simple Herbed Butter, Blue Cheese with a Red Wine Reduction. Need more than just a sauce? Go for Steak Oscar, and top it with lump crab meat, or pair a lobster tail on the side for surf and turf.
The Perfect Filet
- large cast iron pan
- 4 filet mignons – around 8oz, center-cut if possible, 1 ½" thick, dried with paper towels
- olive or avocado oil
- ground black pepper
- kosher salt
- Set oven rack in middle position, place cast iron skillet inside, and preheat to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
- While oven is preheating, dry the steaks as much as possible with paper towels, and then season with ground black pepper and kosher salt.
- Once oven has reached full temperature, carefully remove cast iron skillet with heat-protective hot pad or oven mitts, and place on burner, setting heat to medium-high. Drizzle approximately 1 tbsp of olive or avocado oil in pan, and as it begins to smoke, use tongs to gently place filet in the pan, being careful to watch for splattering.
- Cook the steaks for about 2-3 minutes, taking care to not move them until a good sear has formed and the lower sides of the steak appear to begin browning.
- With tongs, carefully turn the steaks over to sear for another 2-3 minutes, again, taking care not to move them.
- Once they are finished searing, turn off the burner, and carefully place the skillet back in the oven. Roast until the center of the steak registers 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer for rare (about 4-5 minutes), 125 degrees for medium-rare (about 6-8 minutes) or 130 degrees for medium (about 8-10 minutes). Exact doneness will depend upon thickness of steak.
- Once finished, turn off oven, remove pan, and with clean tongs, carefully remove filets and transfer to a large plate, placing a loose-fitting piece of aluminum foil over them, and allowing to rest for 10 minutes before plating.