Good Filet Mignon can be the most exquisite cut of beef you’ll ever eat. It’s naturally lean yet tender enough you don’t need a steak knife. Filet Mignon is excellent with just salt and pepper, but it also takes well to a rich, silky sauce. At home, I love to make a creamy sauce flavored with garlic, herbs and white wine, something famous here in Iowa known as Steak de Burgo. You can find a version of the recipe on our YouTube page.
But, if you’ve ever purchased something labeled “filet” and been disappointed, that’s probably because you bought a lower quality cut. To help you avoid another bad eating experience, I’ll share a little about Filet Mignon and “red flags” on lookalike labels.
Filet Mignon comes from beef tenderloin. This is actually the most difficult cut of our steaks to butcher. And because beef tenderloin is also the most expensive cut of steak at Rube’s, it’s very important to cut it accurately so that steaks are the perfect size. Our steaks are all hand-cut, so the butcher must carefully judge exactly where to make the cut. It’s a skill that’s learned over years of practice.
When it comes to Filet, you get what you pay for. High quality Filet Mignon costs more than a sirloin or a strip or even a ribeye. So if you see something labeled Filet of Beef and the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
This morning I stopped by my local convenience store and picked up a Bacon Wrapped Filet of Beef. Without knowing what signs to look for on the label, you might read the word “filet” and assume this is Filet Mignon. But I looked carefully and nowhere on the packaging does the product say what cut of beef this is. By definition, a filet is really any boneless cut of meat. But Filet Mignon is the beef tenderloin. There’s quite a difference in taste and in price. The steak from the convenience store only cost $2.49, so that’s the first sign that it’s not Filet Mignon. Just to be sure, I called the company on the label (I’ve hidden their name in the pictures) and they confirmed to me that the steak is not Filet Mignon.
Here are some other clues to look for on packaging to help you determine if you’re buying a quality cut.
Are there additives to the beef? The label on this one shows they’ve added water, salt, flavoring and other additives. Note, those ingredients are separate from the bacon ingredients. Also, the label on the front of the package says there is a 20% added solution, so you can expect the steak to shrink significantly as that added moisture cooks out of the steak. All steak will shrink as it cooks, but especially one that’s filled with added liquid.
2. Is the beef mechanically tenderized? If it’s not directly obvious to the consumer, companies must disclose when they mechanically tenderize a steak, like they’ve noted on this label right underneath the name of the steak.
What is mechanical tenderizing? It’s a process where you use blades or needles to puncture a touch cut of meat. It breaks down the fibers and makes the meat easier to chew. But remember, I said that Filet Mignon is so tender you don’t even need a steak knife. So if you see something that looks like Filet Mignon but has been mechanically tenderized, it’s a giveaway that you’re buying some other cut of meat.
Here’s the most important thing to know about mechanical tenderizing: You have to cook the steak to well-done. In this picture, that’s the brown steak at the bottom with no visible pink remaining.
During the normal butcher process, when beef is cut into steaks, there’s a possibility for bacteria to be on the outside surfaces of a steak. But when you cook the steak, you kill the bacteria on the surface. That’s why on a normal, intact steak you don’t have to cook it to well done unless that’s your preference.
But when a steak is mechanically tenderized, those needles can pull surface bacteria down into the steak. That’s why the cooking directions on this tenderized steak say to cook to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. That’s the same doneness that you would cook ground beef. It’s necessary to cook the meet completely through to reduce the risk of illness.
Rube’s Filet Mignon are naturally tender and need no mechanical tenderizing.Therefore, you can cook them to you preferred level of doneness. If you’ve never tried one, treat yourself to this tender, buttery meal.
Fans of our Filet Mignon know ours are tall and thick. Ours are cut from the center of the beef tenderloin for a uniform shape and cooking. If you prefer your steak to be more done throughout, simply ask us to butterfly your steak at the meat counter, or butterfly your own at home. We give a demonstration in this short video.
Eating a Filet Mignon should be nothing but pure enjoyment, and now you know what to watch out for when you’re shopping for fresh beef. You won’t be fooled by a lookalike!