The weather is changing and your grill beckons. Longer, warmer days beg for full propane tanks and your favorite meats and vegetables, thrown atop the flame.
One of the most iconic cuts within the wide world of animal protein is filet mignon. This delicate steak is prized for both its texture as well as its scarcity. Simply put, there’s just not much of it per cow. The tender cut is pulled from the smaller, front-end of the tenderloin, around the animal’s upper midsection. It tends to show up as a round cut, which makes sense as it runs around the cow’s spine.
But let’s get into the fun part: How do you grill this coveted bit of beef? Dan Thiessen is the managing partner at Walla Walla Steak Company, easily one of the best steak houses on the west coast. The restaurant also shares a space with sibling business and esteemed operation Crossbuck Brewing. Thiessen is an industry veteran, having studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York before teaching the culinary arts at both the Art Institute of Seattle and Walla Walla Community College.
“With gas, you need a different approach,” begins Thiessen. “At the end of the day, a gas grill is an oven.” He says that while grilling with propane, the internal chamber of the grill can reach temperatures of 550-600 degrees. With that in mind, grilling something as delicate as filet mignon won’t take too much time. But you want to do it right.
We’ve got Thiessen’s method below, which will have to be tweaked this way or that depending on the size of your fillet. It’s a great template for cooking this particular cut but requires so more context to truly perfect. For instance, Thiessen touts the importance of bringing your steak to temperature before grilling. It will take more heat and time to grill a steak straight out of the fridge and you may lose some of that prized texture en route.
After grilling, resting is key. “The bigger the meat, the longer you rest,” says Thiessen. It allows even heat and flavor distribution throughout the cut. It also has to do with the carryover effect, which is all about how the steak continues to heat even after it’s pulled from the heat source. “The outside of the steak is warmer than the inside,” Thiessen says. “And what you’re looking for, if medium-rare is what you’re after, is a top-to-bottom temperature of 130.”
If you can’t get your hands on filet mignon, Thiessen suggests a cut called the shoulder clod (sometimes called petite tenderloin). If you do use a filet, he suggests some marination or an infused oil of some kind — think herbs like rosemary and thyme. As beloved as filet mignon is, it’s not the most flavorful cut. “The more a muscle is used, the more connective tissue and flavor you get,” Thiessen says. “A fillet is very lean with not a lot of fat. It’s a muscle that’s not used much.”
- Sear the steak on high for about 2 minutes.
- Flip the steak and turn the heat down to medium or medium-low. Leave the door open to allow some heat to escape and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Flip the steak a final time and offset the cut at 45 degrees to achieve expert grill marks (what Thiessen dubs “diamond-plate”).
- Pull the meat a tad early to account for the carry-over effect. In other words, if you’re going for medium-rare (130 F), remove the steak at 126 F.
- Let the meat rest for several minutes, recheck the temperature, and dig in.
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