With 15 popular cuts of steak, it’s easy to mix them all up and use the terms interchangeably. After all, if you’re not a chef or a steak enthusiast, then who’s to know the difference between a rump and a rib-eye?
Beef tenderloin and filet mignon, for example, are two of the most popular cuts of meat ordered at a restaurant or butcher shop.
Problem is, people don’t know if there’s a difference between the two. Is beef tenderloin the same as filet mignon?
Since this pair are two of the most confusing when it comes to differentiation, I’m going to focus on this. So, if you’re wondering if beef tenderloin is the same as filet mignon, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s everything you need to know about beef tenderloin and filet mignon.
Is Beef Tenderloin The Same As Filet Mignon?
Let’s get it straight – beef tenderloin is technically the same as filet mignon. Filet mignon is a cut from the tenderloin, which is why some people assume that it’s the same cut of meat.
Likewise, beef tenderloin is a large cut of meat from a cow, which includes the filet mignon.
Get it? The tenderloin is a big cut from a cow, and the filet mignon makes up part of the tenderloin.
What’s The Difference Between Beef Tenderloin And Filet Mignon?
Before I compare the two cuts of meat, let’s take a look at what defines beef tenderloin and filet mignon. It’s a little confusing, so bear with me.
As the name suggests, beef tenderloin is a large cut of meat that is the whole tenderloin muscle. This muscle is around 18 to 24 inches long, so it’s pretty long! It extends from the loin primal to the sirloin primal.
This muscle is located at the back of the cow’s back and above the hip bone. This location means that it doesn’t really get exercised. As a result, beef tenderloin is an extremely tender and lean piece of meat, thanks to the small muscle fibers.
It also doesn’t contain much fat or connective tissue (other than a small layer of silverskin which can be cut off). This makes it the ideal cut of meat for those who don’t enjoy fatty beef.
Butcher stores will sell either the entire tenderloin muscle, or they will sell it in separate slices. One of these slices is filet mignon.
If you were going to buy a whole tenderloin, then you would get a lot of meat, so it isn’t for the faint hearted!
As mentioned earlier, filet mignon is a slice from the larger tenderloin muscle. This cut is from the most narrow part of the tenderloin muscle, closest to the short loin.
This cut is similar to regular tenderloin, as it doesn’t contain much fat or connective tissue. As a result, it has a tender texture and is non-chewy. To cook this meat perfectly, you can reverse sear filet mignon to perfection.
Due to its location on the tenderloin muscle, which receives little to no exercise, this is arguably the most sought after cut of beef. It’s practically melt-in-your-mouth and perfect for restaurants.
When cooked properly, filet mignon is so tender that it essentially dissolves in your mouth. While it’s not the most flavorsome cut of beef, filet mignon is certainly a beautiful choice for the texture alone.
As the name suggests, filet mignon is a small cut of meat (“mignon” meaning “small” in French). This cut is typically 1-2 inches thick, and 2-3 inches in diameter.
Despite this small size, filet mignon is one of the most expensive cuts of beef. Especially because it is often paired with decadent sides such as sautéed asparagus.
The Differences Between Beef Tenderloin And Filet Mignon
While the filet mignon is a cut from the tenderloin muscle, there are still clear differences between them.
The texture of the tenderloin cuts and filet mignon cuts are almost the same. However, due to the placement of the filet mignon (and how little the tenderloin muscle is used), the filet mignon is undoubtedly more tender than other tenderloin cuts.
While this means the flavor is less beef-like compared to other tenderloin cuts, it also means the filet mignon has a distinctly softer texture, making it feel like it melts in your mouth.
The biggest physical difference between beef tenderloin and filet mignon is the size of the cuts. Filet mignon is often served by itself, which is the narrowest tip of the tenderloin muscle. These cuts typically have a much smaller diameter (2-3 inches typically).
However, if you want a tenderloin, you can buy the muscle in a large cut, several cuts (with or without the filet mignon), or the entire muscle all together.
The filet mignon is included in this, but because the cut hasn’t been made, then it’s just part of the tenderloin and not the filet mignon.
So, if you want enough beef to make a beef wellington, then you’ll probably want to buy the whole tenderloin.
If you want just a good cut of beef for a nice dinner, then your butcher will probably sell just the filet mignon.
The way filet mignon and tenderloin are cooked is also different, and this is because of the size difference.
As tenderloin is a large cut of meat, it’s usually roasted at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for just under an hour for a medium-rare finish. It can also be cooked for longer at a lower temperature. This will make the meat “fall off the bone”.
For the best results, I always recommend getting a meat thermometer, so you know exactly when the beef is cooked. Without it, it’s a risky game!
Filet mignon is slightly more difficult to cook if you want to make the most of the cut. Still, it’s only ever cooked on a skillet or a cast iron frying pan for a matter of minutes due to the small size.
Butchery Style Depends On Country
Each region has their own way of cutting beef, including the tenderloin. In America, butchers usually leave the tenderloin as one large cut of meat.
The T-bone includes the filet mignon, and the châteaubriand is included in the porterhouse steak.
In other parts of the world, the tenderloin will be separated into different cuts with different names. It’s impossible to win, so if you’re going abroad, you might want to do some studying beforehand.
So, there you have it! Technically speaking, the beef tenderloin is the same as filet mignon, because the filet mignon is a part of the tenderloin.
However, while part of the same muscle, the filet mignon is seen as a different cut to the tenderloin. It’s often cut from the whole tenderloin into small, 2-3 inch diameter cuts that will melt in the mouth.
Want to learn about how to properly season your tenderloin or filet mignon?? Check out this comprehensive list of the 33 most popular spices!