The Filet Mignon is undeniably the most tender cut of all; truly in a class all its own with regards to this characteristic. This tenderness is a result of where the muscle is located in the animal. Tucked inside the loin, running along the vertebrae of the steer, it experiences almost zero movement during the animal’s lifetime. This lack of motion is what makes it so tender – because the muscle fibers are doing little to no work, they refrain from toughening up. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when purchasing meat, is to remember that the more movement the muscle had, the more tough the cut will be. This is why cuts like the shanks (the legs of the animal) must be slow cooked in order to break down the muscle fibers.
Generally, the Filet Mignon is a much smaller steak than the other premium cuts, usually only 3-4” in diameter. But this small size is also a big plus, because you can get a nice thickness without an overwhelming portion. The small diameter of the steak ultimately is the reason you won’t usually see filets cut over 10oz – at larger portion sizes, you’ll run into a situation where the height of the filet exceeds the width, and at that point it’s better to treat it as a roast than a steak.
If there is a negative to this steak, it would be that it will not deliver the intense flavor that some of the other steaks do. Moreover, because of the lack of protective covering (bone or fat) around the “psmo” (the piece that the filets are cut from), filets are unable to undergo the dry aging process to enhance the cut’s flavor. Well, technically you could dry age it, you would just end up with an incredibly small yield and have to charge an arm and a leg for it. The better option is to let the lack of flavor work in your favor – the filet provides the perfect blank canvas for any number of finishing sauces, or some shaved truffles for the ultimate in decadence.