Do you like filet mignon wrapped in bacon

Roast beef fillet the right way: this is how you get the best piece of beef

A Fry fillet of beef is without question something very special. When I was a child, such a tender, juicy fillet was only served on special occasions. My grandmother would always point her finger at my plate and say: "No leftovers for the holiday!".

The noblest piece of the animal is of course also the most expensive and not on the daily menu. So you better know how to deal with it. In this guide you will find out everything you need to know about purchasing, quality, the correct preparation and storage of beef fillet.

And I'll tell you a few tricks you can always use to keep the meat wonderfully tender and juicy put on the table.

Table of Contents

What is a fillet anyway?

The finest part of the beef is called fillet (English tenderloin). Other common names are sirloin, sirloin, or lung roast. The fillet is an elongated, club-shaped muscle strand on the back of the animals (more precisely between the spine and the roast beef). As this muscle is very rarely used by animals, the fillet meat is lean, has a fine taste and is tender as butter. These characteristics and the small percentage in a cattle make this cut the most expensive section of the animal.

A little anecdote on the side of the sirloin: In professional circles, the fillet is also called the "copulation muscle" (or more obscene). Because it is only needed when shifting the hip. And cattle only do that for a single activity ...

Parts of the beef fillet

The parts at a glance:

  • Fillet head - the Chateaubriand is cut from this part. A large double fillet
  • Middle piece - the well-known fillet steak cuts are cut from the middle piece: filet mignon, medallions and tournedos
  • Fillet tip - The thin end is used for fondue, strips of meat and beef stroganoff

The name "Chateubriand" goes back to the famous French writer and politician François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand. According to legend, Count de Chateaubriand always ate a double portion of beef fillet, which at some point prompted his personal chef, Montmirel, to simply cut a double piece out of the wide fillet head.

How do I recognize good quality?

  • The price of a beef fillet is a good indicator of quality. Fillet from factory farming from local Simmental cattle is of course cheaper than the meat from free-range premium cattle breeds. So you can assume that a fillet from the butcher tastes much better than a wrapped piece from the discounter around the corner.
  • The optics of a fillet also gives you a good first impression. A good quality piece is dark red. This suggests that it has matured properly (just under 2 weeks for wet aging and up to 5 weeks for dry aging).
  • Bright red fillets often suggest a very short ripening process. You should always avoid greyish or even greenish discolouration entirely. In these cases the steaks are bad and no longer edible.
  • Definitely a plus a thin marbling (intramuscular fat) in meat. This usually stands for good animal husbandry (or a noble breed of cattle).

If possible, I recommend that you get your meat from a good butcher. Even if it is a bit more expensive than in the supermarket, the difference in quality is enormous. In addition, your butcher can give you the most competent advice on questions about origin, race and origin.

High quality is reflected in the taste. In contrast to cheaper meat, you get it from the supermarket or discount store

  • More tender meat
  • More intense taste of its own
  • Finer marbling in the meat
  • A longer maturation period for the fillet
  • No factory farming
  • No fattening feed
  • No antibiotics or other drugs added

Nerd knowledge: The tenderness of meat is scientifically measured with the "Warner-Bratzler scissors". This device looks like a V-plane soldered onto a microscope. A piece of meat is placed under the blunt V-shaped blade and cut into pieces. The force that the scissors need to cut the steak is measured in kilograms. The easier the scissors get through, the more tender the meat. As a result, Angus and Hereford cattle are way ahead on the tenderness scale with scores of 2.7 and 3.0. Our local Fleckvieh, on the other hand, is much tougher with 5.6 on the Warner-Bratzler scale.

What does a good fillet have to cost?

Yes, fillet pieces are expensive. At least more expensive than the rest of the beef. But be careful! Here, too, the quality fluctuates.

  • in the Supermarket around the corner you can get packaged fillet of beef (from factory farming, mostly from local Simmental cattle) for 39 € per kilo
  • Fillet off free or demeter attitude already cost around the 60 € per kilo
  • For a Wagyu You have to go with the fillet € 320 per kilo already reach into your pocket properly.
  • The most expensive fillet comes from Japan, of course. A original Kobe Wagyu Fillet medallion is included € 700 per kilogram.

A whole fillet makes up about 2% of the total weight of a beef. That is one reason for the high price.

So it always depends on what your dish is worth to you (and maybe also who you are cooking for). In general, one can say that expensive meat also tastes better.

Why are dry aged steaks even more expensive?

In contrast to today's conventional wet aging process, dry aged meat needs space, time and knowledge. All things that have become rare as a result of globalization.

Where can I buy good fillet?

  • Preferably at the butcher. He can also order a fancy piece for you if he doesn't have it himself.
  • There are now even “premium supermarkets” that offer imported meat from overseas and also have their own maturing cabinets
  • In wholesale markets such as the Metro, there are also sometimes very high-quality cuts. The only catch is that these pieces come in one piece and you have to buy a whole beef tenderloin. That can be 2-3 kg. However, when you get home you can pre-cut and freeze the pieces. Or you share a fillet with friends (meat sharing).

You can only get a metro card if you have a trade license. However, you can always take an accompanying person with you. Maybe you know someone who knows someone who knows someone ...

You can get by far the largest selection online. Here you can have chilled specialties from all over the world delivered to your home. However, the provider should be trustworthy. Very good suppliers are e.g.

Keep your eyes open when buying beef. There is also the term “wrong fillet”. This cut has nothing in common with the real fillet. It comes from a section of the shoulder and is only reminiscent of its namesake in terms of shape. The wrong fillet is not suitable as a steak because it has a thick tendon running through it. Rather, it is used for long cooking or for stews.

Up to which cooking level should I fry my fillet?

Tastes are different. However, due to its tenderness, a good piece of fillet is definitely suitable to be eaten "rarely". "Medium rare" and "medium" are also justifiable as far as possible.

If you cook your fillet all the way through (well done), you unfortunately have little of the delicate, fine taste. A good guideline for roasting beef fillet, however, is the following:

Rare (bloody) - 45-47 ° C core temperature: Dark red meat color, seared on the outside - completely raw on the inside

Medium rare - 50-52 ° C core temperature: Flesh color reddish, bloody core inside

Medium - 55-58 ° C core temperature: Flesh color pink, no raw stone left

Well Done - 60-75 ° C core temperature: Meat color dark pink to slightly grayish, completely cooked through

Core temperature of beef fillet and co

Hit the right cooking point

Of course, if you have a lot of experience or luck you can reach a perfect core temperature when roasting beef fillet, but it is easier with a thermometer. And it's also far less stressful, by the way. If you are not a fan of fat roasting thermometers, buy a small and handy pocket thermometer. As the name suggests, the thin needle is foldable so that it fits perfectly in your pocket.

In many cookery programs or specialist books you can hear that the degree of doneness of meat can be easily recognized by tapping with your finger.

However, this technique is far from accurate. After all, every human being is anatomically built differently. The same applies to your fillet and its breed, quality, etc. No piece of meat is like the other. If you still want to try the method or if you don't have a thermometer at hand, you can see how it works here.

Hand test of the core temperature

Thicken the beef fillet

If you want to roast a whole fillet of beef, it is important to tie the good piece tightly so that it retains its shape while roasting and so that all areas can be cooked as evenly as possible. There are many techniques for securely lashing your meat. My personal favorite, however, is the butcher's method. All you need is a roll of butcher's twine and a knife.

Make sure the thread doesn't contain plastic. Otherwise it can melt in the oven.

Create a loop as if you were tying a normal knot. Take the end of the yarn that is hanging on the cord in 2 fingers and push the resulting loop through the knot ring from below.

Pull the loop together from above. Now you have an adjustable sling in your hand.

Widen the loop a little and wrap it around the fillet head. Hold your finger on top and pull the noose tight.

Pull some yarn out of the cord. Lay the yarn over the palm of your hand from below. Your fingers point to you.

Turn your hand forward. This is how you get the next loop.

Grasp the fillet head and pull the loop over your first knot.

Repeat the process and pull the loops really tight until you reach the fillet tip.

At the end, turn the fillet over.

Hold the twine in the middle so that the fillet tip doesn't fall out (you can also cut 2/3 of the fillet tail and fold it over). Take some thread off the spool and cut the string.

Go with the cut end from below through each individual loop, make a "backward loop" with the yarn and put the yarn through the loop again from the back.

When you arrive at the front, take the protruding piece of yarn from your first loop to the back and knot both loose ends tightly together.

Tied in so tightly, your beef fillet can no longer lose its shape while cooking.

The 6 most common mistakes made with frying beef tenderloin (and how to avoid them)

If you can already afford such an expensive piece of meat, it should come as perfectly as possible on the table. But the lean fillet in particular is a little diva and tends to dry out quickly or to boil over. Perhaps you've stood at the stove and thought, "Damn it, why isn't that spot on?"

There are a few beef tenderloin frying mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Not properly trimmed

A fillet has an outer silver skin that needs to be trimmed. When roasting it contracts, the meat cramps and becomes tough. The skin is also not edible. So take a sharp filleting knife (a knife with a flexible blade), poke just under the silver skin and cut it in one direction flat to the side. Turn the knife over, take the skin of connective tissue in your hand and cut just below the meat to the end. Put the knife edge angled slightly upwards to the silver skin so that you have as little fillet waste as possible.

Removal of the silver skin from the beef fillet

Do not trim your fillet until shortly before frying, otherwise uncleanly cut areas will allow the meat to dry out.

The process of trimming the silver skin is called “skinning” in technical terms.


2. Badly seasoned

A very sensitive subject. There are countless opinions when it comes to salting a piece of meat. Personally, I usually salt fillet right before frying, as the crystals simply adhere better than afterwards when the fried fillet comes out of the pan. (If you want to know more about the salt issue and the subject of osmosis, take a look at the Steak Guide.)

I got fantastically tender fillets by thoroughly salting the meat on both sides, vacuum sealing and letting it steep in the fridge for 2 days. Even if you aren't a fan of Salts before, it's definitely worth a try, isn't it?


3. Uneven heat distribution

If your fillet cooks unevenly, some places will always cook faster than others. Ideally, all areas should get the same heat. This is especially annoying and visible when you cook a beef fillet in one piece. If the fillet head is medium rare, the tapering fillet tip is already medium or well done.

With a simple trick you can get your good piece to the same core temperature almost everywhere. Cut 2/3 of the noticeably thinner end ...

Bring the fillet to a uniform thickness

and fold the tip piece up. This means that your fillet has the same thickness everywhere and can cook evenly. If you tie the meat thoroughly, your folded piece will stay in place even while cooking.

Folded fillet tip

Even if you put a larger or whole fillet in the pan, you will notice that it quickly loses its shape when frying and the side edges lie flatter in the pan than anything else. This also means that these spots are cooked much faster. A simple trick is to tie your fillet. Take a piece of butcher's twine and belt your fillets. Gently pull the yarn together and secure it with a double knot. Cut off any excess yarn with a knife. This means that all areas have the chance to cook evenly and the fillet cannot be removed from its shape even when it is seared or in the oven.

4. No thermometer used

In contrast to other steaks, the fillet has very little fat that escapes when roasting and keeps the meat juicy inside. There is a risk that your fillet will become tough or dry when cut. The only sure way to have a perfect result on your plate every time is and remains your thermometer.

Exact checking of the core temperature with a thermometer

Nothing can burn with it!

Don't forget to take out your fillet 2 ° C below the perfect core temperature, as it will stretch a little under the aluminum foil.

5. Rest phase not observed

After frying your fillet, give it a few minutes to rest so that the meat relaxes and the meat juices can be evenly distributed again. If you cut it right after frying, most of the aromatic meat juice will run onto your plate. That is why:

Let the fillet steaks rest under aluminum foil for 2-5 minutes. An approximate rule of thumb is about 1 minute per 100 g

Whole fillets can take 10-20 minutes under aluminum foil.


6. Unevenly cooked

If you cut your fillet in half in a good restaurant, it usually looks slightly different than at home. The fillet has exactly one degree of doneness down to the crust (with the rare and medium rare doneness, of course, including a raw core). Taken out of the pan at home and cut, you usually see a course in the meat. The crust is nice and dark. The sections below, however, are already grayish (overcooked). In the middle is the cooking level that you actually want to achieve.

Why is that? If you put your meat in a very hot pan, the concentrated energy goes into the surface of the meat and then moves further inside. The longer you add high energy from the outside, the stronger this effect is. That is why there is usually a grayish edge in the meat directly under the crust. But you need constant energy to reach the meat core and give it the degree of doneness you want.

So what can you do

  • Do not put your fillet in the oven in a pan or saucepan after searing it. These act like a heat shield. This way, your expensive meat gets a lot more heat from above and cooks unevenly. A baking sheet has the same effect. Always place meat “naked” on the wire rack
  • If you only cook your fillet in the pan, let it take on an even crust on all sides and then turn it every 15 seconds. It sounds a bit unorthodox, as many books say that meat can only be turned once, otherwise it will be tough. After many attempts and exchanges with professional cook colleagues, however, I can solemnly announce that your meat will cook more holistically and faster, because you are adding approximately the same heat from all sides by constantly turning it
  • By far the best method, however, is low cooking. Apply little but steady heat to your meat and slowly but surely let the entire piece simmer to your desired degree of doneness. Granted, it can take a while. A 400 g piece needs about 3 hours in the oven at 80 ° C. Sous vide cooked no less.

Then you give the pieces a crispy, delicious crust. Either briefly from all sides in an almost glowing cast pan, with the soldering torch or directly on the grill. Here you can show what firepower you have. The faster you can conjure up a crust from the outside of the meat, the less overcooked meat will be in the “inner ring” (the already grayish cooked edge of meat directly under the crust).

An overcooked edge can clearly be seen on the left fillet. The fillet on the right has a consistent core temperature without flowing through the meat.

How to prepare beef tenderloin: the 6 best methods

One calculates as Main course 180-280 g Filet. Some Girls experience has shown that they eat a little less. A fillet tournedo with around 150 g already enough. That is why this fillet section is also called “lady cut” in some steak houses.

The cast iron pan

You need:

  • 200 g beef fillet
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100 g butter
  • 15 ml of sunflower oil
  • 1 cast iron pan