Filet mignon is an iconic cut of beef usually reserved for high-tier restaurants and specialist butchers. It’s so rare that there’s only one single filet mignon from an entire cow, but what part of a cow is a filet mignon?
Filet mignon comes from the psoas major muscle of the cow, which is the same muscle the tenderloin is cut from. Within the psoas major, only the very tip of the muscle makes up the filet mignon, so it’s usually sold separately from the regular tenderloin.
In this article we’ll discuss the filet mignon and where it comes from, learn how it differs from the more well-known tenderloin cut, and figure out what makes a filet mignon the most expensive cut of beef.
What is Filet Mignon?
Filet mignon is a small, circular cut of beef taken from the end of the psoas major muscle (tenderloin).
It’s prized for its tenderness (Filet mignon is the most tender cut of beef there is) and often described as buttery or “melt in the mouth”.
Since it’s such a rare cut, it often commands a high price in spite of the fact that it doesn’t have as much flavor as some other cuts.
Why is Filet Mignon so Tender? Isn’t it a Muscle?
Filet Mignon is the very end part of the tenderloin, also known as the psoas major muscle which connects the cow’s pelvis to their spine.
In butchery, more muscular meat is usually tougher and chewier than less muscular meat, but the psoas major muscle is different. Because the muscle is high up in the cow’s body, it has minimal work to do throughout the cow’s day, meaning it stays extremely tender.
In addition, the fibres of the tenderloin muscles all run the one way, meaning once the filet mignon is cut across the grain, the meat separates easily from itself.
What’s The Difference Between Filet Mignon and Tenderloin?
Filet mignon and tenderloin are very similar cuts. They are both very lean with minimal marbling, and they are both made from the same single muscle inside the cow, and they are also both eye-wateringly expensive!
It’s easy to understand why they are often confused, but there are a few key differences between tenderloin and filet mignon.
The biggest difference between filet mignon and tenderloin is that the tenderloin is the name given to the entire psoas major muscle, whereas the filet mignon is only a small section at the tip of the muscle. Filet mignon is the very end of the tenderloin and is the most sought after cut because it’s the most tender.
Read More: What is Sirloin?
Filet mignon is more tender than tenderloin. Although filet mignon and tenderloin are both parts of the same muscle, the filet mignon is the most tender part. In fact, ‘mignon’ is the French word for ‘delicate’.
The final difference between tenderloin and filet mignon is the price. Pound for pound, filet mignon is the most expensive cut of beef from the whole cow, often costing over $200 for a single portion.
Why Is Filet Mignon So Expensive?
Filet mignon is so expensive because it’s the most tender cut and is also the rarest cut of beef available. Even in the largest beef breeds, the filet mignon makes up only around 500g (17oz) of the entire beef carcass.
Although filet mignon is the most expensive steak, it’s not necessarily the most flavorful. Some chefs and foodies believe the mild flavor of the filet mignon does not justify its high price.
In spite of this, filet mignon is frequently used in haute cuisine, where the mild flavor is advantageous because the meat more readily absorbs other flavors from the same dish.
What Type of Cow Does Filet Mignon Come From?
Filet Mignon can come from any breed of cow, but it’s most prized when it comes from a beef breed, which have higher quality meat than dairy breeds.
Until recently, British breeds like Aberdeen Angus were the most sought after breed for high-end cuts like filet mignon, however Angus cattle is now widely farmed and there are rarer breeds that command a higher price.
Read More: How Many Steaks can you Get from One Cow?
Breeds like the Japanese Kobe (Tajima-gyu) have become extremely popular in recent years. A single kobe wagyu steak can set you back several hundred dollars due to the rarity of the cattle (there are fewer than 3,000 authentic Koba cattle in existence).
What Does Filet Mignon Mean? (Etymology)
Filet mignon gets its name from the French language. Filet means fillet, and mignon means delicate, or fragile.
The name refers to the tenderness of the cut, which is the most tender cut from the whole cow.
To sum up, filet mignon is the tender end-section of the tenderloin. Found in the core of the cow, the tenderloin is a long, tender muscle called the psoas major, which stretches from the cow’s hips to their spine, just under their first rib.
Filet mignon makes up such a small part of the tenderloin that it is by far the most expensive cut of beef possible. Filet mignon is so expensive due to its rarity and the desirability of the tender meat, which is extremely lean with minimal fat.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.