An undisputed classic among steak cuts is (and remains) the fillet of beef. It is still one of the most refined and most expensive cuts available. But is this elite status truly earned? The tenderloin muscle originates from the inner lumbar muscles of the back and is, therefore, subjected to the least amount of physical stress. It also has no support function whatsoever. As a result, the beef is exceptionally lean, fine-grained and incredibly tender when prepared correctly. The lofty price is due to the fact that the muscle only accounts for a very small proportion of the total meat mass of the slaughtered animal when compared with other cuts.
The international terms
- Germany – Filet/Lende
- Austria – Lungenbraten
- France – Filet
- Italy – Filetto
- UK – Fillet/Tenderloin
- USA – Filet-Steak/Tenderloin
Structure of the fillet muscle
Fillet is simply the generic term for the lean muscle of beef. On closer inspection, the tenderloin is once again divided into three sections – it consists of the tail, the centre cut and the tip. The latter gives rise to, among other things, the well-known dish Chateaubriand. When preparing the world-famous filet mignon or a perfect Beef Wellington, on the other hand, the centre cut is better suited. Evenly shaped and free of sinew, it guarantees precise and, above all, evenly distributed cooking under the right conditions. The fillet tips are often used in fondue, or as sliced beef.
How do you prepare a fillet of beef?
As tender and lean as it is – fillet of beef requires just as much of a delicate touch during preparation. That is why you should follow a few basic rules to ensure your fillet of beef is cooked to perfection. For example, a core temperature of 53°C should not be exceeded; otherwise, the beef tends to become dry and tough rather quickly. Cooking this cut to medium-rare or rare is, therefore, recommended and should be accompanied by the use of a meat thermometer. In order to still achieve a Maillard effect, you can work with high temperatures on the outside for a brief period before then allowing the cut to rest at a maximum temperature of 130°C for a corresponding length of time. Given its tenderness, it is also often processed raw if it is of the appropriate quality – an entirely unproblematic approach if good hygiene practices are observed and the cold chain remains intact
The fillet of beef is ideally suited for the following preparation methods:
- Raw – tartar, steak tartar, carpaccio
- Fried briefly – medallions/as a whole cut on the grill
- Cooked whole at low temperature – sous vide, reverse cooking method
Its use in stews is not advisable due to the meat’s structure and the lack of connective tissue.
How can I recognise a really good fillet of beef?
In addition to its comparatively high price, its appearance also plays a decisive role in the purchase. A high-quality fillet of beef is characterised by its deep red colour – this allows conclusions to be drawn about the animal’s provenance and diet. Products originating from factory farming and fattening should always be avoided when buying meat.
The colour also indicates the meat’s corresponding length of time for maturation – the lighter the cut, the shorter the maturation period. Another positive indication is a delicate but clearly visible marbling in the muscle. Intramuscular fat adds flavour to the beef and supports a pleasant texture when eaten.
Preparing the fillet of beef on the gas grill
A fillet is classically served medium – however, its extremely tender fibre structure also allows for any other cooking stage to be achieved. The only thing to note is that it should not be overcooked, as its lean texture means that too much heat will dry it out very quickly. The procedure for fillet steak is the same as for all other steaks from the grill: Sear on both sides until clear traces of the Maillard effect are visible – then allow it to cool down to the desired temperature over indirect heat (a warming rack is suitable for this, for example). Alternatively, you can also leave one side of your gas grill switched off; the steak should then be placed on this side after searing. It is essential to bear this in mind: The meat’s temperature continues to rise by 2-3 degrees during the resting time.