The most prized cut of beef for many, the fillet is extremely tender and suits quick cooking. It is very lean with almost no fat running through it, which means it has less flavour than other cuts; it’s the meat’s soft texture that is most prized. It is usually the most expensive piece of beef available and should be cooked with care so as not to destroy its virtues. A whole fillet of beef will weigh around 2kg/4 1/2lbs and can serve 8-10 people.
To cook a whole fillet, season generously, sear briefly in a hot pan and transfer to the oven to finish roasting (this will take as little as 10 minutes for very rare meat). For a more elaborate dish, a whole fillet can be used in beef Wellington. Fillet steaks cooked past medium tend to become overcooked, dry and tasteless; instead fry them quickly in a hot pan, or grill or roast. Use red wine, brandy or port to deglaze the pan, then stir in some double cream and mustard, or a knob of butter and some chopped rosemary, for a simple sauce. Châteaubriand is the name given to a large steak cut from the thick end of the fillet and is normally cooked for two people to share. Filet mignon is the name given to smaller steaks cut from the tenderloin.
Article by Louisa Carter