Filet mignon might be one of the more expensive cuts of meat, but don't let its price make you shy away from preparing it ahead of time. Restaurants and catering companies frequently sear their steaks ahead of time to cut down preparation requirements on serving day. When seared properly, your filet mignon will be a tender, juicy cut of meat that melts in your mouth.
The filet mignon, French for "small boneless meat," comes from the small end of the tenderloin -- also referred to as the short loin. It is exceptionally tender and doesn't contain any connective tissue. At the store, you might find filet mignon in 1- to 2-inch thick slices that are about 1 inch in diameter. Anything over 1 inch in diameter is taken from the center of the tenderloin, rather than the end, and is therefore not considered a true tenderloin. Some tenderloins come wrapped in bacon or another fatty layer to help prevent them from drying out during cooking.
While filet mignon is a prized cut of meat, it is mild in flavor. The rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor filet mignon is known for comes from the sear, which is produced using an extremely high heat to produce a deep brown exterior. The sear does not cook the meat; therefore, you can complete it ahead of time. Contrary to popular belief, searing does not prevent a piece of meat from drying out.
Filet mignon can be seared ahead of time on a grill or using a pan. To get a proper sear, you need high temperatures. Season your meat before searing for additional flavor. If using the grill, preheat to the highest temperature or make sure the charcoal coals are red in color. Sear each side of the filet for one to two minutes and remove from the heat. If using a pan, heat the pan over high heat. Pour a small amount of oil in the pan to prevent the meat from sticking. Sear the filet for one to two minutes per side and remove from the heat.
Once filet mignon is seared, it is prone to bacterial growth. Bacteria grows rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature range that the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the danger zone. To prevent foodborne illness, cook the filet mignon to its proper temperature within two hours after searing it or store and reheat. When cooking, a filet mignon should be cooked to medium-rare with an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. If storing, cool the filet mignon in the refrigerator in a shallow container and move to an airtight container or zip-top bag. Keep in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below for up to three to four days.
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- U.S. Department of Agriculture: How Temperatures Affect Food
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