How to Barbecue Perfect Medium Rare Filet Mignon
Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon
Filet mignon is the king of beef. It’s part of the tenderloin. For more information on how it’s cut and on the merits of grass-fed versus corn-fed filet, see my other article on filet mignon.
I know some people like their meat well done, but, in my opinion, filet mignon should be served medium rare at 125 degrees. It's best with a very simple presentation that lets its moist, fat-marbled taste stand out.
Here is how to grill perfect filet mignon.
Recipe for Filet Mignon on the Barbecue
- Filet mignon steak, 1 ½ inches thick
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
Take the meat out of the refrigerator an hour before grilling. Getting the meat to room temperature will help it cook evenly. Never put filet mignon directly out of the refrigerator onto the grill.
Put the filet mignon on a plate, crack fresh pepper onto it, and then add salt to both sides. I like to pat the seasoning gently into the meat with my hands.
Getting the Grill Ready
Heat the grill to as hot as it will go (500 degrees), and scrub it with a wire brush if it's dirty. Once it's clean, spray it with a little oil to keep the filet from sticking to the grill.
Sear the Steaks
Filet mignon needs to be grilled (that is, seared) at a high temperature. Using a pair of tongs, place the steak on the grill (it must be hot enough to make it sizzle right off) and close the lid. I cook it twice on each side, turning the steak three times total. This process creates grill marks on on each side (see below). To cook a 1 ½ inch steak at 500 degrees to medium rare—and like I said, medium rare is the best—each turn on the grill should be no more than two and a half minutes long, for a total grilling time of ten minutes.
In this example, I'm grilling Argentinian style, over small pieces of aged oak wood. This adds a smoky dimension to the meat.
How to Create Those Diamond Sear Marks
Getting perfect crisscrosses on the steak takes a little practice. The hot grate brands the meat with the distinctive lines. Make sure the barbecue grate is fully heated before grilling. Try to grill each side about the same amount of time. When you flip the steaks, turn them 90 degrees, to get a new, intersecting set of lines.
Beginners run into problems because they get to the end of the grilling session and realize the meat isn't done. So they continue to grill and to avoid one side getting too done, they continue to flip the meat. The meat will likely taste delicious, but it won't have the perfect presentation.
Checking the Steak for Doneness
How Long to Sear Steaks
Time Between Turnings
Total Cooking Time
Internal Temperature At Which To Remove Meat From Grill
Resting Time After Grilling
2 1/2 min per side (then repeat)
3 1/2 min per side (then repeat)
3 1/2 min per side (then repeat)
To be sure of the temperature, use an instant-read thermometer (I use a Thermapen that's used in labs). At the very end of the last two-and-a-half minute grilling period, insert the thermometer from the side of the steak and get a temperature reading. Even though USDA recommends a higher temperature for a medium-rare steak, I find pulling my steak off the grill at 120 to 125 degrees results in a perfect medium rare steak, just the way I like it—because after you pull it, it continues to cook, and the temperature continues to rise.
Many purists think it's sacrilegious to pierce a steak with a thermometer, for fear of losing all the succulent juices. While an insignificant dribble of juice will escape when the meat is pricked, using an accurate thermometer is well worth it, if, as a beginning griller, you want to know when to pull off your steak. Once you know your grill and its hot spots very well and have a good idea how long steaks take to grill, then you can gauge the internal temperature with a cooking timer. Until then, use an instant-read thermometer.
Filet Needs to Rest Before Serving
Once the meat is pulled from the grill, let it rest for ten minutes before serving. While the meat rests, the internal temperature typically rises an additional ten degrees. Lots of people overcook their meat because they think that pulling it off at 130 or 140 degrees will result in a medium rare steak. It won't. It will result in a well-done little brick. If you want medium rare filet, pull it at 120 to 125 degrees.
Perfectly Cooked Medium Rare Filet Mignon
Perfectly cooked filet mignon should be pink from edge to edge, moist and delicious.
Remember the keys to perfectly grilled filet mignon: start with room-temperature steak, heat the grill well, and use a meat thermometer.
Now, it's time to enjoy your dinner. I recommend pairing filet mignon with a full-bodied red wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is my favorite choice.
Barbecued Filet Mignon Variations
These classic variations will come out delicious on the grill if you follow the instructions above.
Paul's Sunday Special Filet Mignon Recipe
- Filet mignon
- Garlic salt to taste
- Black pepper cracked to taste
Paul's Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon
- “Petite” filet mignons (small fillets, 4-5 ounces apiece)
- One strip of thick-cut bacon per fillet
- Coarse salt and black pepper to taste
Season the steak, wrap the bacon around its circumference, and pin it together with a toothpick. Small fillets work best for this so the bacon wraps completely around the steak.
Blue-Cheese-Stuffed Filet Mignon
- Filet mignon
- Garlic salt, seasoned salt, or truffle salt to taste
- Cracked black pepper
- Stilton blue cheese—about one tablespoon per steak
Season the steak with salt and pepper, and make a small slit in the side of the fillet about two inches wide that reaches past the center point of the steak. Stuff with about a tablespoon of blue cheese. Pin the edges of the steak back together with a toothpick.