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Filet Mignon Vs Ribeye Steaks

Steaks are one of the most universally beloved cuts of meat. It’s why we have steakhouses and why even casual restaurants have some form of steak on their menus. However, there are just so many types of steak that it can be overwhelming.  Two of the most popular cuts of steak are the filet mignon and ribeye. Some steak lovers swear by one …

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By Jeremy Pike

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Filet Mignon vs Ribeye Steaks

Steaks are one of the most universally beloved cuts of meat. It’s why we have steakhouses and why even casual restaurants have some form of steak on their menus. However, there are just so many types of steak that it can be overwhelming. 

Two of the most popular cuts of steak are the filet mignon and ribeye. Some steak lovers swear by one or the other. So what is the difference between filet mignon and ribeye steaks? We need to look at some key characteristics of each steak: location, fat content, tenderness, and flavor. These criteria are what people cite when they answer the question of which is better: filet mignon vs ribeye steaks. 

You’ll find people who are ardent supporters of filet mignon as the best steak because of its unreal tenderness. However, you will also find people who want a ribeye every time because it’s arguably one of the best-tasting steaks on its own. Some might even say that ribeye steaks are the epitome of steak flavor.

So let’s slice these two cuts of meat up to find out what makes them so beloved.

What’s The Difference Between Filet Mignon And Ribeye Steaks

Just how different are these two steaks vying for the title of the king of steak? In order to answer that question, let’s get a basic level of understanding of these two cuts based on where they’re cut from, how much fat they have, and how they taste.

What Is A Filet Mignon?

Beef with cuts of meat

The filet mignon is cut from the tenderloin, a muscle that comes from the cow’s short loin primal. This is the cut of meat in a T-Bone or Porterhouse steak opposite the New York strip steak. The tenderloin gets its name due to how tender it is thanks to its lack of use during the cow’s life. We know that the harder a muscle works, the tougher it is. That’s why we need to smoke brisket low and slow because it was one of the hardest-working muscles on the cow during its lifetime. 

The filet mignon is a round cut due to the shape of the tenderloin, and it’s a small steak, usually no more than two inches thick and three inches in diameter. It does not have much in the way of marbling, or intramuscular fat. While it is not as lean as a bottom round steak, it won’t be confused with the fattiest cuts of steaks you’ll find

That lack of fat means that the filet mignon does not have the most flavor by itself. You’ll typically find filet mignon served with sauces or wrapped in bacon to give the steak more flavor to pair with its naturally tender texture. 

If you’re wondering what filet mignon means, it’s unsurprisingly French and means “delicate”.

What Is A Ribeye Steak?

Ribeye Steak
Wagyu Ribeye Steak

The ribeye steak, sometimes simply spelled out as a rib eye steak (or even sometimes referred to as a Delmonico steak, a Spencer steak, market steaks, or beauty steaks,) comes from the rib primal on the cow, and the ribeye is cut from the prime rib roast. The ribeye is tender for two main reasons: one, the muscles of this part of the cow’s rib section did little work during the life of the cow and secondly, the ribeye has plenty of marbling. You can find boneless ribeyes as well as bone-in, and ribeyes can be an inch thick or up to nearly three inches thickA thick-cut bone-in ribeye can be known as a cowboy steak.

Thanks to all that marbling, the ribeye delivers plenty of beefy flavor. Most people will stay simple by seasoning it with salt and pepper rather than pouring sauces over the finished ribeye.

Now that we have that basic understanding of these two cuts of steak, we can do a more precise side-by-side comparison.

Size

Measuring thickness of Cowboy Steak 2.5"

When it comes to how big these steaks are, they are completely different. A filet mignon is usually around eight ounces in weight, while a ribeye steak might be around 10-12 ounces if boneless and somewhere around two pounds for a cowboy steak (bone-in thick-cut ribeye.) A filet mignon is the main part of a meal while a cowboy steak (pictured above) is a meal plus leftovers.

Tenderness

Both of these steaks would be considered tender. That being said, filet mignon is world-renowned for being a tender cut of beef. Most people cook it to medium rare for the best experience. It doesn’t have much marbling to help keep it moist and tender during the cooking process, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t overcook it to keep it tender. 

The only way for ribeye steaks to be as tender as a filet mignon is if you’re getting a Wagyu ribeye like the ones we reviewed from the Meatery. These ribeyes were buttery smooth and they just melt in your mouth for a steak experience unlike any I’ve ever had. 

Marbling

Ribeye marbling vs filet mignon
Marbling comparison of Wagyu Ribeye on Left vs Striploin on Right

When it comes to the amount of fat these steaks have, the ribeye takes the cake. These steaks have plenty of marbling which can render out throughout the cooking process. That keeps the ribeye moist and tender. 

If you’re looking for a bit of a leaner experience, then you’ll want to choose the filet mignon. However, the high fat content of the ribeye makes for an incredible experience as well as helping with the next criteria.

Taste

All that marbling in the ribeye helps deliver a very beefy flavor. Filet mignon’s flavor is much more subtle which is why you’ll find it served with other flavor sources. Ribeyes? Just salt and pepper usually. 

If you’re looking to show off a new sauce recipe that will pair perfectly with beef, then a filet mignon is going to be perfect. You’ll get a super-tender steak that will also allow the flavor of the sauce to shine.

However, if you want a steak that gives you the flavor of beef, just stick with the ribeye.

Price

Now neither of these steaks are cheap, so don’t expect to be able to eat either of them for your daily dinner. However, filet mignon is one of the most expensive cuts of steak, even more expensive than a ribeye, so just be aware that you may want to save it for special occasions.

Do You Need To Use A Different Cooking Method For Filet Mignon And Ribeye Steaks?

Due to the different characteristics of the two cuts of meat, you’ll want to handle them a bit differently. You aren’t going to want to cook a filet mignon at high temperatures due to its lack of marbling. It will vastly increase your chances of drying it out. Meanwhile, ribeyes can be seared at high heat either in a pan or on the grill.

How do you best track the internal temperature when cooking a steak? You’ll want to have a quality instant-read thermometer that is accurate and gives you a quick reading. We’ve got a list of our favorite instant-read thermometers that will help you keep an eye on whichever steak you’re cooking.

How To Cook Filet Mignon

One of the best ways to prepare a filet mignon is by pan-searing it and then finishing it in an oven. You’ll want to preheat your oven to 350°F while you get a cast iron skillet warmed up over medium heat on the stove. Add roughly a tablespoon of vegetable oil or your preferred cooking oil to the skillet. Then sear the filet mignon for about three minutes a side to develop the crust before placing the pan with the steak in the oven. You’ll then cook it to an internal temperature of 130° or so for medium rare. Remember, there is always some thermal carryover when cooking a steak, and you’ll want to let your steak rest for five to 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. You can use the juices from the pan to get you started on a sauce to cover the filet mignon as well.

Safe Meat Serving Temps Infographic

How To Cook Ribeye Steaks

Grilling Cowboy Steak
Grilling a Cowboy Ribeye Steak

Due to the marbling of ribeyes, you can cook these steaks at a higher temperature which gives you more options. We’re a big fan of grilling ribeyes and we’ve got a step-by-step instruction guide that will help you get great grill marks and the flavor of a steak cooked over a fire.

Now, if you’re cooking a thicker ribeye like a cowboy steak, I’m much more partial to reverse-searing. You can do this inside by first cooking your steak in the oven at a low temperature like 250°F before searing it on the stovetop. 

However, as we are a barbecue and grilling site, my preferred way is actually smoking the thick ribeye first before searing it. I find my Camp Chef Apex hybrid gas and pellet grill is perfect for this, but you can do this with any pellet grill and a gas or charcoal grill. 

I preheat my pellet grill to 250°F and then put the steaks on. I’ll use a wireless meat thermometer like the ThermoPro Twin TempSpike (which is perfect if I’m cooking two steaks) to monitor the internal temperature while it smokes. Then I’ll cook the steaks until they reach about 5°F shy of my target. Once they are ready, I’ll let them rest for about 10 minutes while I get my grill set up for searing. 

On the Apex, I’ll fire up the Sidekick attachment with the griddle accessory to sear it, but you can use your favorite charcoal or gas grill. I also will pull the meat thermometers at this point. 

Once the 10 minutes are up and my cooking surface is ready for searing, I’ll put the steaks on for one to three minutes per side to just get those grill marks or beautiful crust developed. Once the steaks are seared, they can be plated and served immediately thanks to the resting period prior to searing.

Which Is Better: Filet Mignon Vs Ribeye

It’s not a cut-and-dried answer, unfortunately. It’s truly based on your personal preferences. If you are most concerned with tenderness and are looking for something a bit leaner with price not being an issue, you’ll probably want a filet mignon. If you want the most flavor in your steak and love cooking on a grill, you’ll want to stick with ribeye steaks.

There’s a reason why both of these steaks are highly appreciated, and that is simply that both steaks are incredible. 

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it. As long as you know what you’re looking for in a steak and know how to cook it properly, you cannot go wrong with either a filet mignon or a ribeye steak. As a fan of grilling, I personally lean towards ribeyes, but a filet mignon is fantastic as long as it is prepared by someone who knows what they are doing.

Which is your favorite steak, a filet mignon or a ribeye? Or do you have a different favorite? If you love filet mignon, do you have a go-to sauce you serve it with? Have you tried our chimichurri sauce on your steak yet? Let us know in the comments!

FAQs:

Question: Can I Reverse Sear A Filet Mignon?

Answer: If you’ve got a two-inch thick filet mignon, you absolutely can reverse sear it. It will even help boost the flavor profile. You’ll need to make sure you can monitor the internal temperature with a meat thermometer that likely uses wired probes. A wireless meat thermometer like the TwinSpikes profiled above or really any thermometer that uses a Bluetooth-connected probe has to be inserted into the cut of meat to a certain point marked by a line. This is to protect the internal circuitry from temperatures that could damage the internal components.

Otherwise, you’ll treat it much like you would the instructions above. The one change I would make is searing it in a pan with butter over a lower heat so you can keep the filet mignon moist. The ribeye can handle higher temperatures thanks to all that marbling.

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