Beef tenderloin aka filet mignon and beef ribeye are the most popular cuts of steak here in the U.S. and for damn good reason. A ribeye is bone-in giving it an extra punch of flavor from the cow’s rib fat. Fat means flavor. The ribeye tends to be richer than other cuts of steak and if left with a good length of the rib bone intact we refer to this beauty as the tomahawk, tomahawk chop, bone-in rib eye or cote du boeuf (if we’re in France). More about the rib eye later. Plain and simple, beef tenderloin is simply to die for. While not quite as flavorful as tenderloin this gal is incredibly tender, a rare cut and has a texture that can’t be matched. Queue Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares To You.
In this week’s blog, we’re going to be laying down some of the best tips and tricks for selecting and cooking tenderloin and ribeye. We’ll also point to a few musts when cooking any cut of meat.
What To Look For When Buying Steak
Your local meat market or butcher shop is your best bet for snagging a quality cut of meat. They may even cut your selection to order. At a meat market or butcher shop you’ll be in the care of an expert who can answer your questions and give you cooking tips and suggestions as well.
Selecting Rib Eye
This is actually much simpler than you might think. When selecting a ribeye you want to look for a large cap or spinalis dorsi. The ribeye cap or “crown” as it’s sometimes called is much more flavorful and tender than the “eye” of the steak. The eye and the cap are separated by a fat seam. Click here for a ribeye map. It’s really that simple, the cap packs the flavor. Or take the thinking out of it completely and head on over to your local meat market and talk to the butcher.
Selecting Beef Tenderloin
If you’re going the route of your local supermarket you’ll want to aim for USDA Prime cuts of tenderloin. The USDA grades cuts of meat and plugs them into three categories. Prime cuts provide abundant marbling (flavor and tenderness) and are the product of young, well-fed cattle. It’s the top two percent of meat. If you’re looking to treat yourself, consider purchasing cut-with-a-fork Japanese Wagyu beef.
What you’re looking for in a tenderloin is thickness, marbling and color. Now of course thickness is up to you — if you prefer your tenderloin on medium- medium-well side you may opt for a thinner cut but we recommend filets that are at least two inches thick. Our preference is a medium rare filet so a steak that’s three inches thick is ideal.
While tenderloin features much less marbling than other cuts you should look for some marbling. The small streaks of intramuscular fat (marbling) packs a flavorful punch. With or without marbling your filet is sure to be tender. That last characteristic to keep an eye out for is color and this really goes with all cuts of meat. Unless the steak has been intentionally dry aged (which is delicious) the cut should be uniformly dark pink/red in color.
How To Cook Your Cuts
There are many ways to prepare rib eye and beef tenderloin. For this blog we’re gonna stick to the basics. Whatever you do be sure to follow these must dos when cooking your cuts.
- Season (even filet mignon needs a bit of salt and pepper)
- Cook with a thermometer, not a timer (seriously)
- Let the meat rest after cooking
- Preheat the pan (if searing)
With the ribeye, it’s all about the crust. Here at Lady Jaye, we use our in house beef rub. We aim for that flawless medium rare and a steak that’s at least 1.5 inches thick is best. Crispy, perfectly charred crust is the goal here — it’s not the easiest task but absolutely doable! First you’ll want to set up a two-zone grill. Charcoal is great but if all you have is a gas grill that’ll work too. Do not, repeat, do not forget your thermometer.
Before you slather on the rub be sure to pat your rib eye dry with a paper towel. Now get your grill hot, 400℉. Place your cut on the hot side of the grill and flip it continuously every minute or so for five minutes. This is the base of the perfect crust and a step you can’t skip. After the flipping portion is over, move that steak on over to the cool side of the grill. From here it will grill to that flawless medium rare doneness. Now whip out your thermometer. For a medium rare steak we’re aiming for an internal temp of 125℉. Once at the proper temp you’ll want to brush your steak with a generous portion of butter and place it back on the hotside of the grill butter side down. Continue to butter the steak and flip it every 20 seconds. For the crustiest most delicious char you’ll want to repeat the buttering and flipping process three times. Pull your cut off the grill and let that baby rest for a few minutes before digging in.
Smoking a filet is the way to go and that’s exactly the process we’re outlining here. You can go the route of more traditional spices and herbs like garlic, thyme and rosemary or do a charcoal rub like we do here at Lady Jaye.
One option is to dry brine your filets. This is simply patting the filet dry, sprinkling it with kosher salt and letting it sit in the fridge for two hours. Once brined you’ll want to prepare your filet for the smoker by giving it a rub of olive oil and then a good sprinkling of herbs and spices or rub of seasoning. With filets most people opt to wrap these puppies in bacon and that’s totally up to you.
Next, you’ll want to prepare the smoker. We recommend smoking filets at 250℉ and if your smoker has a water pan you’ll want to fill that up. Depending on the thickness of your steaks they should cook to medium rare in about an hour or so. If you have one, use a leave-in thermometer and pull your steaks from the smoker once the internal temperature of the center of the steaks reaches 120℉.
Now you’ll want to sear the outside of the steaks. Simply let your skillet get to a scorching hot temperature and brown the top and bottom of the steak. Be careful not to let your steak sit on either side too long as you don’t want to cook the steak any further. Serve the steaks immediately.
Be sure to check back with us here and again for more grilling and smoking tips and tricks.