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Filet Mignon vs. Ribeye: The Steak Comparison Series

Learn all the differences between filet mignon vs ribeye steaks. Anatomy, price, taste, texture, and the best cooking methods for each.

Let’s go!

filet mignon and ribeye steaks on a platter
Ribeye steaks (left) next to filet mignons (right)

 

Where Filet Mignon and Ribeye are from on the Cow

Beef comes from a cow, but it’s not that simple.

The location that the beef is taken from will change every major characteristic of the beef.

a diagram showing where filet mignon and ribeye come from on a cow

In the same way that your arm isn’t the same as your foot, a NY strip isn’t the same as a ribeye.

To start things off, here’s a great video from Eater explaining where all the different cuts of steak come from on the cow.

Anatomy of Filet Mignon

The filet comes from the tenderloin of a cow. This muscle is sandwiched between the sirloin, short loin, and top sirloin.

 

Anatomy of the Ribeyea large cut of ribeye steak

As the name alludes, a ribeye steak comes from the rib of a cow. Specifically, it comes from the sixth to twelfth ribs.

It contains the complexus, longissimus dorsi, and spinalis muscles of the cow.

 

Alternate Names for Filet Mignon and Ribeye

When you go to a butcher or sit down at a restaurant, you might see a few slightly different names for each of their steaks.

Here are some of the common names for these three types of steaks, as well as close relatives.

 

Filet

Besides a standard cut of filet mignon, you can also sometimes find a long-bone filet or bone-in filet.

A long-bone filet is simply a bone-in filet that has a bone of around 8 inches. The taste is the same, but the cost might be double or triple.

Bone-in filets are highly coveted because only two bone-in filets can be cut from a single steer.

You may also find that a filet can also be called an eye fillet or filet mignon.

a cooked filet mignon steak

Within a filet, there are three types of cuts:

  • the butt
  • the tail
  • the center-cut

The tail isn’t as desirable as the other two.

Often, you won’t find a tail served as a steak dish, but it is often used in recipes that call for beef such as stews.

 

Ribeye

A ribeye with the bone in can also be called a Delmonico steak, market steak, or beauty steak.

If there are no bones, it’s sometimes referred to as a Spencer steak, rib eye steak, or Scotch fillet.

 

Filet Mignon vs. Ribeye: Taste, Texture, and Fattiness

Now it’s time for the important section: how good do the different cuts of meat taste?

Of course, the way that you prepare the meat, such as smoking or grilling will play a big role in how delicious the plated steak is. The following are just generalizations about the meat.

 

Filet

The fillet is the most tender part of the cow.

The muscle in question is the psoas major, and while this spinal muscle is works hard to help hold up humans who stand on two legs all day, it doesn’t do anything on animals that stand on 4 legs all day like cows  – hence a tender cut of beef.

A filet is arguably one of the most popular cuts of steak in both steakhouses and butcher shops around the world.

a medium rare cooked filet mignon

The taste itself is really tender and buttery, especially if cooked medium rare to medium.

However, due to its lower fat content than ribeye, it can be easier to overcook, and some steak aficionados who correlate fat with flavor, might consider this cut too soft and don’t prefer the leanness compared to ribeye.

 

Ribeye

The ribeye is a delicious-looking slice of meat. You’ll find them with a lot of intramuscular fat, known as marbling and a large amount of beefy flavor.

a butchers case of ribeye steaks

What the filet brings to the table in terms of tenderness, the ribeye brings in terms of flavor, and rich, decadent fattiness.

If it’s cooked and trimmed correctly, a ribeye is one of those steaks that should melt in your mouth.

The marrow of the ribs is known to add a really great taste to the meat. It is definitely the most flavorful cut of meat on this list.

 

How to Cook a Filet Mignon vs. a Ribeye Steak

As previously mentioned, any cut of meat is only as good as how it’s cooked and prepared.

Because Ribeye is fattier than Filet, it does hold up to methods such as smoking a little better.

You can check out our favorite smoked ribeye steak recipe and method here.

For straightforward, everyday preparations though, here’s what the pros suggest:

 

Cooking Filet Mignon

Since there is very little fat, a filet will cook faster than other cuts of beef.

This cut of meat is also a little special because you don’t want to cook it any more than medium-rare.

Beyond that point, you’ll lose the great tenderness of the meat.

You’ll start by searing it in a skillet on high heat with a high smoke point oil like avacado or grapeseed oil.

If grilling, you can put the steak over some roaring hot charcoal or a high heat gas burner for about 4 minutes on both sides.

You want the internal temperature to get to 130°F before pulling it off. Always us ea good quality instant read thermometer.

We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.

 

Let the filet rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Do not stack your stekas or cover them in foil as they will continue cooking too much while resting.

Your filet mignon should rise about another 5°F while resting.  Once it hits 135°F internally, it should be a perfect medium rare.

 

Finishing in the Oven

In some cases, if you are cooking filet mignons that are more than about 1.5-2 inches thick, you may need to finish them in the oven.

an oven for finishing thick filet mignon steaks

You do this after searing to get the internal temperature up to where you want it without burning the exteriors of very thick steaks.

Preheat your oven and a baking sheet to about 325°F. After searing the outside for about 4 minutes on each side in a skillet  transfer the steaks to the baking sheet.

Alternatively, if you are cooking on a grill, set up your grill for 2-zone cooking.

After searing on the hot side for 4 minutes on each side, move the stekas to the warm, indirect side to finish cooking.

Either way, watch your internal temperatures very closely and do not leave the steaks unattended or they will likely overcook.

It should not take long to bring them the rest of the way up to 130°F before you need to pull them to rest.

 

Cooking Ribeye

Due to the massive amount of fat in a ribeye, you can expect to get some flare-ups if cooking on a grill.

If they get out of hand, move it to another section of the grill for a few moments to avoid the flame.

Regardless, you want to cook a ribeye in much the same way that you cook the filet mignon.

Sear it on high heat in a cast iron skillet or over a hot grill for about 4 minutes on each side.

ribeye steaks cooking on a hot grill

Make sure to season well with salt and pepper, then coat the steak in a high smoke point oil like avocado or grapeseed.

Once the internal temperature reaches 130°F, pull the steaks and let them rest until they reach 135°F, or medium rare.

You likely won’t need to finish them in the oven as ribeyes are usually not nearly as thick as filet’s.

 

Price of Filet Mignon vs. Ribeye

So now that you know all about the different cuts of beef, let’s talk dollar signs.

The average price for each cut of beef will obviously vary depending on where you live, where you shop for meat, and what grade of meat you are purchasing.

There are three main grades of beef from the USDA and they are based on a number of factors but the most important one is fat content.

The main grades for steak are:

  • Select (lowest rated)
  • Choice
  • Prime (highest rated

While there is nothing wrong with select or choice cut meat for ground beef or stew meat, when it comes to steak, you definitely want to buy prime if you can.

While prime graded steaks are more expensive and a little harder to find you will truly notice the difference, especially if preparing a thick cut filet or ribeye steak,

The better steakhouses in the world will ONLY serve prime grade steaks.

For reference, we used pricing for prime grade cuts from MarketHouse, and Bringhurst Meats for price per pound.

 

Price of Filet Mignon

A thick-cut, prime grade filet mignon will cost around $35-50 for a 6-8 oz portion in a fancy steakhouse, and maybe half that amount for you to buy a raw one yourself at a quality butcher to cook at home.

 

Price of Ribeye

A prime grade ribeye costs around $40-60 for a 12-16 oz boneless cut in a nice steakhouse, and anywhere from $50-65 for a similarly sized bone-in serving.

a prime ribeye steak

Some steakhouses even offer specialty cuts like cowboy ribeyes or tomahawk ribeyes that are meant to be shared by 2-3 people and can come in sizes up to 35 oz!

Expect to pay upwards of $100 for one of these massive cuts to share with that special someone.

At a good quality butcher, a 12 oz prime grade ribeye steak will likely run you about $20-$25 to take home with you.

 

Aged Filet Mignon vs. Ribeye Steaks

Another term you’ll see thrown around, mostly in nice steakhouses, is whether a filet or ribeye is dry aged or wet aged.

These are just two ways of aging beef. When beef ages, the enzymes in the meat break down the connective tissue and make the cut of meat more tender.

 

Dry Aged Beef

In the old days, butchers would hang the meat to age in their freezers.

While it was hanging there, a lot of the water weight would drip off. The beef would be more dense and have less blood in the cut of meat.

The result of dry aging is a beefier flavor in the beef. Who doesn’t love beefy tasting beef?

Nowadays, more butchers, chefs, and steak connoisseurs are opting for dry aged beef for this very reason:  More intense flavor.

dry aged ribeye steaks

Now, dry aging takes time, which costs money, so expect to pay more for dry aged beef.

Some people are also turned off by the term “dry”, believing that they don’t want a dry steak.

Don’t worry.

Dry aged steaks are just as juicy as non-aged steaks because the “juiciness” people describe when they eat steaks and burgers actually comes from the melted fat, not water, in the beef.

And the fat doesn’t go anywhere when the steaks are dry aged, only the water content.

 

Wet Aged Beef

Later, people realized that you could vacuum seal the beef and it will also age.

By wet aging, there’s more water weight in the steak which means more profit for the butcher since they sell the meat per pound.

The problem, however, is that the meat can’t breathe when it’s wet aged.

The beef is also in contact with its own myoglobin while it is aging. The result is a more sour flavor.

For this reason, wet aging has kind of fallen out of fashion, so stick with dry aged filet mignon and ribeyes when you can find them.

You will not regret it.

 

Sources

https://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2011/may/a-guide-to-steakhouse-meat-cuts/

https://ownthegrill.com/ny-strip-vs-ribeye-steak/

https://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/the-four-high-end-steaks-you-should-know-ribeye-strip-tenderloin-t-bone.html

https://www.mychicagosteak.com/steak-university/ribeye-filet-mignon-comparison/

https://www.markethouse.com/blogs/the-sizzle/new-york-strip-vs-ribeye-what-s-the-difference

 

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