Learn how to smoke filet mignon steaks the RIGHT WAY on ANY grill or smoker, whether its a Traeger or Pit Boss pellet grill, a Masterbuilt electric smoker, or just a simple Weber kettle!
Smoke them full of flavor low and slow and then finish with a blazing hot reverse sear to create the BEST filet mignon steaks you've ever had!
Let's get started!
We are going to cover:
- What to look for when buying filet mignon
- How to prep your steaks for the smoker
- How to set up different grills and smokers
- The optimal grill temperature
- The best wood or wood pellet choices
- How to know when your filet mignon steaks are done
- An optional, but HIGHLY recommended method to reverse sear the steaks and finish them to perfection after removing them from the smoker
- Our FAVORITE recipe for Reverse Seared and Smoked Filet Mignon
Wow, that's a lot...so let's get started!
How to Choose the Steaks
When buying steaks to smoke before searing (don't worry, we'll get to that), your best bet is to get the thickest filet mignon steaks as you can find.
Look for center cut, prime grade filet mignon that are AT LEAST 2.5 inches thick if you can find them.
There are three main grades of beef you will find on the labeling for all steaks:
- Prime (best, fattiest, most expensive)
Filet mignon is naturally a leaner cut of steak to begin with.
By taking the time to find a better marbled, Prime grade cut, you will have more fat to help keep the steak moist during the smoking and cooking process.
More fat also gives you more margin for error to prevent overcooking the smoked filet mignons.
Thinner, less marbled Choice and Select grade steaks will likely not hold up to all of this abuse and you are better off just cooking them in a more straightforward manner over a hot grill and skipping the smoke.
You may need to venture away from the picked over meat case at your local chain grocery store and hit up a quality butcher or meat market in town.
Buying the Whole Tenderloin
Keep in mind, filet mignon steaks are cut from a whole beef tenderloin.
If you are feeding a crowd, you may do better buying a whole beef tenderloin and cutting the steaks to your preferred thickness yourself.
You can also smoke the whole beef tenderloin as a roast and then carve and serve after cooking, your choice.
Seasoning the Steaks
When you are preparing your filet mignon steaks its best to season them at least 2 hours before cooking, preferably even overnight, before putting them on the smoker or grill.
This allows the salt time to penetrate the meat, ensuring you have flavorful steak all the way to the center and not just salty on the exterior, and bland in the middle.
Also, if the steaks are fully salted throughout, they are chemically more able to hold onto their juices and retain more moisture during the cooking process.
Hence why the boiling point of saltwater is higher than that of pure water.
First coat the steaks in a good quality, high smoke point cooking oil like grapeseed or avocado oil.
This will allow the seasoning to stick to the meat and keep the steaks from sticking to the grill or smoker racks during the smoking and searing.
Because we are going to reverse sear these filet mignons we smoke them, you want to stick with a high smoke point oil.
Lower smoke point oils like extra virgin olive oil will not hold up to the searing temperatures and could cause an acrid taste when they burn.
To learn more about different oils and their smoke points, check out this article about the best oils for searing.
We started searing our steaks in Wagyu Beef Tallow. which is rendered beef fat with the consistency of shortening or butter. It can be added to a cast iron pan for searing or melted and brushed onto the outside of the filets before searing.
Since we are preferably smoking some high quality filet mignon here, we recommend keeping it simple.
Salt and pepper work just fine on their own. Mixed with the woodsmoke, along with the juices from the steak, you will be in heaven, trust us.
However, there is nothing wrong with using your favorite steak rub or BBQ rub as well.
Pro Tip: Stay away from anything that contains sugar or little bits of dried garlic (garlic powder is fine) because these will both burn when you sear the steak at the end.
Bad Byron's Butt Rub is a great choice for meat that eventually will be seared at high temperatures, as it contains no sugar.
Make sure to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap so that they don't turn brown and oxidize while getting happy in the refrigerator.
Best Smoking Wood and Wood Pellet Choices for Steaks
Like we've done previously with smoked ribeye steaks, since you are only smoking these filet mignon for a shorter period of time relative to something like a beef brisket or smoked beef tenderloin, you can get away with using some stronger flavored smoking woods.
If you DO want to try mesquite, we would only recommend applying smoke for the first 15 minutes and no longer.
Otherwise, your filets can get TOO smoky and the mesquite will overpower them.
If you are looking for a milder wood to smoke them with, you can try oak, apple, or cherry instead.
Keep in mind wood chunks are meant for smoking on a charcoal grill or in a firebox. Check out our video to show you exactly how to create lots of smoke flavor in a smoke box a gas, charcoal, or pellet grill.
If you're using an electric smoker, you will need to use wood chips.
Pellet grills require wood pellets to generate heat, but you can always augment the level of smoke by using a pellet tube filled with a mixture of pellets and wood chips or a firebox filled with charcoal and wood chunks.
Cooking Times and Temperatures
Although we want to choose thick and well marbled steaks for smoking, relative to something like pork spareribs, filet mignon steaks are VERY lean and delicate, with almost no connective tissue.
You will need to watch both your cooking temperature and internal temperatures carefully when smoking your filets.
You don't have much room for error if you overcook them.
Keep your initial smoker temperature at about 180°F if you can.
How Long does it Take to Smoke a Filet Mignon Steak?
On a 180°F smoker, it will take about 20-30 minutes to bring your raw filet mignons up to an internal temperature of 90°F.
This is the point where you want to take them off the indirect heat of the smoker to finish them by reverse searing it which we will discuss below.
Now, this time will vary depending on how thick the steaks are, how humid it is outside, and how cold the steaks were to begin with i.e. whether they came straight out of the refrigerator, or sat on the counter for a while. We recommend starting with cold steaks, as cold meat absorbs more smoke flavor than room temperature meat.
The point is you can't go by time alone when cooking steaks.
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where your temperature is.
If you don't yet own an instant read thermometer, ThermoPro makes a good one.
Use the following FINAL internal temperatures to determine when to pull your steaks from the grill.
Its best practice to pull them when they are 5°F shy of your target. For very thick steaks, you may need to pull when 10°F.
So for example for medium rare, take them off between 120-125°F internally.
- Rare: 125°F (very red center)
- Medium Rare: 130 – 135°F (red center, BEST for Filet Mignon)
- Medium – 140 – 145°F (pink center)
- Medium Well Done – 150°F (slight pink center)
- Well Done – 160°F (no pink, cooked throughout)
Monitoring your Smoker Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on them.
Now, if you are using a pellet grill or electric smoker, you should be able to pretty accurately dial in your desired temperature of 180°F with the turn of a dial.
This is what makes them so convenient.
If, however, you are using a charcoal or propane grill/smoker though, you can't rely on the cheap lid mounted temperature gauge.
We have found these can sometimes be up to 30°F off from what the true actual temperature of your smoker at the grill grate level is.
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot Bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
Reverse Sear Method
"Reverse Searing" is just a fancy term for searing your meat at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you just can't get from low and slow smoking alone.
This works great for thick cuts of meat like filet mignon steaks that need time to slow cook and absorb smoky flavor but then benefit from a nice outside sear.
Much like our smoked pellet grill steak, we like to smoke and then reverse sear our filet mignon.
This brings about the best flavors AND textures in your steak.
Always put the steaks on cold to allow them to absorb the most smoke flavor.
If you are cooking steaks on a pellet grill and struggling to get a high level of direct heat, try using a set of Grill Grates to help create a searing station on one side of your cooking area.
Grill Grates are specialty...well...grates that sit right over the existing grates on your pellet grill that help capture and direct all that ambient heat and give you a nice searing station in the corner of your pellet grill.
They claim to get temperatures up to 200°F HIGHER than the temperature you set your pellet grill, meaning even if your nice Traeger only goes up to 400°F on the control panel, you can still sear some steaks, pork chops, or chicken at 600°F at the beginning or end of the cook to give them a nice sear.
We use an infrared thermometer to ensure our pan is super hot to get a great sear.
In order to reverse sear your steaks without overcooking them, only bring your filet mignon steaks up to about 90°F on an internal meat thermometer.
Then immediately sear them hot and fast for about 90-120 seconds on each side.
This, along with resting them after searing, will naturally bring them up to about 120-125°F internally which is the perfect time to take them off for a perfect medium rare finish at 130°F.
If you are targeting a different level of doneness, finish the reverse sear when they are about 5-10°F shy of where you prefer your final doneness temperature to be.
They will continue to rise in temperature about this much while they are resting.
Pro Tip: Be conservative with how long you leave them on the smoker.
When in doubt, take them off the indirect heat of the smoking stage early.
You can always sear them longer to get them up to temperature.
Especially if you've never smoked filet mignon steaks before and don't know how much they will rise when you sear them.
The thinner your steaks, the further the internal temperature will rise when you sear them so adjust accordingly.
You can always sear them for longer than you initially planned to bring the internal temperature up to where you want it, but once you go too high, there's no putting that toothpaste back in the bottle.
Setting Up the Smoker
Depending on what smoker you will be using for your steaks, you will follow slightly different methods and set ups.
For a pellet grill, set the temperature to 180°F (or the "smoke" setting).
While the pellets do make some smoke, we've struggled to achieve good smoke flavor on our pellet grills. For that reason, we always add a firebox filled with charcoal and real wood chunks. See our video for how to light a smoker firebox.
We like to smoke the steaks on the top rack until they hit 90°F internally, and then crank the heat as high is it will go. Move the steaks down above the firepot, to a cast iron pan, or to a hot set of Grill Grates for the final sear.
See our complete guide to cooking steaks on a pellet grill for more details. We also have an entire collection of How-to guides for Pit Boss, Traeger, and Camp Chef pellet grills.
On a charcoal grill you can use wood chunks just like you would in a charcoal smoker. We have a video showing you step-by-step how to smoke on a charcoal grill.
On a gas grill, you will likely need to use a smoker box filled with wood chips, or a pellet tube smoker filled with wood pellets. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Smoking on a Gas Grill HERE.
If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!
In the case of smoked filet mignon, we would opt for just using the smoker box filled with wood chips since you won't need all the burn time that comes with lighting a whole tube full of pellets.
Set up your charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquettes on one side and plan for your meat to be on the other side.
For charcoal, keep the top and bottom vents mostly closed so the temperature doesn't get up too high.
Once the temperature of your grill is about 180°F, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your steaks on the opposite side of the heat.
If you are doing the reverse sear method, once the steaks hit 90°F internally, either move them over to above the hot charcoal or crank the gas burners under the steaks for 90-120 seconds each side as described above in the Reverse Sear section.
Resting the Steaks
After reverse searing the smoked filet mignon steaks, transfer them to a plate and let them rest, UNCOVERED for at least 5 minutes.
During this time they may rise another 5-10°F in temperature internally so keep that in mind when deciding when to take them off the hot grill.
Pro Tip: Put a small pad of butter on each filet right after you take them off the heat to slow down the cooking process.
The butter will not only add fat and flavor, it actually draws heat to the surface of the meat and helps slow down any further cooking so they don't end up over done in the center!
Best Ways to Serve Smoked Filet Mignon
For many purists, the best way to serve a nice steak is on a plate. Seasoned with only salt and pepper.
And if this is your first time smoking a filet mignon you may want to do just that, in order to fully appreciate the smoked and seared beef.
If you want to do something different though, there are many ways to amp up the presentation, either by topping with an herbed butter, a homemade steak sauce, a creamy Bearnaise, or even some shrimp or crab meat to do a surf and turf!
For drinks we recommend a full bodied red wine like a Cabernet or Burgundy.
If beer is more your thing, stick with a crisp pale ale to help cut through the beefiness of the smoked filet mignon.
If there are any leftovers, check our the Secret to Perfectly Reheating Steak!
Smoked Filet Mignon - Reverse Seared
- Propane, Charcoal, or Pellet Smoker -OR-
- a Gas or charcoal grill with a smoker box or pellet tube smoker.
- Hickory or Mesquite Wood chips, chunks, or pellets
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
- Instant Read Thermometer
- 4 8 oz thick cut filet mignon steaks preferably prime grade and well marbled
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil preferably avocado or grapeseed
- kosher salt
- fresh black pepper
- steak or BBQ rub optional
- 8 tablespoon Butter
- 4 tablespoon cooking oil for reverse searing preferably avocado or grapeseed
Prepare the Filet Mignons
- Coat your steaks in oil and a generous amount of kosher salt, pepper, and steak rub, if using, on all sides.
- Wrap the filets in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Setup your Smoker or Grill
- Set up your smoker (or grill with indirect heating) to 180°F
- Remove your filet mignons from the refrigerator and unwrap them.
- When the smoker or grill is up to 180°F, add your wood chunks to the coals, or wood chips to the tray or smoker box. Alternatively, you can add wood pellets to a pellet tube smoker or charcoal and wood chunks to a firebox. Place the smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the hot coals or burners.
- When smoke begins to come out, place your filet mignon steaks on the grates, away from the direct heat if using a grill and close the lid.
- Adjust the burners or vents to maintain a temperature of 180°F inside the cooking chamber. You can rotate and flip the steaks as needed to maintain even cooking in the chamber.
Prepare a Cast Iron Skillet or Grill Grates for the Reverse Sear
- While the filet mignon are smoking, heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and warm up 1 tablespoon cooking oil and 2 tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Leave the rest of the oil and butter ready to go for when you pull the steaks from smoker.
- Monitor your steak internal temperature. After about 20-30 minutes your steaks should reach an internal temperature of 90°F, depending on thickness.
Reverse Searing the Smoked Filet Mignon
- Once the steaks reach 90°F internally, remove them from the smoker onto a platter and bring them over to the preheated cast iron skillet or grill grates.
- Turn the heat on the skillet up to HIGH and when the oil begins to smoke put one of the steaks in the skillet.
- Let the steak sear for about 90 seconds on one side and then flip to the other side.
- If you prefer to cook the steaks over direct heat on a pellet grill or a gas grill, place the steaks directly above the heat source to sear.
- Check the internal temperature of the filet, continue to flip in the skillet to cook evenly and when it is about 5-10°F shy of your desired doneness (see notes below), remove it from the skillet.
- Add another tablespoon of butter and ½ tablespoon oil to the hot skillet and repeat each time with the remaining steaks. Its ok to do 2 at a time with a large skillet but do not crowd all the filets in the skillet at once or you will not get as good of a sear.
- Let all the steaks rest 5-10 minutes on a platter or cutting board before serving. Do not cover them in foil or stack them as they will overcook.