What is the difference between a filet mignon and a ribeye?
If you don’t know your types of steak, walking up to the grocer’s meat counter or into a deli can be highly intimidating.
It’s not unlike going to Starbucks and not knowing a macchiato from a mocha; you can’t just say “gimme a coffee.” Likewise, you can’t just ask for “a steak.” The answer is going to be, “what kind of steak?”
To help you make better choices for the grill, we’ve compiled a group of articles to explain the differences and the similarities between some of the many cuts of beef you’ll come across.
In this edition, we’re looking at ribeye vs filet, two glorious cuts, but with very different attributes.
You’ll learn about their fat and meat content, where each cut comes from on the cow, and some key nutritional information. We’ll also tell you how to prepare and cook each type of meat, and hook you up with a trio of all-star recipes to try.
All set? Let’s ‘meat’ our contestants:
- 1 Comparison Table
- 2 Ribeye
- 3 Filet Mignon
- 4 Filet Mignon Vs Ribeye
- 5 Which is the Best Steak Cut – Ribeye or Filet Mignon?
- 6 Best Recipes for Ribeye from Around the Web
- 7 Best Recipes for Filet Mignon from Around the Web
- 8 Final Thoughts
|Size||Small||Medium to large|
|Meat Content||Very meaty||Very meaty|
|Fat Content||Low to moderate fat||Moderate to high fat|
|Average Weight||7 oz.||8 - 12 oz.|
|Average Servings Per Cut||1||2|
|Location on Cow||Center of the tenderloin||Upper central ribs|
No surprise, the ribeye steak gets its name from the area of the cow from which it’s cut, which is the upper rib section near the spine.
The ribeye steak has all kinds of great nicknames, including Scotch fillet, beauty steak, market steak, Spencer steak, and Entrecôte. Most of those sound better than ribeye, to be honest. Ah well, it is what it is.
You’ll find this delicious cut served all over the world, and it’s a particular favorite in steakhouse restaurants. People love it for the full flavor and tenderness.
Cows aren’t big on exercise, but certain parts of the body still get a workout from moving around and supporting such a large animal – the ribeye steak does not come from one of those spots.
“I always thought filet mignon was the steak to beat, but the fat content in a ribeye is fantastic.” – Neil Patrick Harris (I know he’s not a chef, but his husband is.)
Where on the Cow does Ribeye Come From?
You might guess from the name that ribeye comes from the rib section. Specifically, this lovely piece of meat is cut from a zone covering ribs 6 to 12. This is the same area from which butchers cut rib steak and prime rib roast.
You can tell a ribeye steak from a rib steak with ease: a ribeye is boneless, and a rib steak is bone-in. They are large, roughly oval-shaped, and typically show heavy fat marbling.
How Much Meat and Fat does Ribeye Contain?
Ribeyes have a high fat content. They are generously marbled, meaning there’s a lot of intramuscular fat in the muscle. Since fat equals flavor and moisture, that’s just what we like to see.
No one will ever accuse a ribeye of being a lean cut. In fact, this is typically the highest-fat cut of steak available by a wide margin – a big 10oz steak may contain more than 50 grams of fat.
Nutritional Information per 4oz (1/4 pound)
|Nutrition||Total Amount (Based on 3oz Serving)||% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Portion Size: How Much Ribeye Per Person?
Depending on what else you’ve got on the menu, you’ll find that a 6oz portion of ribeye is sufficient for a single adult serving. But, if you’re planning a beef-first experience, splurge on a 10 oz and feel indulgent. (That’s a common size at restaurants, too.)
How to Prepare Ribeye for Grilling or Smoking
Before you head out to the grill with your ribeye, let’s go over some preparatory steps first, to make sure you get the best out of your meat.
First, make sure you buy nice, thick steaks. Don’t go thinner than 1 inch; 1.25 to 1.5 inches is where you really want to be, though, for ease of cooking, flavor, and mouthfeel.
You probably won’t need to trim anything off your ribeyes, unless there are some obvious protrusions of fat or gristle that are just going to turn to char. All you really need to do is let it sit and come to temperature – pull it from the fridge and let your ribeye rest on the counter for 30-60 minutes, so it’s not cold when it hits the grill.
A ribeye is not a steak that needs any help in the flavor or tenderness departments. Therefore, we don’t recommend any kind of marinade – it just isn’t necessary! Instead, give it a dry rub for a little flavor boost.
What you use is up to you, but plain old kosher salt and pepper are sufficient to bring out the best in a well-chosen ribeye.
How to Cook Ribeye
Here’s the how, where, and why of cooking ribeye to perfection in your backyard.
Your best bet is to grill your ribeyes hot’ n’ fast on the grill.
Create a 2-zone set-up – crank a burner up to medium-high and reserve a second part of your grill for a lower flame. If you’re using charcoal, move your coals to one side to accomplish the same thing.
Once your grill is up to temperature, place your ribeyes on the direct-heat side to get that gorgeous sear you’ll display with pride. Leave them for 4-5 minutes before flipping over and repeating the process on the other side.
If you’re after a perfectly pink medium-rare, you’re probably done now. Check with your instant-read thermometer; 130F is bang-on, but you’ll want to take your ribeyes off the heat and rest for a few minutes at about 125F. This ensures the carry-over cooking doesn’t spoil the party by nudging your meat into the medium zone.
Now, if you’re not quite where you need to be temperature-wise after searing both sides, either because you like less pink or your steaks are super-thick, shift them to the low-temperature zone. Here they can finish without fear of burning the surface.
“Filet is beautiful. The texture is great; there’s a great subtle flavor.” – Chef John Manion, El Che Bar, Chicago
The name filet mignon roughly translates to “cute filet,” with filet being a thick, boneless cut of meat and the cut’s small size making it cute.
You might also see it referred to as tournedos, medallions, fillet steak, or tenderloin steak. But doesn’t that French name just elevate its status in your mind?
We can’t be sure when, exactly, the filet was first isolated from the rest of the beef. But, we do know that the term “filet mignon” first appeared in print in a 1906 short story by American author O. Henry. It’s unlikely he coined the term on the spot, but we don’t know where he picked it up.
Filet mignon is noted for being an incredibly tender cut that practically melts in your mouth. In terms of flavor, though, it’s much lighter on the “beefiness” than a ribeye steak. To compensate, you’ll often find filets wrapped in bacon.
Where on the Cow does Filet Come From?
The filet is a small portion of a much larger cut. It’s found near the center of the tenderloin, a long muscle that runs along the spine near the back of the cow. You can cut 6-8 filets from a tenderloin.
From this area, we also get Chateaubriand, and the filet is included in a Porterhouse (along with a strip steak).
Filets are smaller than most cuts of beef. They’re cut thick, though, and are basically circular. Picture a hockey puck made of beef, and you’ve got the idea. But, you know, the tastiest hockey puck ever.
How Much Meat and Fat does Filet Contain?
A filet may be a small steak in terms of diameter, but they’re generally cut thick, often as much as 2 inches top-to-bottom.
While you wouldn’t typically call this a lean cut, there’s not nearly as much fat content and marbling as you find in a good ribeye.
Basically, it’s a disc of mostly muscle.
Nutritional Information per 4oz (1/4 pound)
|Nutrition||Total Amount (Based on 3oz Serving)||% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Portion Size: How Much Filet Per Person?
If you’re slicing them off a tenderloin yourself, you’ll probably get about half-a-dozen 2-inch thick, 8 oz filets. Anywhere from 6 to 8 oz per filet mignon (and hence per person) is ideal.
Really, you can’t make them much bigger than that, or smaller. Doing so would make the filet either too thin or too thick to cook properly.
How to Prepare Filet for Grilling
Hold up a minute pardner! Let’s make sure that gorgeous filet is grill-ready before we go any further.
First things first – you don’t want to put a fridge-cold steak on a hot grill because it won’t cook properly. Let the filet rest on the counter for about 20-30 minutes to lose some of the chill. Trimming should be unnecessary.
If you appreciate the mild flavor of filet, consider rubbing it with some salt and pepper before cooking.
A nice dry rub can really add another level of taste, though, as can a light marinade. Just remember, this is an extra-tender cut – too much marinating could turn it to mush!
How to Cook Filet
Ok, now we’re ready to cook. But how, where, and for how long? Here are the answers.
As tends to be the case with steaks, filet mignon is best when it’s cooked hot’ n’ fast over direct heat. Set your grill up for two-zone cooking with a hot side and a cooler side. Once you’ve got the direct heat side up to medium-high, you’re ready to put on the filet.
Depending on the thickness of the filets, sear each side for 2-4 minutes. Once you’ve got the sear finished, move the filets to the indirect heat zone to finish. Don’t go on intuition or by a timer for this stage; only the temperature tells if it’s done or not.
Most often, you’ll aim for a reading of 130F on your digital probe thermometer, which is medium-rare. Remove from the grill at about 125F and let it rest for 5-10 minutes as it comes up to 130F.
Filet Mignon Vs Ribeye
It’s showdown time! How do these two succulent steaks stack up against each other? Let’s check it out.
Cooking Methods – Is One Easier to Cook than the Other?
Both filet and ribeye are easy to prepare for the grill, requiring little or no trimming, and just a dash of s&p for a rub.
Once on the grill, though the methods are the same, the slightly thinner ribeye will usually cook more easily than the thick filets, often requiring only the searing time and a bit of rest for a pink and juicy payoff.
The one warning about ribeye over an open flame is to watch out for fat drippings due to the high fat content.
The light marbling of filet mignon means it won’t drip much. Ribeyes, however, can have extensive marbling. When the fat cooks down, it can drip and cause flare-ups. Be mindful of that, and avoid torching your steak.
Is One Better for Grilling Than the Other?
Both steaks have a time and a place.
Generally, chefs prefer ribeye steak to filet, but that’s mostly based on a flavor-to-dollar ratio.
Both are excellent cooked on your outdoor grill, but you’ll find more backyarders opt for ribeye, favoring both the size and the flavor.
Difference in Tenderness
There’s really no contest in this department: filet mignon trumps basically all cuts when it comes to tenderness.
A well-marbled ribeye is still plenty easy to chew, but it will never achieve that buttery softness that makes filet mignon so popular.
Which is More Flavorful?
As with the tenderness, there’s a clear winner when you’re talking taste – this time, though, it’s the ribeye taking first prize.
The muscle that makes up the ribeye gets more of a workout than does the filet, and it has a high fat content and far more marbling. These two factors combined ramp up the beef flavor of the ribeye.
Filet mignon is tasty, but it’s a much tamer experience.
Which is USUALLY Bigger?
Ribeyes are almost always larger than filet mignon. Honestly, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a filet bigger than a ribeye, but it’s theoretically possible.
Which is the Best Steak Cut – Ribeye or Filet Mignon?
This is a bit like asking which luxury vehicle is best because it largely comes down to personal preference. But, we’re not afraid of a little controversy at FoodFireFriends, so we’re going to pick a winner.
While a filet mignon has a ton of cachet as a luxury cut, ribeye steak tends to be a bigger crowd-pleaser thanks to its more robust flavor profile. You also have more control/options for portion size with ribeye.
Additionally, the thinner ribeye typically cooks more easily than a thick filet, and it’s more cost-effective than a pricy filet.
Don’t get us wrong – we love filet mignon! The smaller portion size makes it ideal for including as part of a more substantial meal, and it’s undeniably elegant. Plus, it’s so darn tender!
At the end of the day, though, our hearts (and taste buds) will choose ribeye over filet more often than not.
When Would You Pick One Over the Other?
Of course, eating either of these cuts can be a truly sublime experience. So, why might you choose filet over ribeye or vice versa?
For a truly gourmet experience, you’d probably go with the filet mignon. Everyone knows and reveres the name – it’s synonymous with fine dining.
For very special occasions (or for snooty guests!), you can’t miss with a filet. Pair it with sides that won’t overwhelm its relatively delicate flavor. Or, really sauce it up and make it a flavor extravaganza.
Filet mignon should also be your go-to if you’re planning an evening of French cuisine.
Serve ribeye to your serious beef-o-phile friends who love that big, meaty taste. It’s an excellent choice for a classic backyard barbecue with all the fixins but upgraded for steak lovers.
Best Recipes for Ribeye from Around the Web
Ready to grill some mouth-watering ribeyes? Here are three amazing recipes to inspire you.
Grilled Rib Eye Steaks with Balsamic Red Wine Glaze
Just to start things off on an interesting note, here’s a recipe that employs a technique called the “reverse sear.” You’ll cook the steak in your smoker over low heat until it’s just approaching the internal target temperature. From there, it’s to the grill we go to apply a nice sear.
As an added flavor bonus, you’ll whip up a red wine and balsamic vinegar glaze in a saucepan. (Hello, side burner – how’ve you been?) Drizzle the glaze over the finished steaks for a luxurious kick of flavor.
This is an effective way to add some taste enhancement without detracting from the natural deliciousness of the ribeye steak.
Ready to elevate your steak? The recipe is a click away:
Grilled Mexican Rib-Eye Steaks
So many ways to spell “ribeye” – and so many ways to enjoy it! This recipe proves that it’s ok to get adventurous with seasoning, even on an already flavorful steak.
It calls for massive 16-ounce steaks, but you can easily adjust your times (temperature is all that matters!) to suit your cuts.
We just love the authentic blend of paprika, cumin, and lime juice that gives this recipe its Mexican cred. It’s very simple to put together, and the results should be fabulous.
If you’re offended by any steak seasoning other than salt and pepper, avoid this recipe. But, if you love playing with flavor and trying new things, you have to try this.
Your ticket to a flavor fiesta is waiting:
Spicy Rib-eye Steak
A simple name (we actually added “spicy” to it, so it wasn’t just “Rib-eye Steak”) with a zesty trick up its sleeve – a spicy rub that goes beyond basic s&p.
Adding cayenne and child powder cranks up the heat on this otherwise classic ribeye steak recipe. How much? That’s up to you – adjust the quantities to suit your preference/tolerance for heat.
Since this is a dry rub, the flavor won’t penetrate the outer surface of the steak. What it will do, though, is really punch up the seared crust, adding, shall we say, a bite to every bite.
It’s incredibly easy to do, and you’ve probably got everything you need in your spice rack already.
To spice up your life, point your mouse in this direction:
Best Recipes for Filet Mignon from Around the Web
What can you do with a filet beyond salt and pepper? Here are 3 suggestions:
Grilled Filet Mignon with Herb Butter & Texas Toasts
Up to you whether or not to bother with the toast part, but do not skip the herb-happy butter! You’ll need to set aside some time (like maybe an hour) to make the butter, but it’ll be so worth it.
Actually, this will give you something to do while your cold steaks are sitting out and coming up to room temperature.
The butter drops a flavor bomb on your filets that’s zesty, but not spicy. The rich mouthfeel will pair perfectly with the buttery-soft filets, but the splashes of lemon will keep the experience from becoming overwhelmingly heavy.
When serving filet mignon isn’t sophisticated enough, click this way to take it up a notch:
Bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon
You’ve seen it in movies and on TV. Maybe you’ve splurged and ordered it at a restaurant. But, have you ever made your own?
Steak-meets-bacon in this pairing sent straight from the carnivore gods. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s a herbed butter, too. If you have concerns about your cholesterol levels, keep scrolling. Seriously.
The bacon adds not only its addictive flavor to the mix, but it also chips in some lovely, crisp texture. Additionally, the herbed butter has a hint of heat, making for a potent one-two punch.
This recipe takes advantage of the mild flavor of filet, both complementing and enhancing it.
Want to wrap up your hunt for the perfect filet mignon recipe? Look no further:
Grilled Filet Mignon with Mushroom Brown Butter Sauce
This recipe starts with a textbook case study on grilling filet with a minimum of fuss.
As we described earlier, it’s a simple matter of searing and then cooking to temperature with a bit of salt and pepper, plus some garlic, for seasoning. You could only use this part of the recipe, and you’d have a totally delicious meal.
If you’re ready to put on your chef hat, though (and we mean that figuratively – but if you’ve got one, why not?), the sauce for smothering is exceptional.
Using mushrooms and onions adds intense umami flavor to the dish, and it’s umami that makes beef taste so dang good. Filet is naturally light on flavor, but this sauce delivers it in spades.
Here comes the boom – and the butter:
Sincerely, wasn’t our look at filet mignon vs ribeye the most drool-inducing thing you’ve read today?
Both ribeye and filet mignon offer the griller and diner a very special experience; there’s nothing quite like them hot off the barbecue.
Which will be the next to grace your grill?
We hope you found this guide helpful, and that you’re better equipped to not only select a delicious cut of beef but also to grill it to perfection. If you think anything is missing, please let us know, or fire us your unanswered questions.
Thanks for reading and the best of the grill to you!