They're my two favorite steaks.
The ribeye, and the filet mignon.
But which one is better?
Now, of course, it all comes down to personal preference and taste.
But in this guide, we'll discuss the differences between the ribeye steak and the filet mignon, so you can have a better understanding of these two wildly popular cuts of steak.
Bottom line upfront:
If you prefer tenderness over all else, then the filet mignon is probably for you.
But if you prefer the best flavor, the ribeye is likely your best choice.
Let's dig into it.
What Are The Main Differences?
Let's take a bird's eye view of the ribeye vs. filet mignon in terms of tenderness, fat content (flavor), and cost.
* Price is based on local Whole Foods pricing as of May 4, 2023
Now let's look at these factors in a little more detail.
Texture & Tenderness
The filet mignon is definitely more tender than the ribeye. In fact, this tenderness is arguably its biggest selling point.
Why is it more tender?
Because the filet comes fro a muscle area on the cow that doesn't work as hard as the rib muscles (where the ribeye comes from).
While the ribeye is still tender, the filet mignon definitely wins in this category.
Fat Content & Flavor
On a steak, fat equals flavor.
There's no doubt the winner here is the ribeye, with its higher fat content and superior marbling, which leads to its signature rich taste.
The filet mignon is a leaner cut. It still tastes great, but it lacks the overall flavor of the ribeye.
The filet mignon is significantly more expensive than the ribeye, on a per-pound basis.
In fact, in preparing the research for this article, I hopped on the Whole Foods website for the store in my area, and here were the prices:
Ribeye (boneless): $21.99 per pound.
Filet mignon: $34.99 per pound.
So, yeah: the filet is about 36% more expensive than the ribeye.
Why is that?
Not only is the filet highly coveted, but there's also less of it on a cow, making it less available than a ribeye.
What Is A Ribeye?
The ribeye is, in my humble opinion, the most flavorful cut of steak you can buy.
The ribeye comes from the rib section of the cow, which known for its tenderness and rich & beefy taste.
Both the bone-in and boneless ribeye are packed with flavor, making it a steakhouse favorite.
What makes the ribeye so flavorful?
Two words: fat marbling.
This marbling, or intramuscular fat, is distributed throughout the ribeye. And it is this marbling that adds the incredible flavor, tenderness, and juiciness to the steak.
The ribeye has much more marbling than the filet, making it a more flavorful cut.
Cooking A Ribeye
Cooking a ribeye is easy, especially if you follow these tips.
- Thickness: For the best sear and an even cook, choose a ribeye that's at least 1.5 inches thick. This will prevent overcooking the exterior while the interior reaches the desired temperature.
- Lots of salt: Season your ribeye generously with salt to bring out its natural flavors. Do this at least 30 minutes before cooking so the salt has time to tenderize the steak.
- Sear in a hot skillet: If you're after the perfect crust, you should sear your ribeye in a piping-hot cast-iron pan. It only takes a few minutes per side to get to medium-rare.
- Use a meat thermometer: Use an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure you don't overcook your ribeye. For medium-rare, aim for 130°F to 135°F.
- Reverse-sear for thicker cuts: For a ribeye thicker than 2 inches, you can reverse-sear it. Smoke your ribeye at 225F, and then finish it off on your GrillGrates or in a cast-iron pan to form a nice crust.
What Is A Filet Mignon?
If I'm at a steakhouse, the filet mignon is my go-to order.
As mentioned, it comes from the center of the tenderloin, which is a cut that's hardly used by the animal. Which in turn makes it super tender (and expensive).
Lower Fat Content
One thing the filet mignon lacks is a high fat content, especially when compared to the ribeye. It simply doesn't have the fat or marbling that makes the ribeye so special.
It still has a ton of flavor, it's just a leaner steak that allows you to enjoy the cut's natural flavors without being overpowered with tons of fat.
Cooking A Filet
The filet mignon has phenomenal texture and consistency.
And to fully appreciate and protect this texture, you'll want to make sure you're cooking it the right way. using the following methods:
- Searing: You can sear your filet in cast iron pan with a little oil, then transfer it to a 225F smoker to finish cooking. This will create a nice crust on the outside, while keeping the inside nice and flavorful.
- Grilling: If you're an outdoors guy like me, you can always just toss your filet on the grill, for about 5 minutes per side. Just be mindful not to overcook it.
- Reverse Sear: For thicker cuts, use the same reverse-sear method as the ribeye. Toss your filet on a 225F smoker until it reaches medium rare, then sear it quickly in a hot pan or grill for a perfect crust. See our smoked filet mignon recipe for more.
As always, when cooking any great steak, be sure to use an internal thermometer so you don't overcook it.
The filet mignon is definitely more expensive than the ribeye.
As mentioned, we checked our local Whole Foods pricing, and the filet mignon ($34.99/lb.) was about 36% more expensive than the ribeye ($21.99/lb.)
Why the big difference in price?
Mostly because the filet mignon is a smaller cut of meat, taken from the tenderloin, which is a less-used muscle. So not only is the filet more tender, it's more scarce than the ribeye.
Proper Cooking Techniques
With two expensive cuts of steak like these, you don't want to overcook them or dry them out.
Be sure to pay attention to the following:
- Temperature: Again, a good meat thermometer is your best friend here. For filet mignon, an internal temperature of 120-125°F for rare and 130-135°F for medium-rare is best. Ribeye is a little more forgiving but also tastes best around medium-rare (130-135°F).
- Resting: After cooking, rest your steaks for 5-10 minutes before slicing into them. This allows the juices to redistribute and give you a more tender and flavorful steak.
- Seasoning: While some folks like to marinate their steaks or use complicated spice rubs, all the filet and ribeye need are a little bit of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and maybe a touch of oil. Don't overcomplicate it here.