If, like most of us, you possess an appetite for filet mignon that regularly exceeds your budget for it, you can save by buying a whole tenderloin and cutting it into steaks. (They are sold with the fat on, as pictured at far left, or cleaned and trimmed.) For tips on how to do this, we consulted Robert Esposito of Giovanni Esposito & Sons, a butcher shop in New York City.
1. Arrange an untrimmed beef tenderloin in front of you, with the tapered end to your right and the wider, butt end to your left.
2. Using a knife, trim off the long, 1″-wide strip of muscle, known as the chain, that runs the length of tenderloin; reserve for stew meat.
3. Use your fingers to find the seam separating the “ear” (the large, 10″-long lobe extending from the side of the butt end) from the rest of the tenderloin. Separate ear along seam.
4. Trim fat off ear; cut it crosswise into three 2″-3″-thick steaks.
5. Working with the other side of butt end, cut and remove 2 smaller lobes using same method as above; these can be treated as steaks and pan-seared.
6. Pull fat membrane off tail end; it should come off easily.
7. Slip tip of knife under the silver skin, the membrane surrounding most of the muscle. Tilt edge of knife at a slight upward angle; cut away silver skin in a thin strip. Repeat all over tenderloin. Flip; trim away fatty flaps from back.
8. Slice off tail and butt end from the thick center portion, the chateaubriand.
9. Slice butt end and chateaubriand into 2″-3″-thick steaks. Cut a 4″-5″ piece off tail; cut it crosswise, three-fourths of the way through. Open this piece at its hinge so that the cut ends face up; tie them together with kitchen twine to form a steak. You should end up with 13-15 steaks; most of them are filet mignon. Wrap each steak in plastic wrap; refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 6 months.