How to prepare a fillet of beef

How to prepare a fillet of beef

by Great British Chefs22 July 2016

How to prepare a fillet of beef

Beef fillet is considered the king of all the beef cuts. It is the most tender cut as it comes from the least worked part of the animal. As a consequence, fillet is expensive to buy, especially in portions. To make it more cost-effective, try buying a whole fillet and preparing it yourself – the meat will keep happily for a month in the freezer and the trimmings can be used to make a tasty sauce.

When buying beef, always buy the best quality possible. Grass-fed beef has superior flavour and is a more sustainable way of farming than cattle that has been fed solely on grain.

Place the beef fillet flat on a large chopping board and dry off any blood or moisture with a clean tea towel
Begin by running your fingers between the main part of the meat and the thick bit of connective tissue which is known as the chain. This will come away from the main part of the meat, which you will need to run your knife through to separate completely. The chain can be used for mince or to make a sauce
Next, remove any membrane from the top of the fillet to expose the silverskin. This is the tough sinew that does not break down during cooking and is best removed. To do this, insert a boning knife under the pointed end of the silverskin a few centimeters from the end and, pointing your knife upwards, free the tip of the sinew
Turn your knife around and place it under the flap you have just created. With your knife facing upwards away from the meat, run it all the way along the meat in one long slicing motion to the end until all of the silverskin is freed
Repeat this process until the meat is completely clear of the silverskin. It is important to face the knife upwards to avoid cutting into the fillet and losing any meat
There will also be a small piece of silverskin on the back of the fillet which should also be removed in the same way
Remove any excess or loose pieces of fat from the beef fillet, but don’t be tempted to cut away all of the fat as this will render and give flavour to the meat as it cooks
Now that you have your trimmed fillet you can portion it. Cut off the pointed end of the fillet until the meat is of an even thickness (around 8–10 cm). This piece can be used for mince, stir-fries or skewers
The beef fillet can now be tied and roasted whole or cut into individual steaks

Serving suggestions

Try Henry Harris’s timeless Filet au poivre recipe for a decadent supper, or for something a little more unusual try Marcus Wareing’s Beef fillet with asparagus, hogweed, radish and Parmesan. Another traditional use of beef fillet is the much loved Wellington; Andy McLeish serves his Wellington recipe with violet artichokes and a truffle vinaigrette.

You could also use the trim from the fillet to make a classic Steak tartare as Tom Aikens does, served with toasted slices of sourdough, while William Drabble’s Beef carpaccio with a sweet and sour onion and green bean salad makes for a stunning starter.

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