Filet mignon is French, of course, with filet meaning "thick slice" and mignon meaning "dainty." It first appears in American print in 1899. Filet mignon comes from the small end of the tenderloin (called the short loin) which is found on the back rib cage of the animal. This area of the animal is not weight-bearing, thus the connective tissue is not toughened by exercise resulting in extremely tender meat.
The tenderloin term (also erroneously called chateaubriand) applies to the entire strip of tenderloin meat, whereas slices of the tenderloin are termed filet mignon. Filet mignon slices found in the market are generally 1 to 2 inches thick and 2 to 3 inches in diameter, but true mignons are no more than 1 inch in diameter and are taken from the tail end. Although this cut is very tender, the beef flavor is proportionately lessened. As such, it is often served with an accompanying sauce incorporating the pan juices.
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