While filet mignon is often touted as the king of steaks, it isn’t always the best choice. Sirloin is a viable alternative, but it’s also a different cut that requires another level of care and attention. Let’s pit sirloin vs filet to see which one comes out on top.
Sirloin vs Filet
Sirloin and filet are both great choices for grilling. Sirloin offers more flavor and a heartier bite, whereas filet is so tender that it melts in your mouth. Neither one will require a great deal of preparation, but sirloin is a better choice if you want to marinate the steak.
Sirloin: The Basics
Sirloin is an umbrella term, covering a number of various cuts taken from the rear portion of the loin primal. The meat is lean, but because this area of the cow gets a lot of exercise, it can also be tough. What it lacks in tenderness, however, it makes up for in flavor.
Top sirloin, which is cut from the top segment of the sirloin butt, is one of the most tender options within the category. In addition to being more flavorful than filet, it’s also high in protein. The firm texture makes it a great alternative for folks who think filet steaks offer too soft a bite.
For best results, cook sirloin steaks to an internal temperature of 130 to 145 degrees. If it’s overcooked, the meat will start to toughen.
Filet: The Basics
The filet is cut from the portion of the short loin known as the tenderloin. Because of its location—nestled just beneath the spine—it’s the most tender steak you can find. This contributes to its popularity, but the cut has its drawbacks as well.
Filet doesn’t have a great deal of beef flavor. The meat is tender enough to be cut with a fork, which can be off-putting for diners who prefer a firmer bite to their steak. These qualities can be offset by searing the steak over a charcoal fire, but it’s not enough to endear the cut to some carnivores.
You might wonder why similar cuts are sometimes labeled as “tenderloin steak,” while others are called “filet mignon.” While any steak cut from the tenderloin can be classified as such, filet mignon refers only to cuts that are taken from the smaller end of the piece.
Can you contribute flavor to the steak by marinating it or coating it in a spice rub? Unfortunately, that’s not a good idea either. A good filet should be seasoned simply with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can give it a boost in the fat and flavor department by serving it with compound butter or a rich sauce like béarnaise.
Lean cuts like filet are best served rare to medium-rare. Try not to let the internal temperature go beyond 145 degrees Fahrenheit, or the meat will have a dry, almost sandy texture.
The Strip Steak Alternative
New York strip falls under the sirloin category, but it has distinctive qualities that differentiate it from top sirloin. It might also be called top loin or club steak, depending on the region. When it’s sold with the bone in, New York strip is called Kansas City steak.
This cut has a noticeable fat cap running along one side and visible marbling throughout. The fat gives it a robust flavor and an inviting juicy texture once it’s cooked.
If you come across a T-bone or a porterhouse steak, know that these are New York strips with the bone and a piece of tenderloin attached. The main difference between porterhouse and tenderloin is that the porterhouse includes a sizable portion of the tenderloin, whereas a T-bone just has a small piece.
The Ribeye Alternative
Unlike sirloin and filet, ribeye is a boldly flavored cut of steak that contains a great deal of the intramuscular fat known as marbling. It’s distinguished by the broad strip of fat that runs through the center, which contributes both flavor and moisture.
Ribeye can benefit from a good spice rub or marinade, although the taste is just fine when accented with a bit of kosher or seasoned salt. If you do choose to marinate it, try not to leave it in for longer than 6 hours. This is a steak that’s best enjoyed on its own, since the fat makes it problematic for dishes like salads and sandwiches.
Sirloin vs Filet Mignon: Which Is Better For Grilling?
Top sirloin and tenderloin steaks—including the filet mignon—are both excellent options for the grill. They require no marinade and minimal seasoning, meaning you can toss them on the grill as soon as the fire is hot enough. Since they’re best served rare to medium-rare, they can be ready in a hurry.
Of course, you can marinate sirloin steaks if you want to give them an extra dose of flavor, as evidenced by the recipe below. Filet, on the other hand, won’t benefit from a marinade, so if you want to go this route, sirloin is a better choice.
In the end, which one you choose depends on whether you prefer an extra-tender steak or one that has a little more bite to it. Personally, I appreciate the qualities of both cuts and enjoy experimenting with both.
Grilled Top Sirloin
For optimum results, try to find top sirloin steaks for this recipe.
- 6 top sirloin steaks, about 8 ounces apiece
- 1 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon clover honey
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients.
2. Trim the steaks, if desired, and pat them dry with paper towels.
3. Place the steaks in a shallow dish and add the marinade, turning the steaks once to coat. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
4. When you’re ready to start cooking, drain the steaks and pat them dry to remove any excess marinade. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or set a gas grill to medium-high.
5. Grill the steaks for about 3-5 minutes per side for medium-rare, or until they register at least 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
6. Remove the steaks from the heat and let rest, loosely covered with foil, for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Grilled Filet Mignon with Herb Butter
- 2 filet mignon steaks, cut about 2 inches thick (around 10 ounces apiece)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
1. Let the butter come to room temperature until softened. Stir in the prepared garlic and herbs, then remove the butter to a square of wax paper. Shape into a log, then wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, then rub in a bit of olive oil. Let the steaks rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes while you ready the grill.
3. Preheat the grill to high. If you’re using a pellet grill, allow the temperature to come to 500 degrees Fahrenheit before you start to cook.
4. Lightly oil the grilling grates. Place the steaks on the grates and allow them to cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.
5. Flip the steaks and let them cook for another 5 minutes or until the internal temperature registers at least 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If you’d prefer your steaks rare, cook them for just 4 minutes per side. For medium, let them cook for 6-7 minutes per side.
6. Remove the steaks from the grill and set them on a plate. Loosely tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
7. While the steaks are resting, take the herb butter out of the refrigerator.
8. Top each filet with a slice of herb butter and serve hot.
The Bottom Line
The winner of the sirloin vs filet debate all comes down to one question: How tender do you like your steak? If you prefer a buttery texture, then filet is bound to be the right choice. On the other hand, if you want a chewier texture and a stronger beef flavor, then you’ll be happier with a sirloin steak.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!