Sirloin Medallions: “Poor Man's Filet Mignon”
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
These modest little steaks wrapped in bacon look like filet mignon, but they are actually sirloin medallions, at half the price and the best part—they are tastier. You can serve 2 for $7.15.
These sirloin medallions are reverse-seared, which allows the steak to cook to a perfect medium rare at low temperatures in the oven, with a sear at the end, to crust the steak and crisp the bacon. The bacon sits against the steak while it is slow cooking in the oven to keep it juicy and tender. When searing, butter is spooned over the steak for extra flavor.
The upper sirloin area of the beef is directly adjacent to the tenderloin, which is sliced for filets. Sirloin medallions mimic the size of a filet and have been dubbed the “Poor Man's Filet."
My 19-year-old daughter has been a carnivore since she was a toddler, and she really laments that we are eating far less red meat currently, both for cost and health reasons. But I like to treat her on special nights with a juicy steak.
Does it feel to you like steaks have gone a little mad? People eat ridiculously large steaks—well in excess of a pound and sometimes over 2 pounds— that cost upwards of $30 per steak. They just keep getting bigger and showier. But the queen of the steak world will always be the modest-sized filet mignon, a slice of the tenderloin wrapped in bacon. The filet is tender and buttery, but it starts at around $20/pound and can rise to over $40. (Amazon has frozen 6-ounce filets for over $45/pound.) So I have been looking for a cheaper substitute.
If you were to ask any butcher to name the tastiest section of beef, they will tell you the Sirloin/upper Sirloin. Back in the day, when meat still had a lot of flavor (can you tell that my grandfather and great-grandfather were butchers?) the Sirloin might have been described as more "gamey." It is lean, with more flavor, since the lean portions carry more flavor than fat portions. But modern beef has so little flavor that it has become a marker of quality that beef is "grass fed," giving the meat a more lean, gamey flavor. So, if you want a cut with a lot of flavor, opt for the sirloin. Sirloin steaks have flavor, but full sirloin steaks often weigh near a pound, which is (in my humble opinion) just way too much, health–wise and budget–wise. So go for more modestly sized petite sirloin or medallions of sirloin. You do need two things to cook these medallion steaks well: 1) an instant-read thermometer to check the doneness, and 2) a heavy carbon steel, cast iron or heavy stainless pan in which to sear the steaks. You simply won't get good sear with a nonstick skillet.
Sirloin Medallions are cut to 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, so they mimic a filet in size and thickness. In order to use the reverse sear technique on a steak, it must be at least 1 1/2 inch thick. In this technique, the steak is cooked on a rack in the oven at an extremely low temperature—typically 250 degrees or less—until it is within a window of doneness, then it is seared very quickly at high heat on top the stove, creating a tasty crust. During this step, compound butter is introduced to the pan, allowing the cook to baste the steak in tasty butter for a couple of minutes before serving. (Just so your family or guest is really, really ready to devour that steak!)
To buy sirloin medallions, you have a lot of options: Wild Fork Foods sells them for $7.98 per pound, Walmart also sells them at or near that price. Target had a nice option when I looked at $8.99 per pound, as did Sam's Club. The problem with Sam's Club is that you will need to buy a lot, separate and refreeze. Look for yourself, but you should be able to buy sirloin medallions for $8 to $9 per pound, either locally or through mail order. In terms of size, you are really looking for an individual medallion to be 6 to 7 ounces. A little smaller or bigger is acceptable, but 6 oz. is ideal. So, to serve 4 people, you need 1.5 pounds of sirloin medallions, at a cost of $12. I'm going to be cooking 2 steaks tonight, at a cost of around $6.00, with additional parts of the meal adding $1 to the cost.
Sirloin Medallions Wrapped in Bacon (Cost is 7.15 for 2 servings)
2 6 once Sirloin Medallions ($6, Wild Fork Foods or Walmart)
2 slices of bacon ($0.75)
3 T unsalted butter ($0.40)
Salt & Pepper
Set your steaks on a plate loosely wrapped with foil in the refrigerator overnight in order to get them as dry as possible. If this is not possible, dry them as much as you can with a paper towel.
Cut bacon the length and height of your medallion and wrap around and secure with a toothpick.
3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
4. Set your medallions on a tray on a baking sheet, and generously salt and pepper. Put baking sheet in oven.
5. Leave your steaks to cook slowly, checking every few minutes after 10 minutes. It should take around 20–25 minutes to cook your steaks to 115 degrees. Do not cook your steaks beyond this, as this will allow for a medium rare steak. If you want a well-done steak, this particular cut of meat is not for you as it will be tough and unpleasant if cooked beyond medium.
6. When your steaks are nearly done, heat a carbon steel, cast iron or other thick pan on high heat. Put 2 T canola or other high smoke point oil in the pan. Remove your steaks from the oven and place them in the hot pan. It will take only a minute to get a good sear on the steak. Turn the steak over and add 3 T cold butter to the pan. Add a sprig of thyme if you have one. Hold the pan at an angle away from the heat and spoon hot butter over the steak for around a minute. Put your steak on a plate or platter and let it rest briefly.
7. Serve your steak with rice and a crunchy vegetable, like a corn salad.
8. If you are lucky, your steak is a perfect medium rare. As I said earlier, cooking a sirloin medallion beyond medium rare is not advised as it will be tough. Chose another steak if you like it medium to well-done.