Every month or so, I see my dad’s friend (and my honorary uncle), Big John. And every time I see Big John, he asks me the same question: “Is Jeff still treating you right?” Next time he asks, I’m going to show him this photo of last night’s Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon. Hot off the grill.

Jeff only asked for one specific thing for his birthday: prime beef. The highest grade. And I am not one to stand between a man and his dream. We drove directly to the butcher shop and waited while the butcher cut our two steaks (a bone-in ribeye for Jeff and the filet for me) and pointed out some of the signs of prime beef: the light cherry-red color of the meat and the cobweb-like marbling. And there was the price.

But would the grade make a real difference in the flavor? And was the price justified?

Usually when I eat a steak, a choice or select cut from the grocery, I do two things that drive Jeff insane. I separate the outer fat from the steak and leave it in a pile on my plate – it’s a texture thing – and I use steak sauce. I never understood his issue with Heinz 57, but he would insist that great steak needed no condiment. Maybe a little salt and pepper.

Before he grilled my filet mignon, I had to solemnly swear to try it without the sauce.

I am a convert.

I ate every single bite of this steak. It was so buttery, I thought Jeff had melted a pat of butter on top of the meat when he took it off the grill, but I was wrong. Prime beef is buttery. And tender. And full of flavor. The fat practically melts into the meat, which is incredibly lean. I ate every meaty morsel, and then I ground the toothpicks into dust and snorted them off the plate.

The grade makes a difference.

As for the price, it was pricey. My steak was $40 per pound. We bought an 8-ounce steak for me, but we could have easily cut it into two 4-ounce steaks, paired them with sides and been perfectly satisfied for less than the cost of the same meal at a restaurant serving a lower grade of beef. For two people who eat only chicken and fish at home, a prime steak splurge every once in a while fits into our budget.

The next time you are planning a special dinner or holiday meal, consider investing in prime beef, even if you only use it as a side dish, as Thomas Jefferson suggested. It’s satisfying in smaller amounts and delicious to the last bite. No steak sauce required.

Is Jeff still treating me right? Oh, yeah.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon

From Jeff Crump (Ezra Pound Cake)

  • 1 (8-ounce) filet mignon
  • 1 slice slab bacon
  • Kosher salt, to taste

1. Let the steak come to room temperature. Wrap slice of slab bacon around the outer perimeter of the steak, and secure with toothpicks.

2 .While the steak is resting, prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Lightly coat the grill rack with a no-stick cooking spray, like Weber® Grill ‘N Spray™. The coals should be medium-high, around 400 degrees F.

3. Rub salt on both sides of the steak.

4. Place the steak directly on the grill, and close the lid. Let it cook for about 3 minutes. Open the lid, and use tongs to give the steak a quarter turn. Close the lid, and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes.

5. Open the lid. Turn the steak over. Continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F for a medium steak with a pink center. (Note: Filet mignon has very little fat, so try not to cook it past medium. Otherwise, your steak could become tough and lose flavor.)

6. Take the steak off the grill. Let it rest under a tent of aluminum foil (or a clean towel) for 5-10 minutes before serving.