We’re all used to seeing the classic cartoon steak — bright red, an outline of fat, and, of course, a big T-bone in the middle. It makes sense that we’d think of it as a T-bone, but the reality is that it’s most likely a porterhouse steak. Why is that important in the real world, and how is a porterhouse actually different from a T-bone?
Porterhouse and T-bone steaks are cut from the same part of a cow: the short loin. They each also have the telltale "T" shaped bone running through the cut, and they both have the same kind of meat.
The only real difference between these two is the amount of meat — more specifically, the amount of meat on the tenderloin. T-bones and porterhouses can be split into two separate cuts of steak: the strip (the larger and longer piece) and the tenderloin (the smaller, more tender piece).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (Fresh Beef Series 100, of course), a porterhouse needs to have a tenderloin at least 1.25 inches thick.
A T-bone, on the other hand, needs to be at least half an inch thick at its widest part. However, there is a bit of a trick. If the tenderloin ends up meeting the required 1.25-inch thickness then it can be sold as a porterhouse. The chain goes like this:
It’s sort of a squares and rectangles thing — a porterhouse is a T-bone with a larger tenderloin, but a T-bone can’t be a porterhouse.
Since this bad boy has so much meat on it, a properly grilled porterhouse will provide the out-of-body experience one can hope for from a quality steak. The flavor brought about by a savory rub, marinade, or even just basic steak seasoning makes this the go-to for beef lovers everywhere. And hey, you'll always have leftovers.
With its size, grilling is generally going to be the best way to properly cook a porterhouse. Make sure to let the raw steak come up to room temperature and salt it before it ever sees the heat.
Heat your grill to medium-high heat, somewhere between 400 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your steak on the grill, flipping it every minute or so. It’s a long-standing culinary myth that you shouldn’t flip a steak too often, but, as J. Kenji López-Alt at the Serious Eats Food Lab will tell you, more flips equal more flavor equal a better steak.
After 8 to 10 minutes (or when your meat thermometer reads 120 degrees for rare, 125 degrees for medium-rare, 130 degrees for medium), pull it off the grill and let it rest for a few minutes. Voila.
This method is classic and works well for a porterhouse’s size. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while putting an oven-safe steel or cast iron skillet on a burner on high heat. Add an oil with a high smoke point (like canola or olive oil).
Once both the oven and skillet are ripping hot, gently lay your room temperature and salted steak on the skillet. After a minute, flip it to its other side and wait another minute. Using your tongs, hold the steak vertically so the fatty side of the strip is resting on the skillet.
Lay your steak back down and put it in the oven for about 3–5 minutes. Take it out, flip the steak, and wait 3–5 minutes before checking the steak’s internal temperature with a meat thermometer. As we mentioned before, you’ll want it at 120 degrees for rare, 125 for medium-rare, and 130 for medium. Don’t forget that it’ll keep cooking after you remove it from heat and let it rest!
We’re big fans of the powerhouse porterhouse, but let’s be real: It’s a lot of meat. The average porterhouse can range from 16 ounces to a whopping 40 ounces. On the bright side, if you're not planning on sharing your steak, you'll probably set some sort of record for red meat consumption (though we don't endorse that).
We highly recommend having some lighter veggies to counteract the inevitable meat-sweats from consuming a porterhouse. A simple roasted asparagus is easy, quick, and offers a different texture and flavor profile when you need a steak break. Alternatively, steamed broccoli is just as easy while adding a similar amount of color to your plate.
Of course, sometimes you need to go all out with your steak dinner. There’s the classic steak partner, mashed potatoes. You could also go a little foreign (not really) with steak-frites AKA steak and fries, although we’d recommend sweet potato fries over your standard french fries.
Unsurprisingly, butcher shops will sell you porterhouse cuts without an issue. Check with your local grocery store to see if they’ve got an in-house butcher or stock a local butcher’s cuts to make sure you’re getting quality meat.
It's important to note, though, that both the T-bone and porterhouse will cost you more. You're getting more meat and more flavor, which means more money from your pocket. Chances are you'll spend anywhere from $10 to $90 for a porterhouse and even more if you're springing for one at a restaurant.
It's well worth it, though, especially if you're sharing it with another person. And even if you're not, it's still worth it for all that flavor and quality meat.