Porterhouse vs T-bone Steaks: Unmasking the Differences

September 15, 2022

For me, the porterhouse steak is the better cut because it has a thicker fillet which is also juicier than T-bones. However, you can't argue that both porterhouse and T-bone steaks belong in the premier class when you're out to have the best lean steaks

As a pitmaster, you can't escape this dilemma. You're at the butcher shop or the grocery store and staring at two pieces of well-marbled meat from almost the same region of the bovine? Your pocket can only choose a single steak, and you say, “hey man, are you sure this would be the best cut or that?” Having been there and done that many times, in today's porterhouse vs. T-bone steaks comparison, we're going to talk about the differences between porterhouse and T-bone steaks. 

Porterhouse vs T-bone

What Is Better: T-bone or Porterhouse?

The porterhouse steak for me is the best of the two cuts. This is simply because the porterhouse is bigger and juicer.

Aside from this, there's not a whole lot of difference, and there are plenty of similarities. First, like the T-bone, porterhouse cuts have a T-shaped bone. 

However, the porterhouse steak, in particular, enjoys great popularity in New York's traditional steakhouses. 

If you like to frequent a meat temple like Peter Luger or a branch of Wolfgang's Steakhouse, it's most likely because of this premium cut of beef. Of course, T-bones are also offered there. 

Like the T-bone steak, the porterhouse steak is a large strip steak cut from the large loin of the beef. This is in the lower back area of ​​the animal and consists of the flat roast beef, the backbone, and the fillet lying there. 

The front and back part of the beef is called the round roast beef and protrudes into the adjacent prime rib.

T-bone Vs Porterhouse: the Size of the Fillet

Since the porterhouse steaks come from the rear of the short loin, they are thicker. What you get is an incredibly hefty type of steak. This is what makes them perfect for making tenderloin filet mignon. 

The further forward on the back you cut out the red meat, the thinner the filet will be. If the fillet is about 1.2 centimeters, the piece is classified as a T-bone steak. If you go towards the rear back, you get thicker fillet pieces. 

As a rule of thumb: If the fillet is more than 1.25 inches or around three centimeters, it is called a porterhouse steak.

According to the US Department of Agriculture definition, the fillet of a porterhouse steak must be at least 1.25 inches, or just under 3.2 centimeters, at its widest point. Half an inch (almost 1.3 cm) is sufficient for T-bones.

Grilling the Meat

Grilling a T-bone steak or porterhouse steak means preparing two different cuts on one bone that actually don't have much in common apart from this bone. 

The lean fillet is rather sensitive, and the roast beef is beautifully marbled at best. They are significantly more robust than the fillet. So here you have two cuts on one bone that are fundamentally different.

In the best case, you try to give the fillet less heat. In the charcoal grill, you can achieve this by pouring the charcoal at an angle. The distance between the embers and the grill will vary as a result. 

And in the gas grill, too, it is advisable to place the fillet on the side facing away from the heat source, especially during post-cooking or pre-cooking. 

A meat thermometer is recommended for checking the core temperature. It is also advisable to use it to check the degree of doneness of the fillet on the one hand and the degree of doneness of the short loin on the other. Be sure to give all the meat a few minutes to rest after grilling.

Practically, you can also cook such a steak standing upright on the T-bone. It acts as a kind of heat shield.

The sous vide technique is a very good option here too. However, both porterhouse and T-bone steaks have sharp edges on the bone, which is why they like to poke holes in the vacuum bag. 

Therefore, you will often find a piece of firm tissue with a waxy feel around the T-bone in vacuumed steaks you bought. This is called the T-bone line and precisely prevents the bag from being damaged. 

Another tip: You should use a boner to cut open the finished steak. It allows you to work precisely along the bone, but it goes far less than the noble Japanese chef's knife.

Grilled Beef Steaks

What Are Porterhouse Steaks?

The porterhouse beef belongs to the ultimate luxury steak club. They are monumental beef cuts. Porterhouse steaks are usually the most expensive cut. In the end, this is a steak that falls under the "meat with a wow factor." 

For most, the porterhouse steak is best used on a special occasion, and often it can be done—like the perfect tomahawk steak– primarily for a show effect.

You should take a deeper culinary look at it if you want to know what makes an outstanding porterhouse steak and how you can recognize it.

For the porterhouse steak to bear its name, again, the tenderloin portion must be at least one inch and a quarter thick. It's usually bigger, but it can't be smaller - otherwise, it's called a T-bone steak. It must also have a larger tenderloin filet at its widest point. 

The porterhouse steak cut is heavily marbled (that is, it has many fine strands of fat running through it) and has little connective tissue. The tasty rump steak part and the tenderloin portion make the porterhouse steak a big favorite among meat-loving men, and rightly so.

What Are T-bone Steaks?

The T-bone steak is one of the most well-known grilled items and is anchored in American grill culture, among other things. A T-bone steak comes from the beef loin, the rear area around where the tenderloin steak is taken; specifically where the tenderloin narrows.

It consists mainly of rump steak with a small proportion of short loin. Both the T-bone and porterhouse pieces are separated by the T-shaped bone, which gives the steak its T-bone name.

The rump steak portion presents itself as a well-structured muscle from the rib with little fat and a slightly firm bite. The fillet portion which is a tender steak melts as tender as butter on the tongue. Due to the slight marbling, the piece remains pleasantly juicy when roasting and retains its unmistakable taste.

The T-bone steak should be well matured - preferably dry aged - and have hung long enough. When it's time to grill, the T-bone steak should be at room temperature and then placed on a very hot grill (direct heat) for 4 to 5 minutes per side. 

The beef cut should only be turned once and is then seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. If the meat is of good quality, no additional spices are necessary.

Despite all the gradation of the external characteristics of these two flavor heavyweights, one thing is the same for the preparation: the T-bone, which is characteristic of both T-bone and porterhouse steaks, should not be removed beforehand. The great juiciness and the tasty aroma get into the meat by separating the fillet and roast beef cuts. The T-bone lies between the two muscles and is responsible for the division. 

Preparing the T-bone Steak

As with all bone-in steaks, one challenge I often have in cooking is getting the meat close to the T-bone cooked. One method I use is pre-cooking the meat before roasting or grilling it. 

To do this, the meat should be pre-cooked in the oven, for example, at a low temperature of 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, for about an hour. Depending on the thickness of the piece, the desired degree of doneness can be adjusted. Before that, the meat is, of course, washed under running water and dabbed dry. 

Alternatively, the meat can also be pre-cooked sous vide. Here the meat is drawn into a vacuum and pre-cooked at a low temperature to have a core temperature close to the desired degree of doneness. 

If you want to fry the steak in the pan, you will have brought the core temperature to the cooking point during pre-cooking. The steak is then seared briefly on both sides in a hot pan, about 3 minutes, to obtain the delicious, crispy surface. 

Roasted T-bone Steak

You should only season the steak after grilling, as high temperatures burn pepper and can leave an aftertaste. Salt (ideally sea salt) makes the meat crispier but also takes some of the juiciness out of the meat. I recommend only seasoning after grilling and only working with sea salt flakes.

If there is no time to pre-cook, you can also let the piece "cook" after grilling. To do this, let it rest at low heat, covered with aluminum foil, for about 10 minutes. 

When serving, the average T-bone steak is usually cut off the T-bone and divided into appropriate slices. Due to the size and weight, it makes sense to divide a steak between 2-3 guests. 

So everyone gets a part of the fillet and the rump steak. I prefer to season the steak directly on the plate with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Cooking Porterhouse Steak

Slightly score the fat edge of the porterhouse (if you have one) at a distance of about one centimeter - this prevents the meat from bulging in the pan or on the grill. To fry the steak, heat the cast iron pan or the stainless steel pan at the highest level, let some oil or clarified butter heat up in it and put the steak in it.

Sear on both sides, turning once. Since the porterhouse steak is a bit thicker, you can let it sizzle for up to four minutes per side. Ideally, the fillet part should get less heat. Then wrap in aluminum foil and cook in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12 minutes. Before eating, season and leave to rest in its juice for another two to three minutes.

Medium Rare, Medium, or Well-Done

Depending on how you like your T-bone steak, you can use the following core temperatures as a guide when grilling: 

At 130 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, your T-bone is still quite bloody on the inside and is, therefore, Medium Rare.

From 135 to 145 degrees, it is Medium and has more browned meat than pink. 

And at 145 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, your steak is Medium Well. This falls within the doneness recommendation of the USDA.  

It's considered Well Done at 155 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature. And at 165 degrees or more, you can tell it to yourself you have a "What have you done" steak! 

Jokes apart, your steak should not get anywhere here. Unless you're making shoe soles!

FAQs

1. Is T-bone or Porterhouse More Expensive?

Because they have more filet meat, porterhouse steaks are priced far higher than T-bones. But if you can find a T-bone steak with a consistent fillet thickness, you can get something close to porterhouse steaks without paying the price.

2. What 2 Steaks Make Up a Porterhouse Steak?

Porterhouse steaks consist of two noble cuts, which are connected by the characteristic T-shaped bone in the middle of the steak. On one side is the short loin. However, as an individual steak, the short loin is also called rump steak or sirloin. On the other hand, there is the fillet, commonly referred to as the most tender cut of beef. 

3. What Two Steaks Make Up a T-bone?

T-bone steaks consist mainly of rump steak, also known as short loin, and New York strip, with a small proportion of tenderloin filet mignon. The two pieces are separated by the T-shaped bone, which gives the steak its name.

Grilled Porterhouse with Roasted Potatoes

Conclusion

Are you thinking of ordering porterhouse steak or T-bone meat? As you can see from the porterhouse vs T-bone steak comparison, differentiating between Porterhouse and T-bone steak is not easy. After all, both T-bone and porterhouse steaks are very similar cuts of meat. These cuts, including the short loin, the fillet, and the T-shaped bone, are cut from the back of the beef – the T-bone gives the T-bone steak its name. 

Both the porterhouse and T-bone steaks have the characteristic T-bone and taste intensely juicy. The subtle difference lies in the detail. However, the flavor isn't the defining feature of these premier cuts. The answer depends on the exact body part of the cut of meat and the size of the fillet portion. Unlike T-bone steak, porterhouse has a larger strip steak. That is, when the cut has more filet, up to 1.25 to 3 inches, that's definitely porterhouse. If it's lower than the thinnest porterhouse, you have a T-bone!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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