A lot of people will try to tell you there isn’t any difference between a porterhouse steak and a T-bone. All it takes, they say, is one look at the same T-shaped bone – meat on one side, more meat on the other – to know they’re the same cut of meat.
Well, a lot of people couldn’t be more wrong.
While it’s true that T-bones and porterhouses are cut from the same section of cattle (that would be the short loin), and that they both hold the same kinds of meat (those would be NY strip and tenderloin filet), the USDA has strict rules about how much meat belongs on a porterhouse or T-bone.
Learn the difference for yourself and bone up on why porterhouses in particular are such a prized cut of steak below.
What Goes into a Porterhouse or T-Bone
Porterhouse and T-bone steaks are both cut from the short loin section of beef cattle. The T-shaped bone that the T-bone steak is named after runs through two different kinds of steak in this section. Both of these cuts are highly prized by steak lovers. On the one side of the bone is NY strip, second only, perhaps, to rib-eye in terms of beef quality. On the other side is a tenderloin filet: extra-lean, and super tender.
Both of these cuts are often removed from the bone and served on their own. It’s only when both filet and strip are left on the bone that you get a porterhouse or T-bone.
So what actually sets a porterhouse apart from a T-bone?
The difference comes down to the size of the filet.
Porterhouse steaks have more filet to them then T-bone’s, the USDA – generally considered the arbiter of all things beef-related – has strict guidelines for the amount of filet that has to be present for a steak to qualify as a porterhouse. To put it another way…
Porterhouses Are T-Bones…
For a T-bone steak to qualify as a porterhouse, the filet is required to be at least 1.25 inches thick. Thickness is measured from the bone to the widest point on the filet. Porterhouses comes from the rear of the short loin, where the tenderloin is thickest. The result is an incredibly hefty cut of steak. Many porterhouses weigh in the range of 24 ounces and are served at steakhouses as meals for two.
…But a T-Bone Isn’t a Porterhouse
If a T-bone’s filet fall short of the 1.25 inch mark, it can only be labelled as a T-bone steak. It is important to note that a T-bone’s filet must be at least 0.25 inches thick in order to be sold as a T-bone. Otherwise, it might just be sold as a bone-on NY Strip or a “Club” steak.
Porterhouse and T-Bone Tips
Because of their ample filets, porterhouse steaks are priced far higher than T-bones. But some steaks that qualify as porterhouses might have filets that are thick in one section and thin in the rest, so pay close attention to the filet’s overall size when you pick one out.
For similar reasons, some T-bones actually contain more filet than certified porterhouses. If you can find a T-bone with consistent filet thickness, you can get something close to a porterhouse cut (without having to pay a porterhouse price).
Finally, because T-bones and porterhouses are made out of two kinds of beef, which cook at different rates and taste best at different temperatures, try the following trick. When grilling your steak, build a flame on only one side of the grill. After searing the steak, cook it by keeping the strip section over the flame, pointing the filet toward the non-flame section. This will leave the filet slightly rarer, resulting in a better tasting steak.
For more grilling tips on how to achieve the perfect porterhouse or T-bone, check out Steak U TV.