Sometimes you feel like a large steak that’s hard to finish in a single meal, while in other cases you’d prefer a leaner and smaller steak with fork-tender meat. There’s a steak for every preference and occasion. The Filet Mignon is often considered one of the very best cuts of beef. Yet it’s not right for every dinner either. Determine when the hearty Porterhouse may better fit your appetite and menu plans by comparing these two popular steak options.
What is a Porterhouse Steak?
Also known as a “king” cut of beef, the Porterhouse steak often starts at a minimum weight of 2 pounds. When served in the steakhouse, it often takes up an entire plate all by itself. It’s technically a combination of two different pieces of meat. When cut separately, these two pieces are the New York strip steak and the tenderloin steak. This makes it a composite cut rather than a single piece of muscle. Porterhouse steaks are generally bone-in only.
What is a Filet Mignon Steak?
Filet Mignon is one of the most tender cuts of beef available. It’s a medallion cut from the narrow end of a beef tenderloin. The tenderloin is so named because it’s rarely exercised and has the softest possible texture, even after cooking. Filet Mignon is soft and flavorful, but it’s a lean cut that doesn’t have as much marbling as many other steaks. Since it’s cut from a relatively small muscle group, the medallions are quite small. This makes it easier to control your portion sign if that’s a concern for you when eating steak.
What Makes a Steak?
The term steak simply refers to any cut of meat that’s sliced across the grain and relatively flat compared to a roast. This means that steaks can vary greatly in size, amount of fat, texture, flavor, and even nutritional levels. Filet Mignon is a smaller steak with limited fat and marbling, while the Porterhouse is a very large steak with plenty of both.
The Anatomy Behind an Expensive Steak
Expensive steaks generally include specific cuts like the Filet Mignon. This is because there’s only a little bit of tenderloin available on each cow, so there’s naturally less of it available. But aside from the cut of the steak, the general quality of the meat also plays a role in its price. The United States Department of Agriculture grades all beef by a number of quality factors. USDA Prime and Choice cuts will always cost more than Select steaks because they’re more tender, more flavorful, and feature better marbling. When planning to splurge on a fine steak, make sure to look for more than just a cut by name. Check that you’re getting Choice or Prime meat as well regardless of choosing Porterhouse vs Filet Mignon.
What Is the Difference Between Filet Mignon & a Porterhouse Steak?
You may find both of them at the butcher’s counter, but Filet Mignon and Porterhouse definitely look quite different. Yet they have a few things in common that might surprise you.
Where They Come From
The Porterhouse is cut from the top loin, but it also crosses over to where the tenderloin begins. This cut includes the best of both the flavorful top loin and extra soft tenderloin. The Filet Mignon comes from the tenderloin only, so it’s only a few inches away from the Porterhouse in most cows. Bone-in Filet Mignon will include part of the same bone you’ll find in the center of a Porterhouse steak.
At the steakhouse, you’ll often find that Porterhouse steaks cost about half as much as Filet Mignon per pound. It’s a little less of a difference for raw steaks. Filet Mignon will still cost more, but the Porterhouse demands a good price as well and will come in a much larger package at a higher total cost. Either way, choosing a Porterhouse and trimming it yourself can give you a tenderloin steak nearly as good as the Filet Mignon at a lower price.
Size and Proportions
Filet Mignon steaks can weigh as little as 6 ounces, depending on how much they’re trimmed. In contrast, the Porterhouse tends to start at 32 ounces or more. The filet often measures just a few inches in each direction, while the Porterhouse can easily hang over the edges of a full-sized dinner plate. Most steakhouses advertise the Porterhouse as a steak for two to split as a full meal.
Marbling and Taste
When it comes to fat mixed into the tissue, the Porterhouse comes out on top. It’s a much more marbled cut of meat than the Filet Mignon, especially on the larger strip steak side. This gives it a more complex and intense beef flavor as well. However, the more delicate flavor of Filet Mignon appeals to some more than the beefy taste of the Porterhouse.
Bone and Fat Content
The Porterhouse always has a bone running down the middle. If it’s trimmed to exclude this bone, it forms two different steaks instead. Filet Mignon is almost always boneless, but it can be cut to include a piece of bone as well. It’s much leaner than the Porterhouse, featuring less marbling and less exterior edge fat.
Method of preparation
Both steaks respond well to oven cooking and pan frying. The Filet Mignon can dry out if smoked or grilled too long, but the Porterhouse is larger and has enough fat to withstand it. It’s also a better choice for slow cooking in most cases. Sous vide is a method that’s easier to apply to the Filet Mignon due to its smaller size, offering more uniform cooking no matter the method.
Recommended Seasonings or Marinades
Since the Filet Mignon has a more delicate flavor, it’s often recommended to keep the seasonings light when cooking it. It can soften up too much if marinated with a strong acid or enzyme as well. Porterhouse steaks can take your spicy rubs and strong marinades without losing their own flavors in the mix. Try classic salt and pepper for the Filet Mignon and stronger flavors like smoked paprika, cumin, and chili powder for the Porterhouse.
The Filet Mignon is a leaner steak, but only by a small amount. In a single 3.5-ounce serving, it provides 15 grams of total fat, while the Porterhouse has 19 grams in the same amount of meat. The same amount of steak has around 270 calories from the Porterhouse and 227 if it’s the Filet Mignon. This makes the filet a better choice for calorie counters or those on diets that restrict fat consumption. Both offer a lot of protein, with the Porterhouse providing 20 grams per 3.5-ounce serving and the Filet Mignon delivering 22 grams.
The Porterhouse steak can fill out a plate and will serve two with ease, even if you’re both big eaters. Yet the Filet Mignon remains a classic and elegant choice for fine dining experiences. Try alternating these two popular cuts of beef so you never get tired of putting together a great steak dinner for you and your guests. Both offer different but equally good experiences, especially when you’re cooking with steaks from the Chicago Steak Company.