A lot of people will try to tell you there isn’t a difference between a porterhouse steak and a T-bone steak. 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 the cattle (the short loin), and both hold the same kinds of meat (the NY strip and the tenderloin filet) the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, has strict rules about how much beef belongs on a porterhouse or T-bone.
Learn the difference for yourself and bone up on why porterhouses, in particular, are such prized cuts of steak below.
What Goes into a Porterhouse or T-Bone
Porterhouse and T-bone steaks are types of meat that are both cut from the short loin area of cattle. The T-shaped bone that the T-bone steak is named after runs through two different kinds of steak in this part of the cow. Both of these cuts are highly prized by steak lovers. One side of the bone is a NY strip, second only, perhaps, to the rib-eye in terms of beef quality. On the other side is a tenderloin filet: extra-lean, and super tender.
Each of these cuts is 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 primary difference between porterhouse vs T bone comes down to the size of the filet.
Porterhouse steaks have more filet to them than T-bones. The USDA – generally considered the arbiter of all things beef-related – has strict guidelines for the size of the filet cut 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 United States Department of Agriculture says that 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 come 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 falls short of the 1.25 inches mark, it can only be labeled as a T-bone steak. It is important to note that a T-bone’s filet must be at least 0.25 inches thick to be sold as a T-bone. Otherwise, it might just be sold as a bone-in NY Strip or a Club steak.
Porterhouse vs T Bone: Price Difference
For either cut, those marked with USDA Prime will have the highest cost, but this goes for just about any steak cut, like a rib eye or boneless strip, because these are considered nearly perfect steak with excellent marbling. But, which choice of beef is usually the more expensive one?
Because of their ample filets, porterhouse steaks are priced far higher than T-bone steaks, in general. However, 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.
Ultimately, the cost difference between the two will come down to a variety of factors, like quality, how many pounds they are, how long they were aged, and even where you buy them from. A portion of porterhouse or T-bone from a butcher is probably going to be more expensive than a portion from a supermarket, simply because of the quality you’re getting.
Cooking Porterhouse vs T Bone
Your piece of porterhouse or T-bone will cook similarly, being that they come from the same part of the cow and have the same texture. The key difference when cooking them will be your cooking time. The porterhouse generally will take a little extra time because of the size of its filet.
When it comes to the method of cooking each one, though, you can opt for the same. Cooking a steak like a porterhouse or T-bone is usually best managed with a cast-iron pan, which gives it the ultimate sear and leaves the inside a perfect medium-rare pink. Season the steak with salt and pepper before cooking, and you’re good to go.
You might also use your favorite steak rub to season the steaks and then set them on your charcoal or gas grill. Sear them first on the hot side of the grill and then move them over to a low-heat side to finish off the cooking process before you serve them. More on that and how you can master these cuts on the grill in a moment.
Tips When Choosing Between Porterhouse vs T Bone Steaks
We want you to find the best portion of T-bone or porterhouse to fit your budget, so here are a few tips to help you do that.
First, be aware that some T-bones actually contain more of a filet piece 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 the porterhouse price). Basically, you’ll need to use your porterhouse vs T bone investigative skills to figure out how you can best maximize your budget based on how much meat you’ll get from the steaks you choose.
Second, you can tell for sure what kind of beef steaks you’re getting by paying attention to some numbers on the label. For USDA-certified meat, you can find what’s known as an Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS) number on the label. This is a code that notes what type of meat it is under USDA standards, which may also be followed by a description of the meat, like its quality, any added ingredients, etc. For porterhouse, look for code 1173; T-bone is 1174. (Note: This also works with other steaks, like hanger steak or rib eye, so you can always have command over your red meat choices!)
Finally, because T-bones and porterhouses are made of two kinds of beef, which cook at different rates and taste best at different temperatures, try the following cooking 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.
Check out Chicago Steak Company’s premium T-bone and Porterhouse steaks to try to some of America’s juiciest and most quality beef. For more grilling tips on how to achieve the perfect porterhouse or T-bone, check out Steak U TV.
Porterhouse and T-bone steaks are both cut from the short loin section of cattle. The T-shaped bone, where T-Bone’s name derives, runs through two different kinds of steak. One side of the bone is a NY strip. On the other side is a tenderloin filet.
These cuts are often removed from the bone and served on their own, but when both filet and strip are left on the bone you get a porterhouse or a T-bone.
The difference comes down to the size of the filet.
Porterhouses Are T-Bone, but a T-Bone Isn’t a Porterhouse
For a T-bone steak to qualify as a porterhouse, the filet is required to be at least 1.25 inches thick from the bone to the widest point on the filet.
If a T-bone’s filet falls 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 to be sold as a T-bone.
Thanks to the larger filet, porterhouse steaks are priced far higher than T-bones.
When grilling your Porterhouse or T-Bone steak, build a flame on only one side of the grill with the strip section over the flame, and the filet towards 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.