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Monday, August 09, 2004

Recipe File: Grilled Porterhouse or T-Bone Steak

My favorite steak for grilling is a porterhouse steak. This is a beef steak cut from the loin that includes parts of two delicious muscles: the top loin and the tip of the tenderloin (or filet as in filet mignon). The filet is extremely tender with a buttery, melt-in-you-mouth texture when cooked to medium-rare. The top loin, also known as strip steak, New York strip steak, or Kansas City steak, has a more chewy texture preferred by some and is full of rich beef flavor. When I say the strip steak is more chewy, I mean it is a little more textured than the filet - you still don't need a steak knife to cut into it. To top it all off, I like to prepare mushrooms reduced in beef broth.

(A T-Bone steak is almost the same cut as a Porterhouse but with a much smaller section of the filet attached. Because of this, the T-Bone steak is a little less tender than a Porterhouse. Cook a T-Bone steak the same way as a Porterhouse steak.)

I prepared the mushrooms on the side burner of my propane grill while prepping and grilling the steak. First melt two tablespoons butter in a pan and allow the butter to foam.

Place 8 oz. sliced mushrooms (button or medium cremini work well) in the butter and saute on medium heat until mushrooms give off moisture.

Once most of the moisture has boiled off, add a 14 oz. can of low sodium beef broth to the pan and allow the broth to reduce.

When the broth has reduced to the point where it coats the back of a spoon, add two tablespoons of heavy cream. While stirring, let the heavy cream reduce the sauce until it coats a spoon again. Remove from heat and set aside for topping the steak.

Meanwhile, build a two level charcoal fire or preheat your propane grill. Prepare your Porterhouse steak by seasoning with salt and pepper on both sides. I prefer to cook thicker steaks of about 1-1/4 inch to 1-1/2 inch in thickness (a little less than 2 pounds). During grilling, the thicker steak results in a more even medium rare throughout the meat.

Place the steak on the hottest part of the grill and leave it there for 2 minutes. If using a propane grill, close the lid. On a charcoal grill, keep the lid off, but keep an eye open for flame ups and put them out with a squirt bottle or simply move the steak to prevent charring. After two minutes, flip the steak over and brown the other side - two minutes.

Once both sides have been browned, move the steak over to the lower heat and finish cooking. In general it should take about 7-8 minutes to cook to medium rare (internal temperature of 130°F), but because the building of fires is different every time, I recommend using an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature. Just insert the probe from the side of the steak and plunge the probe into the center. Don't worry if it takes longer than eight minutes, that just means your heat is too low. Continue to let it cook until the internal temperature reads 130°F. Remove from grill and let the steak rest for five minutes loosely covered with aluminum foil.

The filet of the Porterhouse steak should not be cooked beyond madium rare or it may toughen. I solve this by rotating the steak such that the strip steak is closer to the high heat while the tenderloin cut is on the cooler side. This will cook the filet a bit slower and not dry it out while trying to finish the top loin. Serve with mushroom topping over the steak or on the side.

Grilled Porterhouse Steak (serves 2 hearty eaters)
1-1/4" Porterhouse or T-bone steaksalt & peppergrill on high for 2 min. each sidegrill on low until 130°F

2 Tbs. buttermeltsauteereducereduce
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
14 oz. low sodium beef broth
2 Tbs. heavy cream
Copyright Michael Chu 2004

posted by Michael Chu @ 8/09/2004 06:52:48 PM   25 comments
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At 11:53 PM, Robert said...

Your a genius. You shouldn't have called it "cooking ro engineers" - you should've called it "cooking for men". This is the first recipe source that MAKES SENSE !!!

Caveat: I'm an accountant, but then I'm also an academic and a Perl hacker, so maybe I'm not normal, but a sub-engineer? Who knows. At least I can now learn to cook !!!!!!!

At 2:04 AM, Anonymous said...

Stop eating the cattle, f#*ker.

At 3:58 AM, Anonymous said...

It's cooking for _engineers_. It would be very nice if you used SI units. It would be very helpful for European readers, too. Cheers.

At 4:04 AM, Michael Chu said...

Engineers use the units that are available locally to them. Scientists use SI. :)

See my post on this topic in the Standing Rib Roast article.

At 4:26 AM, Scotty said...

Great job! One comment though. I found the last paragraph about evening out the cooking by favoring one side confusing because there is no component identification diagram. Could you enhance your otherwise complete process guide with a placement diagram so I can understand which is the strip side? Thanks!

At 4:36 AM, Michael Chu said...


In the first photograph with the steak (when it is raw on the plate), the strip (or top loin) section is the lower portion. The smaller portion (on the upper half of the steak) is the tenderloin or filet cut. The strip can be cooked closer to the heat as it handles overcooking better than the filet, so orient the tenderloin away from your heat source.

I'll try to take a picture the next time I grill a Porterhouse.

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous said...

I highly recommend starting off by grilling the steak for 15 seconds, on each side, TWICE. This will prevent the steak from sticking to the grill. Next, flip the steak every 45 seconds, for two to three full cycles. Then switch to every thirty seconds until the steak is close to the desired level of "doneness." Then switch to every 20 seconds until it is ready. Flipping often like this allows you to get the steak to have a very even level of red or pink (in medium-rare and medium levels of doneness, where rare == "dark red center (raw)," medium rare == "bright red center," etc. Switching to 30 seconds per side, followed by 20 seconds per side keeps with this goal, and makes it far easier to prevent over cooking. I learned this through trial and error over time. This is the technique I came up with after about 100 steaks grilled, and I get them cooked to perfection every time (unless the steak was cut badly, i.e., the middle is thinner than the edges, or some such variation).

The way to cook the mushrooms is a great idea. Thanks.

At 8:15 AM, Anonymous said...

Was wondering; any recommendations for those who like their steaks done a little more?

I assume that you'd just leave it on for a few more minutes on low heat, but do you have any suggestions on how to keep it from drying up too much going to medium or medium well? There's a big difference between "medium well" and "burnt leather" that I've tasted before, but I haven't figured out how to replicate reliably.

At 9:04 AM, artc said...

I agree that Porterhouse is the best. Personally I don't mind a bit of char on the fat so I lightly trim mine leaving about 1/4" of fat and then grill on very hot coals (as in charcoal, mesquite or hickory) turning only once after about 3 min. (for a 3/4" - 1" steak) and cooking until the steak just starts to feel firm when poked with tongs. (NEVER use a fork!) The more it's turned and the longer it cooks the more it dries out. (I think it's impossible to cook a steak less than 3/4" well) If cooked until rare and quickly wrapped in foil for a few min. it will be medium rare when served. NEVER cook a steak past medium rare....just buy hamburger....or eat an old shoe!

My $.02

PS Nice site!

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous said...

If you really must overcook your steak--ie take it to medium or medium well--the only way to perserve the quality of the meat is to finish the cooking time off the grill.

The fat conducts the heat to the meat very efficiently and helps keep the meat from drying out. The butter solids and salt will add some richness to the meat to help compensate for overcooking. The sugar in the jelly will also enhance the flavors and contrast nicely with the saltiness of the butter.

Add a pat of butter to your saute pan and heat until butter starts melting, and a spoonful of currant or other jelly (not jam, but jelly, there is a difference) that will work with your seasoning mix. The jelly and butter will melt together and start to bubble. When a small amount foam starts to form, add the steak and saute it until you reach the desired level of doneness. The meat will cook very rapidly. Turn it frequently and check for doneness.

This works very well if you are cooking for a big group and you want to precook your steaks. Just cook them all rare and hold hot. When you are almost ready to serve your food, ask each person how they want their steak. Saute each steak to the desired level.

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous said...


great web site.

Just two tips: I would not season the meat before, but during cooking, as soon as you move it from high heat to low heat. Salt causes the uncooked meat to dry out, and pepper can burn on high heat, making the meat bitter.

For the barbarian who wants his meat overdone: The trick is to work with really low heat. I have not tried the pan solution, but what works is to cover the steak in aluminium foil and keep it on very low heat - an oven set to 80 degrees centigrade works well. Or cover it in foil and keep it at the very side of the fire - less reliable, but more of the stone-age barbecue feeling ;-)

At 9:28 PM, Dan the Goose said...

Awesome. I'd tack on an overnight marination in anything at the beginning, though.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous said...

I am surprised that you advocated adding pepper (and from the picture it appears to be ground pepper) prior to cooking.

As any chef will tell you, black pepper will become carcinogenic if heated. If one insists on having the pepper present while cooking, whole peppercorns should be use, as it will diminish the carcinogenic effect. That is why all of the fine restaurants have peppercorn steaks on the menus.

For a different, more savory taste, try putting whole juniper berries on the steak while grilling.

At 10:55 PM, Michael Chu said...

re: carcinogen

This is the first I've heard that ground black pepper is carcinogenic when heated. Do you know where I can find more information on this?

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous said...

EEEEEK. One does not turn the steak repeatedly over and over and over a mesquite, hickory or lame gas fire.

Grease the grill first so it doesn't stick. Jeez.

Turn only once, the first side is your presentation side.

Or sear first on a cast iron pan for a minute or so and we're talking red hot pan.

Toss in to a 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes or less depending upon thickness.

Basic stuff man. Sorry for your 100 steaks, poor things. Steaks been done before.

Dr. Biggles / MeatHenge

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous said...

The "don't salt the meat before cooking it" warning is an urban legend. It makes sense logically, but in practice, it doesn't hold up. Any chef or cook who specializes in this area of cooking will tell you that salting the meat BEFORE it gets cooked is imperative to achieving a good flavor and nice, seasoned "crust" on the surface of the meat. I used to believe in this myth, but once I tried it myself, I realized just how wrong it is.

Even Bruce Aidells, the king of meat, strongly refutes the idea of post-salting.

At 3:19 PM, Anonymous said...

I agree – salt and peppering before grilling is essential. I have heard the theory that seasoning should not be done until searing to seal in the flavor & juices, but I don’t believe this to be true. I have read, heard (on Food Network) and found through testing that seasoning BEFORE putting the meat to heat creates much better flavor as well as a nice crust to truly seal in the flavors and juices.

Regarding the comment on not using pepper when grilling due to carcinogens, two things. First, I have heard that everything grilled is full of carcinogens due to the fact that the food is cooked over burning coals, wood and/or gas. I have not heard that pepper specifically has anything to do with this. Even if pepper does increase the carcinogens, I say it’s worth it. In my opinion, a steak without plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper applied before cooking will never be as good. And let’s not forget, YOU’RE EATING A PORTERHOUSE – a healthy meal is not the objective!

I also agree on minimizing turning of the steak. The steak needs to sit in one spot for a period of time to develop that tasty crust.

As for cooking a steak beyond med rare, the first thing I would suggest is to avoid porterhouse. It’s simply not worth the money if you’re going to cook it that long. Fillet Mignon (one side of the Porterhouse) needs, more than any other steak, to be on the rare side since it has so little fat. If you want a more well-done steak, I would suggest a thinner and fattier cut which will allow you to cook it through w/o totally drying it out (ribeye or thinner strip steak for example).

Also, great site!

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous said...

Always allow your steak to come to room temperature before grilling.

At 8:11 PM, Anonymous said...

The less you flip the steak the better. If you insist on going past medium rare become a vegan and save the beef for us.

At 12:11 AM, Anonymous said...

I agree, too much flipping makes the meat tougher. You should only flip it once. I don't know why exactly but my theory is that it has something to do with heating up and cooling down more than once (the side away from the flame cools down somewhat).

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous said...

I remember from my undergraduate organic chemistry textbook that, indeed, black pepper contains 32 known carcinogens (2nd ed by Bruice). You don't have to cook black pepper to produce carcinogens. This knowledge has never stopped me from eating black pepper in excess.

The carcinogens intrinsically produced in grilling are mainly free radicals that are produced whenever you heat a hydrocarbon (i.e. butter, fat, burnt-sugar, etc.) to high temperatures. This is why french fries are so incredibly unhealthy: not only are they high in fat but they are also loaded with free radicals.

Fortunately for us, there are antioxidants that bind to free radicals and render them harmless. Anthocyanin, the pigment responsible for most of the red in fruits and vegetables, is just one such antioxidant. My favorite source of anthocyanin just happens to go excellently with steak: red wine.


At 11:09 AM, R Westin said...

Have just read through the methods of grillin a Porterhouse Steak. Seems simple enough. Those that have written in seem to be suffering from, "Beating an old horse to death" syndrome. Surely they're smarter than they're letting on. A little common sense goes a long cooking too!!!
R. Westin-Frisco, Texas
Yes, Texans know how to grill. It's genetic!

At 9:51 PM, Anonymous said...

I really appreciate your website and many suggestions. Once again tonight I attempted grilling three nice porterhouses that had plenty of marbling. Since my family prefers their meat medium well, it has been a real challenge for me. I've tried the thermometer it doesn't work for me. I've got three in my house cause I thought I was buying bad themometers. I grilled them about five minutes on each side and then brought them inside to finish them in the pan like it was suggested. I read a good temp for medium well is 165. Thank God I didn't wait for the thermometer to read that. I had trouble getting them up to 140. They were well done at 140. They were about 1 inch thick. I would like to know about how long to grill a 1 inch thick porterhouses or t-bones. It would be helpful to me to know how many minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness to acheive medium well results. Also, after you do the two minute sear, do you leave the lid up. My steaks seem dryer when I leave the lid up. Also, when you are grilling more than one steak do you have to grill them longer. Please advise.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous said...

The smaller side is always or almost always the filet on a steak with a "T" bone. I prefer my steak rare, even being a microbiologist. I have found that certain things cook fine or better if they are flipped often, depends on what it is and what you want to accomplish (I flip marinated chicken breasts quite often, coating more sauce on them as I do, very yummy). I also put garlic and onion powders on my steak. Seasoning post cooking produces an inferior product, I accidentally forgot to season first when I was new to cooking and even after drowning it in seasonings afterwards it did not fix the blandness.

Also not an engineer but my lab is populated by them and I am the daughter of one =).

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous said...

Engineering is an exact science based on mis-information from Instrumentation. I made a block of wood for use in stores to get the exact steak thickness I want. That is, my small block of wood is exactly 1 1/2 inches in length (used for home cooking) by 1 3/8 inches in width (used for commercial purposes). I ask my butcher (I reside in Mexico) to set his saw per my block and receive uniform pieces of (frozen) meat I can cook to perfection.


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