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What is a Porterhouse Steak?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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When patrons of fine steakhouses want the best cut of beef on the menu, the waiter will often suggest a large T-bone known as a Porterhouse steak. This steak is quite often the thickest and largest cut offered on most traditional steakhouse menus, with the possible exception of prime rib. Consequently, it may also be among the most expensive entrees as well.

A butcher creates both T-bone and Porterhouse steaks from the same area of the cow, the short loin and tenderloin region just behind the upper rib section. Slicing through the cow's vertebrae creates a T-shaped bone. This bone separates two sections of meat, the larger short loin section and the smaller but prized tenderloin section. A traditional T-bone steak can be sliced fairly thin, and may not contain very much tenderloin at all, depending on its location along the spine, but a Porterhouse must be cut much thicker in order to be sold under this name.

The tenderloin section of a cow is essentially a wedge that grows bigger towards the back of the cow. Cuts made along the back section of the short loin will have much larger portions of tenderloin, and this is the area butchers carve to create true Porterhouse steaks. A typical cow might yield a number of thinner T-bone steaks, but only a few thick cuts which would pass the legal definition of a Porterhouse. Some restaurants or meat producers may try to label regular T-bones with this name, but this practice is considered deceptive.

A Porterhouse steak is ideal for grilling or broiling because it does not contain much collagen that needs to be cooked off slowly. Because the two sections of the steak cook at slightly different temperatures, it is not unusual for a finished steak to reach two different states of doneness. Cooks must learn how to control or manipulate their grills or broilers in order for both the tenderloin and the short loin sections to reach the same level of doneness desired by the customer. Because the number of Porterhouse cuts may be limited, many steakhouses leave the responsibility of preparing one to their most experienced cooks.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon333358 — On May 04, 2013

A porterhouse is as already mentioned, merely a T-Bone that still has the nice, big, juicy tenderloin on it, which is just below the top of the short loin known as a New York Strip.

The tenderloin (round, coin shaped piece) is usually marketed with bacon wrapped around it after being cut thicker and then called a filet Mignon. Yum, yum, yum. Just be aware that all meat markets/ grocery store name and market each cut of beef and pork as they feel. So different regions might call a ribeye a Kansas City steak and so forth.

By anon183143 — On Jun 04, 2011

A porterhouse steak is a T-bone steak, but what gives it its name is the tenderloin. The tenderloin has to be at least 1.5 inches wide at to be called a porterhouse. If the tenderloin is under 1.5 inches thick then its just a plain old T-bone. Ribeye, T-bone, porterhouse, strip steak, and tenderloin all come off the spine of the Cow. The only difference between the steaks is where it is located on the vertebrae of the cow.

By anon41979 — On Aug 18, 2009

I think the smaller portion(the filet mignon) is the upper or tenderloin.

By anon41472 — On Aug 15, 2009

on a t-bone or porterhouse, which muscle is the top and which the bottom, strip or tenderloin? is there a site that shows the cross section of the t-bone on a cow?

By bananas — On Apr 15, 2009

An interesting name for a steak. I wonder where does the name come from? It would be safe to assume I suppose, that it got its name either from a restaurant where it was served, or could it possibly be a butcher or a cattleman?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to DelightedCooking, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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