How to grill a T-bone or Porterhouse steak seems to be a problem for a lot of people. You can be the "grill master" too and have an excellent grilled steak in about 10 minutes every time. Learn how with these easy to follow step by step photo instructions.
Fortunately, it is very simple to get great results. Start with a great steak, season simply, and cook over high heat. And what is more traditional than a T-bone or porterhouse steak. Let's get to it.
🐄 The Meat
The grade of beef is critical to the outcome. This is fairly easy. U.S. Prime is in the top 2%. It is an upper-end restaurant type of stuff. Expensive, and you probably will not pay the price. U.S. Choice is where you're buying.
About half of all beef falls into the Choice category. U.S. Select (formerly Good) does sound OK, and it is just that "OK." It is the lowest grade commonly sold at retail and is less juicy and tender.
I use Choice usually. I have a good "look" at it since choice covers most of the market, and the marbling can be quite variable. Also, I want the market to trim it well. I don't like paying $12+ a pound for a large piece of fat that should have been trimmed off.
T-bone vs. Porterhouse steaks
Both the T-bone and porterhouse steaks come from the short loin, which is between the rib and the sirloin. The larger side is strip steak, and the small side is a tenderloin (filet). In a T-bone, the tenderloin must measure a minimum of ½ inch across the center and the porterhouse a minimum of 1 ¼ inches.
So T-bone and porterhouse steaks are the same cut of meat except for more filet on the porterhouse. If they are the same price, get the porterhouse. My wife is a porterhouse hound.
A few last comments.
- Thickness: all the "experts" want 1 ½ inch... that is a pound and a half of cow. Have your butcher cut it at 1 inch. You will find both 1 inch and ¾ inch in the pre-cut. I think ¾ inch is a little too thin, and I want some meaty center, but it will do.
- Fed type: "grass-fed" seem to be the rage. NO NO NO. I grew up on grass-fed. It tastes like grass to me. (no comments please)
- Cow type: I find Angus a bit tastier.
♨️ The Grill
Any grill should work. I use natural gas. A charcoal grill will be fine also. You just need to get it hot...very hot. My grill has a surface temperature that is routinely at 650° plus. You don't need that hot.
I should note that there is a reverse searing method of cooking that is somewhat the opposite of this approach. You start with a low grill and get the meat to about the internal temperature you want and then crank it up to finish with a sear. It sounds a little fussy to me. I will try it someday.
👨🍳 Pro Tips
This is so easy. Allow the meat to rest at room temperature if possible. This is not ground meat, so it is safe, but anything over an hour makes me nervous, and I wouldn't do. If you don't rest it, you will need to cook a little longer to get the internal temp you want. Read that as dry it out.
Trim the extra fat. You won't eat it, and it will cause flair on the grill that will burn your expensive meat.
Salt. There is some debate about the timing here. Salt will pull the water out of meat, but then the salt and the water will absorb back into the meat. That takes 45 to 60 minutes.
So if you salt at the start of the rest, it is really good. If you salt at the end, it is good also but maybe not as good.
Do not salt with less than an hour left in the rest unless it is the last 10 minutes. This may pull water out of the meat, and it will not have time to re-absorb.
Seasoning. Pepper is a must, and we like garlic, so All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2 is perfect here. Or just use salt and pepper. I put the pepper and garlic on with the salt. See the above salt note.
Oil: not needed. Some will suggest a light brushing of oil on the meat and not the grill. I have tried his suggestion and could not tell the difference—your choice.
The Grill: The grates must be cleaned and oiled. The grate is going to be very hot, and olive oil has a lower smoke point. Use standard vegetable oil.
Grill the first side for 5 minutes. Use a watch, and do not just guess. If you are into cross grill marks, rotate 90 degrees at 2 ½ minutes.
After the 5 minutes, then flip. On the second side, usually cook for about 3 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium-rare and 5 minutes for medium. We like our meat at about 145°. That is overcooked for many. If you want rare, be careful, it is very easy to overcook past rare.
There are some variables with those suggested times. The exact grill temperature, the exact starting temperature of the steak, and the thickness of the steak. All this means you must check the internal temperature to get exactly the results you want.
You will read about a "touch" method to check if the steak is done. It probably works for pros or semi-pros but really for us normal people not so much. Get the thermometer out.
The Rest: DO NOT SKIP. During the cooking process, water comes out of the cells. If you cut the meat immediately, it will just drain on your plate. Let it rest lightly tented in foil uncut for at least 5 minutes, but ten is better. The fluid will absorb back into the meat.
Steak sauce: need I say this... just say NO.
📖 Steak Recipes
Rest the steaks at room temperature for about 1 hour if possible allowing the steaks to come to room temperature.
Trim the beef of extra fat. This is important to prevent "flare-ups" that will burn your expensive meat. Apply salt and pepper at the start of your resting period. Just before going on the grill is OK if you are skipping the rest or you forgot. Use coarse salt and pepper. I used my 7:2:2, which is kosher salt: pepper: garlic.
Preheat your grill to maximum. Yep, as hot as it will go. Clean and oil well. Do not just olive oil here due to the low smoke point.
Place over direct heat.
In five minutes (by the clock), flip the meat. If you're into crossed grill marks, you should have rotated the meat 90 degrees at about 2 ½ minutes.
Grill for approximately three more minutes for rare, four more minutes for medium-rare, and 5 minutes for medium (150°). Your timing will vary a little, so as always, check the internal temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer. Never cook by time alone. Rest before serving by lightly tenting with foil for 5 to 10 minutes. Also, remember the temperature will rise a few degrees after removing from the grill.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published July 27, 2013. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.