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The difference between T-bone & Porterhouse

So, I'm watching Primal Grill and Steve Raichlen is grilling up some awesome steaks that he keeps referring to as "T-Bones". These steaks were huge - probably about 1 1/2 pounds apiece and had a well defined piece of tenderloin attached to the bone.

I've been taught that T-bones have just a small piece of the tenderloin because of the way they're cut and that the bigger steaks with a full cut of tenderloin and strip are called Porterhouse.

At my local market, they make the distinction. Is this a regional thing??

P.S. SR also pronounces bāsil as băsil (like Basil Rathbone)..... I'm just saying.....

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  1. According to the USDA, the only difference is that Porterhouses are thicker than T-Bones (a minimum of 1.25 inches as opposed to 0.5 inches): they're fundamentally the same cut. If they were that big, technically, they probably were Porterhouses and not T-Bones, but who cares?

    P.S. That's the correct way to pronounce basil...I'm just saying...

    2 Replies
    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

      "P.S. That's the correct way to pronounce basil...I'm just saying.." I am not acquainted with any person who does not pronounce the herb's name as "Bay-sil". The only man of my acquaintance who had that name pronounced it that way too. Furthermore, we all pronounced Mr. Rathbone's name thusly, until we bought TV sets, whereupon we eventually found out that HE pronounced it "Bazzle". Well, whoop de DOO!

      1. re: Will Owen

        Will, how about John Clease's magnificent character, Basil, pronounced "Bazzle" Fawlty on the BBC comedy, Fawlty Towers. On of the best episodes is the "Hotel Inspectors," with many funny scenes involving food and wine.

    2. The two cuts look very similar: a T-shaped bone with a larger piece of meat on one side and a smaller one on the other. But there is a significant difference. Both cuts come from the short loin, the tender section of muscle between the rib and the sirloin. The short loin is composed of the top loin and the ultra tender tenderloin, (better known as fillet mignon when cut into steaks). The large side of the T-bone and porterhouse is the top loin (NY Strip Steak) and the smaller side is the tenderloin (Filet Mignon). But because the T-bone is cut from the center of the short loin, as opposed to the porterhouse which is cut from the larger end, the T-bone will have a smaller piece of the tenderloin than the porterhouse. Usually one to two bites. Therefore, if they are priced the same, you will get more of the tenderloin for your money with the porterhouse.

      2 Replies
        1. re: mollygirl

          Molly, thanks for taking the time to cut and paste that.

        2. The Meat Packers Association & the USDA says for the steak to be classified as a T-Bone the tenderloin must measure a minimum of 1/2 in across the center....To be classified as a Porterhouse.... a minimum of 1 1/4 inches across the center .---- What your local restaurant (menu), grocery store (label/sign) or local butcher may say is something else again. Buyer beware!!! --- It has nothing to do with the thickness of the steak...A 2 in. thick steak could be a T-Bone or just as well be a Porterhouse... depending on the above requirements.

          Enjoy!

          3 Replies
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            Oh that's a good definition, thanks. I know I've had thick T-bones

            1. re: Salty_Loves_Sweet

              Thickness has nothing to do with the definition as suggested up-thread. Uncle Bob is correct. A Porterhouse in most cases has a full fillet and is cut from the same sub-primal as a T-bone. The two steaks SxS are noticeably different. Porterhouses are cut from the rear of the loin. T-bones from the front.

            2. Open this link:
              http://bovine.unl.edu/bovine3D/eng/Sh...

              Then click thru the cross sections of the loin. The left end of the pictured loin contains the tbone cuts; as you move to the right thru the cross sections, it will trend to the porterhouse.

              Cross-sections H, I ,J look pretty good, don't they?

              The "Fixed boundary" tween tbone and porterhouse varies by the cutter. The butcher I talked to years ago said that when he gets a primal loin, he gets about 2-3 porterhouses.

              7 Replies
              1. re: FoodFuser

                Excellent link. Just a friendly FYI the loins that these steaks are cut from are sub-primals. Your butcher may indeed get primals but they would be broken down into a sub-primal loin before steaks are cut. The vast majority just buy the sub-primal short loin. There is a list of sub-primals in your link.
                Just click sub-primals in the main menu on the left. Then highlight the section of the animal you want to see the list from. In this case the same section that is featured when you open the link from FF. From the drop down menu go to Beef short loin and you can see the entire short loin and rotate it.
                The other thing that is pretty nifty about this site is that when you view a cross section there will be a smaller view with a photo of the cut below the computer generated one. Click it and it will maximize so you get a better picture of the actual steak.

                1. re: Fritter

                  The same university also has a porcine myology page, of equivalent quality.

                  The section of "fabrication videos" is also interesting. Lots of fun stuff thruout the site for those that want to see just where the meat comes from on the carcass.

                  Also good for those times when you gird up the loincloth, roll out the deerskin pouch that houses your hand-napped flint knives, grab a hunk of meat from the hunt, and get down to some atavistic carving.

                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    "The same university also has a porcine myology page, of equivalent quality"

                    I'm pretty sure I've posted that link in another thread recently. Very good information.
                    I don't know if my neighbors would appreciate seeing me in a loin cloth but it sure makes me want to fire up the BGE!

                2. re: FoodFuser

                  good point about the "fixed boundry" and varying between different cutter. as a cutter, i usually compare the proportion of the fillet to the entire steak. when the fillet occpies at least approx. 25%-30% of the surface area of the lean part of the steak(that's with the tail-piece removed), then i consider it to be a porterhouse. after many years of cutting, it's just second nature to me as to know what to call a t-bone and what to call a porterhouse. many of my co-workers still ask, "hey, what's this, a t-bone, or porterhouse?"...... i, cut for a small grocer, and my short-loin steaks are usually cut an inch thick.....we usually get 16 to 20 steaks off eack short-loin........and most shortloins yield about the same number of t-bones vs. porterhouses..... retail-wise, we usually get 30 to 50 cents per pound more out of porterhouses.....

                  1. re: scbain

                    At least three of the Jewels near me (Schaumburg and Elk Grove Village) are putting out lots of New York Strip steaks and labeling them as "Porterhouse" and "T-Bone". I have pointed this out to in store managers all the way up to Keith Neilsen, the President of Jewel, and Craig Herkert, the CEO and President of Supervalue, Jewel's parent company.

                    They obviously do not have a problem with this practice since it continues. I was in a Jewel on Sunday, June 20, and the nice lady at the meat counter even acknowledged so.

                    I filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General's Office, but they will sit on it until they get a lot of complaints. I am not sure how many they need before acting. I also filed a complaint with the regional USDA office.

                    I hope that there are other people who think that this is worthy of some intervention.

                  2. re: FoodFuser

                    FoodFuser, that is the coolest thing I have ever seen!!!

                    Just to add my 2c...I really hate Porterhouse/TBones. The two meats never cook at the same rate, and if you want a big piece of tenderloin it ruins your strip loin because that portion of the strip usually has a huge hunk of gristle running through it.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      The strip portion of the t-bone is more of the center cut, and thus avoids the vein.
                      Porterhouse are considered a better steak by some, but you do give up something in the quality of the strip portion. The different cooking temperatures resulting is problematic, so I just slightly undercook them. For someone wanting a "steak", I think the t-bone is best.

                  3. It's all about the size of the fillet portion, porterhouse cuts should have larger fillets.

                    1. Here is another link showing pictures of the short loin being cut into t-bones and porterhouse steaks from start to finish. Note the differences in appearance of both the strip and tenderloin sides of both cuts. It includes an interesting description and picture of a "vein cut" porterhouse compared to a more favorable selection.

                      http://travthebutcher.blogspot.com/20...

                      1. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a distinct difference in price between t-bones and porterhouses, at least at Jewel grocery stores in the Chicago suburbs, where we bought most of our meat. It seems to me that it was $1.00 to $1.50 a pound. The prices inched closer together in the 1980s and, by the time I moved to Florida in 1990, there wasn't much difference in price. The other day I bought porterhouses at my local Tampa Publix grocery stores and the price per pound was identical.

                        This, of course, leads me to wonder why anyone would buy a t-bone when they could get a porterhouse for the same price.

                        It also leads me to wonder why I am addressing this topic at 2:00 a.m. Isn't insomnia a wonderful thing?

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: gfr1111

                          Speaking for those of us who prefer strip to tenderloin, I rather mourn the loss of that price differential. I like both T-bone and porterhouse, and usually order the latter in a restaurant just because it's what they have. But a little tenderloin goes a long way with me; it's kinda like butter on bread. I don't want a little bread on a slab of butter...!

                          1. re: Will Owen

                            It works perfectly for me and my wife, as she like the tendeloin, and I like the strip. When she isn't looking , I steal a bite of her filet. When it's all over, she usually puts the bone back on the grill, as it is borderline rare, and heats it up, and chows down. Now, the last two times we were in San Antonio, one at Ruth's Chris, the other at Little Rhein on the River, I saw her looking longingly, at the bone. I urged her to dig in, which she did without hesitation. Fortunately, both places are pretty dark, and were sparsely populated.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              That sounds like not only the makin's for a good union, but also another reason why the porterhouse trumps the T bone. There's more meat running up the bone, to gnaw.

                              The dichotomy between the two muscles... plus the chance to gnaw the bone... And yes, bone best back in the grill.

                              The gnawing is interesting also as a shared experience, passing it back and forth between nibbles. A sensual tension builds as to who that evening deserves the final morsel of spinal myelin fat that is nestled at the top of the "T".

                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                That's a mans job. It said so in Reader's Digest.

                                1. re: FoodFuser

                                  I did this once at Peter Luger's and they tossed me out on the sidewalk.

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    Then Peter Luger's reputation as a meat lover's paradise is undeserved. The bone is there to be enjoyed, and anyone who objects to that has no credibility, gastronomically speaking. It's not as though one were picking up one's plate and licking it!

                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                      Well...I may have licked the plate a little, too.

                                      **redface**

                                      ;)

                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        That's why they invented bread, idiot!

                                    2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      I've done the same at Luger and no one blinked an eye.

                                      1. re: bookhound

                                        Actually, I was being facetious. I've never set a toe in Peter Luger's.

                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                          Ah, sorry can't get tone from these post. Well if you do ever go feel free to gnaw the bone. It's the best part!

                                          1. re: bookhound

                                            I'll ask for a bone bag and save it for a midnight gnaw.

                                        2. re: bookhound

                                          Same here...if there's a bone-in steak, i WILL pick it up and gnaw on it...I've done it at Luger, done it at Daniel, will do it in front of Jesus himself.