It’s a long weekend and we decided to have an elaborate meal in. While our meal cost us around $35 (for two with enough leftovers for a $3 breakfast), it’s around the same price as takeout and well under the cost of this same meal in a restaurant which would easily run around $100 (and more).
A porterhouse steak looks like a giant T-Bone. The small side is part of the tenderloin while the other is the top loin (similar to a New York Strip). It’s sold as a thick cut (generally 1.5 inches is about the minimal thickness) and is a forgiving cut to cook.
The first trick in cooking a GREAT porterhouse is buying a GREAT porterhouse. Here’s some things to keep in mind:
- It will come from a small farm not an industrialized meat plant.
- It will be sold by a small butcher who knew where it came from and lots of information about it such as it’s breed and what it was fed.
- It will not be fresh. This one was 40-days dry-aged (here’s why we avoid fresh meat).
- Dry-aged and small farming will make this a premium cut (this was $19 per pound) but this isn’t as expensive as it may appear (reference: the economics of grass-fed beef)
- It should be at least 1.5 inches thick and weigh around 1.5-2 pounds at that thickness
In reading David Chang’s Momofuko cookbook (he also publishes the awesome LUCKY PEACH), I particularly related to an observation he made on cooking with very expensive ingredients like this. A steak like this almost dares you to mess it up – it’s next to impossible to improve on it and you need to have the confidence that you’re going to do it justice. It’s a wonderful challenge that you either pass or fail.
Before sharing the easy technique behind cooking it, here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- It doesn’t need a marinade. Flavors have been developing for 40 days. Keep it simple.
- Rare is best to get the flavor from this. If you want it well done, I’d advise moving to another cut of meat. A crust on the outside with a pink middle.
- Let it rest. People don’t let steak rest long enough. We cover it with foil and let it sit a full 20 minutes before cutting into it.
- Rest it on a rack, tented (i.e. top and sides, not completely wrapped) in tin foil.
- If you really must cut into it to see how we’ll it’s cooked you can – but don’t. People will argue that ‘only a little’ juice will escape but the whole point of resting is to stop that from happening. Live on the wild side – if you’ve undercooked it either eat it as is (you may like it) or pan fry it for a moment. I’d rather have a pan-fried steak than a dry one. Write down your timing and learn the lesson for next time.
- You must take it out of the fridge at least an hour and preferably 2 hours before cooking it. You want it at room temperature before cooking it.
- Be liberal with the salt; much will fall off. I rub coarse salt into both sides as soon as it comes out of the fridge and let it warm with the salt on. Salt helps bring the flavor out. (edit Mar 11, 2014: we’ve received a comment that salt can be overdone. Too much of a good thing is, indeed, a problem so be liberal but know that you can use too much as well.)
- Pepper is optional – many will add it after cooking for fear it will burn (there’s much debate about this). You can eat this with no pepper at all (there’s lot’s of flavor).
- Make sure to time your sides right. There’s nothing worse than screwing up your dinner while waiting for the side dishes to finish. I roast my potatoes and veggies first, remove them from the oven and cover them before cooking the steak. They go back in the oven while the steak rests to finish cooking and warm up.
- This will smoke and possibly a lot (a bigger problem for us because we don’t have an oven fan/exhaust). Open the windows early.
- Make sure you have a very, very good oven mitt. We’re using a lot of heat here and you don’t want to find out your mitts aren’t up to the test.
- Make sure you read the above so you’ve got a salted, room-temperature cut of awesome porterhouse and know the safety tips.
- Move the rack in your oven to the top shelf (or the highest that will allow your skillet to fit under it).
- Turn the oven to broil (as high as it will go, top burner). Wait until it reaches full temperature (often about 20 minutes).
- Place a cast iron skillet that’s big enough for your steak on your largest burner. If it’s well-seasoned you won’t need oil (which may just burn because of the heat).
- Turn your burner on to max. You want the skillet to become screaming hot; 4 or 5 minutes. Use extreme caution. This is a good stage to ensure that all distractions (in our case a dog with a curious nose) are not in the kitchen.
- Drop the steak in the pan (it should sizzle loudly).
- As soon as the steak hits the pan, transfer it to the oven under the broiler.
- Set a timer for 4 minutes.
- Work quick but not at the expense of safety here:
- remove the steak from the oven, close the door.
- Carefully flip the steak – note that there’s now fat in the pan so watch out for splashes.
- Put it back in the oven.
- Set the timer for 4 more minutes.
- Remove and rest per above.
A great steak should hold its own without the need for anything else, but here’s a few other ways to serve it if you’re a little intimidated by how pink it is or just want to mix it up:
- Drizzle the cut slices with olive oil, some additional salt and pepper. This is a very Italian approach.
- My Filipino butcher showed me how his family drizzle red wine (the same wine you’re drinking) over the sliced meat after its cut and let’s it rest for a few more minutes – the meat will soak up some of the wine for a natural paring (and an awesome jus for potatoes)
This is a very easy meal to make – which is why it can be so difficult to summon the confidence that you’ve got it just right!
Do you do anything differently?