The T-bone steak is a staple of American cuisine and one of the most recognizable entrees you can order at restaurants and steakhouses across the country. The famous T-shaped bone in the middle of the steak separates two different types of delicious meat: the tenderloin and the New York strip.
In this guide, we’ve prepared the most important facts about T-bone steaks, along with some sound advice on how to choose a perfect cut and cook it to perfection in your home.
What Is a T-bone Steak?
The T-bone steak is a composite steak cut from the short loin of the cattle. The steak’s composite nature is due to the cut, which contains both a piece of the tenderloin and, on the other side of the dividing bone, the top loin (the famed New York strip). It is a distinctive steak that offers two types of flavors in a single cut.
The T-bone steak shares a lot of similarities with the Porterhouse steak. They are both cuts from the short loin, and each has both a piece of top loin and tenderloin with the T-bone in the middle. However, since they come from opposite ends of the short loin, the T-bone steak has a higher ratio of top loin to tenderloin, while the Porterhouse has a higher ratio of tenderloin to top loin.
Where to buy T-Bone Steak
Shopping for a perfect T-bone steak is a process that requires a bit of research and a lot of trial and error. While supermarkets and grocery stores carry pre-cut T-bone steaks, the quality of those cuts may not be the best since you have no control over the steaks’ size. A high-quality local butcher remains the best option for buying a prime cut of T-bone steak, especially if you like your steak thickly cut.
The first thing that you should pay attention to when choosing meat is the color. You want the meat to be a rich and vibrant red coloring without any brown areas. The color of the fat should be clear white, without yellowing. Additionally, a lovely marbling pattern (thin veins of fat in the New York strip part of the meat) is an excellent sign of the cut’s quality and will cook to juicy and tender perfection.
Expect that cuts of T-bone steak will be rather large, so size your portions appropriately. The thickness of around 1 to 1½ inches remains optimal for T-bone steaks, but thinner cuts are possible as well. Remember when considering how much to buy that the bone will significantly affect the weight if you’re calculating per pound.
How to Cook a T-Bone Steak
What makes steaks such a popular dish is the variety of ways you can cook them. Steaks allow for plenty of flexibility in recipes as well as the dishes that will accompany the steak. Our recipe will cover only one cooking method, but for your information, these are the four most popular methods of cooking a steak.
- Grilling – Cooking a steak on the grill remains one of the most popular methods. A charcoal grill is perhaps more popular due to the distinct flavor it gives the steak, but gas grills are fine as well.
- Pan Frying – Cooking on the stovetop provides a nice crust but in a closed environment, requiring only a quality skillet (preferably cast-iron).
- Oven Cooking – Baking or roasting is a convenient, no-mess method that produces an evenly cooked steak.
- Reverse Searing – This hybrid, slow-cooking method combines the oven and the iron skillet.
Pan-Fried T-Bone Steak Recipe
Our recipe of choice uses the convenient pan-frying technique, as it does not require the expense of a grill.
Prepare the Steak
The first step is to always let the steak thaw and reach room temperature before cooking. A good rule of thumb is to remove the steak from the fridge around 30-40 minutes before you plan to start cooking.
Apply Your Seasoning Mix
Good seasoning is the key to a strong and rich flavor for the steak. You can purchase seasoning mixes or rubs, or you can mix your own. You’ll find many steak seasoning recipes online.
Generously apply the mix of spices to the steak and let it rest for a while to soak up the spices as you heat the pan. A touch of oil rubbed on the meat might help spices stick better to the surface.
Preheat the Skillet
A quality cast iron skillet is the best option for pan-frying a steak. Leave the skillet on the stove set to medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes to heat up. Adding a sprinkle of oil or butter once the pan is hot will enhance the flavor and quality of the sear, but a little goes a long way.
Cook the Meat!
Now it’s time to put the steak into the skillet. The thickness of the steak is the most important factor in the cooking time of a T-bone steak. A good rule of thumb is to allocate around 10 minutes for a medium-rare T-bone steak that is 1½ inch thick (5-6 min each side).
Don’t forget to flip the steak about halfway through that period. Another useful trick is to use the meat thermometer and finish cooking when the meat reaches the right temperature (around 130~°F for medium-rare).
Let It Rest and Serve
You have done the challenging part, and now it is time to enjoy that delicious T-bone steak. But hold your horses! Before you serve and cut the steak, be sure to let the steak rest for about 5 minutes.
Resting a steak will allow all the juices that flooded the top of the steak during cooking to reabsorb into the steak and provide that juicy, tender taste. Cutting a steak without resting will leave you with a dry and less tasty steak as the juices flow out onto the plate.