How to Cook the Perfect Porterhouse Steak in the Oven (Broiler)

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:

  1. It will come from a small farm not an industrialized meat plant.
  2. 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.
  3. It will not be fresh.  This one was 40-days dry-aged (here’s why we avoid fresh meat).
  4. 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)
  5. 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.

How to Cook the Perfect Porterhouse Steak in the Oven (Broiler)
  • 1 porterhouse steak
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  1. Season the steak (liberally) with salt and pepper.
  2. Move the rack in your oven to the top shelf (or the highest that will allow your skillet to fit under it).
  3. Turn the oven to broil (as high as it will go, top burner).  Wait until it reaches full temperature (often about 20 minutes).
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. Drop the steak in the pan (it should sizzle loudly).
  7. As soon as the steak hits the pan, transfer it to the oven under the broiler.
  8. Set a timer for 4 minutes.
  9. Remove the steak from the oven, close the door.
  10. Carefully flip the steak - note that there's now fat in the pan so watch out for splashes.
  11. Put it back in the oven and set the timer for 4 more minutes.
  12. 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?

  1. Salty, Salty, Salty…I was liberal with salt. Cooked it and my steak tasted like salt. Ruined a super expensive cut of meat!!! There was nothing in this post talking of needing to wash or rub off the salt. I am not saying it was mildly salty… no it was absolutely like eating straight salt!

    • Derek,

      I’m sorry about your experience. That would frustrate me beyond belief.

      I don’t rinse the steak, which is why there was no note. I could have been cleared that there is a limit of course – that there is such a thing as too much salt. I have edited the instructions/ note above to help clarify for future, though I know that won’t help you.

      Apologies for your experience.


      • Thanks for your reply. To elaborate I used kosher coarse salt, poured into my hand and rubbed onto the meat and on both sides. I took liberal quite literally and ensured every inch of the steak was coated much like flour before frying. I was aware it was a lot of salt duiring the process but assumed that in the end it would magicically turn the steak into one to rival the finest of steakhouses. I do intend on following these directions again however as the steak on the inside was flavorful and juicy, next time I will try and find the right amount for the perfect steak.

    • Approximatley half of the salt and pepper will come off durring cooking so season about double what you would to taste. This should be a good gage on much seasoning to apply.

  2. I have a question,
    I’m not sure what it means “to put it straight under the broiler” and when you say put oven to highest it can go my oven has 240 degrees and then max, do I put it on max?
    Kind regards Suzie Smith

    • Hi Suzie,

      I’ve never used an oven like that so I’m guessing but max should be fine. Our oven is more than 280 degrees at max (though it’s in Fahrenheit)…

      By “Straight under the broiler” I simply mean put it there without delay – i.e. transfer the pan directly from the hot burner and onto the top rack of your stove. 🙂


  3. Great recipe! For thinner cuts, I would recommend just 2 minutes vs. 4. Cooked my Porterhouse through a bit more than I would like, but the flavor was amazing.

  4. Looks great. Only question was when you leave the steak to rest do you let it rest on the skillet itself or do you tranafer the meat to a regular plate?

  5. I used this recipe tonight. I had two dry-aged porterhouse steaks (~1.3# each @ $23.99/lb) to accompany a 20-year-old Bordeaux. This was not a rehearsal!
    It worked out almost perfectly. All the advice here is good – the variations came from the equipment available.
    My oven went up to 550 F before I ever turned the broiler to High. My cast iron skillet was smoking when I put the beef on it.
    4 minutes per side was too much. The result was entirely edible, but medium, not rare or medium-rare. The second steak went 3 minutes on one side, then 2:45 on the other. The caramelized exterior was exquisite and the interior was medium-rare.
    If I had another $60 to blow on steaks, I would heat my oven to 550 and then turn on the broiler, heat the skillet smoking hot, then do 3 min on one side and 2 on the other (which was already on the smoking hot skillet). More details to come on the blog.

  6. Well that was freaking amazing… went with a 20oz from Whole Foods. I want to say best I’ve ever had! Coarse salt rub nothing else omg amazing!

  7. I just made two 1-1/2 steaks this way and they were AMAZING!!! The only thing I did differently was to leave the steaks on one side for 5 mins instead of 4 because my steaks still had a little chill to them and were not at room temp. Then when they came out of the oven I transferred them to a plate and covered each one with about 1 tablespoon butter and covered with foil and let them rest for 10 mins. Mind blown! Thanks for this amazing recipe!