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5 Steps to Grilling the Perfect Porterhouse or T-Bone Steak

The secret? Raise it like a flagpole.
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In a recent blog post, we explained the difference between a porterhouse and a T-bone steak. Today we cover the steps to grilling the perfect T-bone or porterhouse--no matter how thick. The secret? Raise it like a flagpole.

  1. Use a combo grilling method for a combo steak: If cooking over charcoal (and I hope you are), set up a three-zone fire. Dump a chimney of lit coals into the grill. With a grill hoe or garden hoe, spread the coals into a double layer at the far side and a single layer in the center. Leave the section closest to you coal-free. Replace the grill grate. If using a gas grill, set it up for three-zone grilling.

  • Keep it hot, keep it clean, keep it lubricated: When the grill grate is hot, clean it with a grill brush, then lubricate it with a grill oiler or a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Tip: You can also impale a chunk of beef fat on a fork and run it over the bars of the grill grate.
  • Season like you mean it: Place the steak(s) on a rimmed baking sheet and season generously--and I mean generously--on both sides with coarse sea salt (like Maldon) or kosher salt and coarsely ground or cracked black pepper. Tip: Hold your hand at least 10 inches above the meat when seasoning for more even distribution. Season steaks just before grilling.
  • Sear fearlessly: Place the steak on a diagonal directly on the grill grate over the hottest part of the fire (the double layer of coals) to sear the bottom. You're looking for a deep brown color on the outside of the meat--not blackened char. Next, move the steak over the medium zone, giving it a quarter turn if you like a crosshatch of grill marks. Grill until you start to see beads of blood on the top of the meat. Now invert the steak, place it back over the hottest part of the fire and sear the other side the same way. Once it's browned, move the steak over the moderate part of the fire, giving it a quarter turn, and finish cooking it. If you get flare-ups, move the meat to the safety zone until the flames die down.
  • Go vertical: For really thick steaks (2 inches or more), sear as described above, then upend the steak so it rests on the flat T-bone. (Imagine you're raising a flagpole.) Grill it in this vertical position until you reach the desired temperature (see below). The T-bone will conduct the heat through the meat. Tip: Make sure you have enough clearance between the grill grate and the grill lid before standing the steak upright. If your steak won't stand up straight by itself, prop it between two firebricks.
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    Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.