SE | You Suck at Grilling | Pt. 2 | T-Bone
*This is part two of an ongoing series about tips to help you stop sucking it up at the grill
Ode to the T-Bone
As I started writing Part 2 of ‘You Suck at Grilling’ on steak, I realized that this topic is far too broad and important to skim over and offer up a simple summary of each cut. No– This is America. We love our steak and our steak must be honored. Therefore today I am going to talk about the Escalade of this the Cadillac of meats– the T-Bone.
I learned from a young age that t-bone steaks were special.
Every year my Grandpa would buy a whole cow in the spring and the meat in that old chest freezer down in the basement. We’d chow down on burgers, strip steaks, and sirloins throughout the summer– but the t-bones only reared their head around special occasions. 4th of July, my birthday (which was also his), and Labor Day- times when the entire family would be together to share a meal. That’s how I learned that these steaks were special. Especially for my old dog Emmy who got ALL of the bones!
What is it?
First, let’s get the background out-of-the-way.
The t-bone comes from the short loin portion (the marked pink area in the picture above and the red area below that’s unmarked for some reason?) and the tenderloin of the cow. The strip side of the steak hails from the short loin, while the filet comes from the tenderloin. This is one of the reasons the t-bone is so popular– you get the flavor of a strip with the tenderness of the filet… No wonder why America is fat, we eat two steaks at a time! A porterhouse is essentially a t-bone with a larger tenderloin.
Like “what she said”, when it comes to steak- thicker is better. T-bones are no exception.
Ideally, you’d like 1 to 1.5″ inch thickness with 2″ being more ideal and 3″ just for showing off.
Like cocaine dealers handling Blue Magic, most butchers make sure to take great care of their best product. Therefore almost all t-bones you pick up from the store or butcher shop are going to be of high quality.
- Brush the grates. Turn it on. Prepare the charcoal or just crank it on high (450-500 degrees).
- As far as the meat, I’m for simplicity Olive oil. Kosher salt. Fresh ground pepper. You can keep you secret rubs and spice concoctions. Leave me with the big three.
- Once the grill is hot and the meat is ready, toss it on and do not touch it for 2 minutes. If you move the meat now, I will grab that grill fork I told you to throw away last week and stab you in the femur.
- After the 2 min, rotate the steak 45 degrees and grill for another 2 mins. This will give the steak those B.A. grill marks everyone raves about.
- Flip the steak and let it grill for another 3 minutes. No need to rotate on this side. Only one side of the steak shows on the plate anyway.
Most people have it figured out up to this level. The next step is how you separate the men from the not so much men– cooking the steak to desired level of doneness. Many a man who fancy themselves “Master of the Grill” have been slain by a shoe-leather overcook or a bloody undercook that you had to put (gasp!) put in the microwave. This sh*t is important!
After you’ve marked the steak, you’re going to finish the cooking over indirect heat. This is especially important if you have thicker cuts as you would completely char the outside to get the steak done if you left it over direct flame. If you’re using charcoal, simply move the steak to the outer edges of the grill away from the coals. On gas, I like to keep one burner on high and one off and move the steak directly over the off burner- adjacent to the high. Another trick is to toss a baking sheet or broiler pan onto the grill and finish the steak on that over reduced heat. Ideally, we’re looking for 400 degrees of heat to finish off this bad boy. Also note that the tenderloin will cook faster than the strip, so angle the strip closest to the flame.
Cooking times for doneness vary so widely due to a bunch of reasons. Thickness of meat, heat of grill, etc. But a good estimate for a medium-rare 1″ thick steak at this point would be about 8-10 minutes. Add more for thickness and doneness.
Now when you check for doneness, it should be made a capital offense to simply cut into the meat to have a look. Not only have you sentenced that steak to a life of dryness, but if your steak isn’t up to desired temp, it’s going to finish unevenly due to that gaping hole or slice you just put into the meat. Internal thermometers are a bit better in that they give you an accurate read of the meat, but there also you are unnecessarily skewering your meat and letting those sweet juices flow.
A better way to test the doneness of the steak, without destroying it, is with simply with your fingers. Epicurious put out a great video to shove you how:
Once you have that steak done to your liking, take it off the grill, put it on a plate or cutting board, and let it rest for 5-minutes. Don’t be over eager to dig in! Let the meat rest or again, fork in femur.
As far as eating,… well you don’t need tips on that! As long as you keep ketchup away from any part of this steak, we’ll be all good.
Check back next week when we’ll be talking about ribeyes and sirloin!