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The King of Steaks: The Porterhouse


Porterhouse Steaks are considered the King of Steaks among chefs. The porterhouse is a delicious, two-part steak separated by a bone. The best of both worlds as far as steak goes. Delicate tenderloin, where filet mignon comes from, and a portion of the short loin, where succulent New York strips come from.

Often they are mistaken for T-bone steaks. A porterhouse steak has a larger portion of tenderloin and is thicker, at least 1 1/2 inches wide. For larger appetites and discerning steak eaters, it is a “dream come true.” For smaller appetites, a porterhouse can be shared. Porterhouse steaks are not as widely available as T-bone steaks. You may want to call ahead to your local supermarket or butcher before trekking out there.

Cooking steak at home need not be intimidating. The sight and aroma of a steak sizzling over a hot grill may well be grilling’s cornerstone. Aside from burgers and hot dogs, steaks hit the grill more often than just about anything else. Why? Because steaks are just so darn good.

There are a few simple rules to follow for cooking the perfect grilled steak. These are from the Williams Sonoma website, a distinguished resource for tips, techniques, and recipes.

Buy the best meat. Grass-fed and grass-finished beef tastes better and has a bolder flavor.

Use simple seasonings: Salt, pepper, and olive oil. Olive oil brushed on the outside of the steak facilitates heat transfer, so you get an evenly browned crust and a delicious steak-house flavor.

Timing is important. Professionals use the touch gauge for doneness. You can too. Touch your index finger to your cheek. When the steak feels this way, the steak is rare. Touch the tip of your nose. That firmness means medium. Touch your forehead: that means well done. Or an easier option is to make a small cut into the steak and judge the color. After removing your steak from the grill, cover with foil and rest for 5-10 minutes. This gives the juices time to redistribute evenly throughout the meat.

Serve the porterhouse steak with a savory classic French sauce, just eaten plain, or with your favorite bottled sauce: you cannot go wrong with this meal.

GRILLED PORTERHOUSE STEAK: Adapted from Saveur magazine.

  • Two 2-inch thick porterhouse steaks
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Set steaks out on a plate, covered, until they reach room temperature, about 1 hour.  Heat grill to about 500 degrees. Rub both sides of steaks with a generous amount of olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.  Grill steaks until well browned, about 8 minutes.  Turn and grill on second side, about 5-6 minutes for rare, 7-8 minutes for medium rare.  Cut steaks to be absolutely sure of doneness.  Remove steaks from grill and rest 5 minutes before serving.  

STEAK AU POIVRE: (Pepper Steak with Brandy Sauce) adapted from a Julia Child's recipe.

In this dish, the brandy is simply cooked off, not flamed. Usually, French restaurants reserve flaming brandy in a dish as a way of showing off for tourists.

  • Two 2-inch thick porterhouse steaks
  • 2 Tablespoons mixed peppercorns, coarsely ground or crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons shallots, minced
  • 1/2-cup beef stock or beef broth
  • 1/3-cup cognac
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons butter, softened

Dry steaks on paper towels. Press and rub crushed peppercorns into both sides of meat using your fingers and palms. Cover with parchment paper and let stand for one hour. This will bring the steaks to room temperature and allow the pepper to penetrate the meat.

Heat grill to 500 degrees. Rub both sides of steaks generously with olive oil. Sear steaks on grill until desired temperature is achieved. Remove to a plate, season with salt, and keep warm while completing sauce.

Melt butter in saucepan and sauté shallots for a minute. Pour in stock or broth and boil down rapidly over high heat while stirring. Do not allow all liquid to boil down. You should have about 1/4 cup left. Add cognac and boil rapidly for a few minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Turn off heat, and swirl in butter a half-tablespoon at a time. Season to taste with salt. Pour sauce over steak, and serve.


French cooking is renowned for classic sauces. French sauces bind flavors on the plate and add new dimensions of taste. All of these sauces can be prepared while completing the remainder of the evening's meal. They are all easy and appropriate for last-minute meals.


Béarnaise sauce differs from hollandaise only in taste and strength. Instead of lemon juice, its flavoring is a reduction of wine, vinegar, shallots, pepper, and tarragon. The techniques are very much the same.

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced, or 1/2 Tablespoon of dry tarragon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons tarragon, minced

In a small saucepan, boil vinegar, wine, shallots, tarragon, and seasonings over medium heat until liquid has reduced to 2 Tablespoons. Let cool. Beat egg yolks until thick, 1-2 minutes. Strain vinegar mixture into egg yolks and mix well. Add 1 Tablespoon of cold butter and slowly thicken egg yolk mixture over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

Do not over-thicken, or you will have scrambled eggs and will need to remake your sauce. Every great chef will tell you how many times this has happened to them, so do not feel bad. But take it slow and stir. At the slightest sign of your eggs thickening, remove from heat. Mix in other tablespoon of cold butter, then the melted butter by droplets. Season to taste and mix in tarragon.


This sauce is a mainstay of classic French cooking. To be a true “bordelaise,” it must be prepared with a wine from the Bordeaux region of France. Trust me; you will have yourself a great glass of wine while cooking this sauce!

2 Tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
1 cup red Bordeaux wine
2/3-cup beef or veal stock

In small saucepan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and cook shallots for a minute until soft. Add wine, increase heat to high and reduce to syrup. Add stock, and on medium heat, slowly reduce by half. Whisk in remaining butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

SAUCE POIVRE VERT: Green peppercorn sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon shallots, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons cognac
  • 1/3 cup Port Wine
  • 3/4-cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons green peppercorns, rinsed, drained, and crushed
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook briefly for a minute until soft. Add cognac and reduce. Add port wine, cream, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and reduce on medium heat until slightly thickened about 5 minutes. Finish sauce with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.