True steak lovers might have a hard time choosing between porterhouse and tomahawk steak. Both of them are magnificent when grilled over an open fire, but they’re very different cuts. We’re here to take a closer look at both steaks to help you decide.
Porterhouse vs Tomahawk
The porterhouse is a cross-cut composite steak taken from the loin primal. It consists of the New York strip on one side of the bone and the filet mignon on the other. A tomahawk is a bone-in ribeye with a tender texture, rich flavor, and an impressive appearance.
All About the Porterhouse
One of the qualities that sets the porterhouse apart is the fact that it’s a “composite steak.” That means it’s made up of more than one cut—specifically, the New York strip and the filet mignon.
The porterhouse is cut from the spot where the top loin meets the tenderloin. If you were to remove the bone that separates the two, you’d wind up with a New York strip (or top loin) steak, as well as a filet mignon. But when they’re cross-cut with the bone still attached, a porterhouse is the result.
T-bone steaks are also cross-cut from the loin, and consist of both the strip and the filet. The difference is that a porterhouse must contain a significant portion of the tenderloin in order to be classified as such, while the T-bone can include very little.
If you’ve never seen one before, know that the porterhouse is a huge cut of meat. It can weigh up to 2 pounds or more, leading many restaurants to market it as a meal for two people.
When serving porterhouse at a party, you can either serve one to each guest or slice it up. The former option makes for an impressive appearance, but it might also result in a lot of wasted food, as not everyone is up to finishing an entire porterhouse.
All About the Tomahawk
The tomahawk steak takes its name from the large segment of bone that protrudes from one end, giving the cut the appearance of an ax. In fact, this steak is a bone-in ribeye, taken from the rib primal.
“Cowboy steak” is another term for a bone-in ribeye. However, in that case, the bone is cut much shorter. When the bone is left long and “Frenched,” or trimmed, to make it more visually appealing, then it’s called a tomahawk steak instead.
This is another large cut, often weighing 1-1/2 to 2 pounds and measuring 2 to 3 inches thick. Though you can carve it into slices for serving, it has a more formidable appearance when it’s left whole.
Porterhouse vs Tomahawk: Breaking it Down
What do these cuts have in common, and how are they different? In order to learn the answers, we’ve put together this head-to-head matchup.
The porterhouse comes from the loin primal, while the tomahawk is cut from the rib. Although these primals are both located in the upper central portion of the animal, there are subtle differences between the two.
Ribeye steaks are quite tender also, owing to the fact that this portion of the animal doesn’t get a lot of exercise. But the meat contains a higher degree of marbling, which is the term for the intramuscular fat that provides the ribeye with so much flavor.
While we’re on the subject of flavor, we should point out that both of these steaks will taste marvelous when they’re properly cooked. Though the porterhouse doesn’t have as much marbling, the bone helps to keep the meat moist and flavorful.
We would, however, give a slight edge to the tomahawk steak in this category. Every bite of a ribeye is bold and beefy, while the tenderloin portion of the porterhouse has a comparatively mild flavor.
Both of these cuts are huge and look impressive on the plate. What you need to remember is that a great deal of the tomahawk’s weight is taken up by the bone, which is obviously inedible.
While a porterhouse is also bone-in, the majority of its weight consists of edible meat. There’s also the fact that the meat is leaner, so you’re getting more bang for your buck overall.
The large size of these steaks contributes to their price points, which are relatively high. A good porterhouse will cost between $10 to $22 per pound, while the cost of a tomahawk steak ranges from $15 to a whopping $50 per pound.
Though the tomahawk cut has its fervent fans, many steak lovers see it as a waste of money. We agree that it’s not the most cost-effective steak you can buy. If pricing is an issue, you’re probably better off sticking with the porterhouse.
It’s easier to find porterhouse steak at the grocery store as well. You might have to ask the butcher to cut it for you, but that’s not a bad thing—you’ll be able to specify the thickness, giving you more control over the cost.
While it’s not impossible to buy a tomahawk steak at a local butcher counter, you’ll likely have a harder time procuring it. If you have your heart set on this cut, you might have to resort to an online retailer.
As we mentioned earlier, both porterhouse and tomahawk steaks are ideal when grilled. Use a charcoal fire whenever possible, as it will maximize the flavor of both cuts.
There’s no need to use fancy marinades or complex seasoning rubs when you’re dealing with premium cuts like these. Just season them with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a bit of garlic powder.
Make sure to bring the steaks to room temperature for about an hour before you start to cook. This will help them cook more evenly. Fortunately, if you’re using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to wait a while for the coals to heat up anyway.
Grilling the porterhouse requires extra care and attention, as you’re trying to cook two different cuts of meat at once. Position the steak so that the tenderloin portion is on the cooler side of the grill, and be sure to let the meat rest.
Both of these steaks should keep for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator when they’re stored properly. Keep them on a lower shelf, pushed toward the back so they aren’t exposed to as much warm air when the fridge is opened.
If you’re not going to cook the steaks within a few days, freeze them for longer storage. They’ll keep indefinitely when frozen at or below 0 degrees, but it’s better to thaw them within 6 months, or they’ll start to dry out.
The Bottom Line
With a porterhouse, you’re getting a lean yet juicy New York strip as well as a melt-in-your-mouth tender filet mignon. A tomahawk provides you with intense beef flavor and a photo-worthy presentation. Now that you understand the distinction, the choice is yours.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!