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Short Loin, T Bone Steak, Porterhouse Steak
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Beef Short Loin at a Glance
Primal: beef short loin is one of the primary primal cuts
Meat Buyers Guide variations: 173, 174, 175, 180, part of 172, 172A
Weight Ranges: 14 lb -57-up, see the Fresh Beef IMPS page for specifics
Best Cooking Methods: slow cooking, roasting, grilling, broiling
Cut Variations: roasts, steaks
Ryan Adams has done an excellent series on different cuts of beef and has given permission to re-post his content here, with minor modifications for the Professional Chef audience.
Ah, the Short Loin primal. Maybe it's not as sexy as the Rib primal, but the Short Loin is the workhorse of the primals, accounting for up to eight percent of the carcass's weight while being among the smaller sections of meat on the cow. Home to various steaks that we all know and love — the Delmonico, the Porterhouse, the T-Bone — all of which are among the most tender, popular and expensive cuts of beef, this dense primal is a meat eater's playground.
Cuts of Beef Series: Short Loin
The Short Loin primal is located at the extreme anterior 1/8th end of the tenderloin, and runs outwards to the hide. Muscles in this area aren't worked terribly hard, meaning that the meat is very tender while still packing a decent amount of beefy flavor. The whole primal contains the very last rib of the cow — the thirteenth — and the cow's backbone or spine, which is known by many of us as the T-shaped bone found in two steaks: the Porterhouse and the aptly named T-Bone. Usually, this primal is cut into steaks which, in order from the front of the primal to the end, are: the Delmonico, the T-Bone, and the Porterhouse.
The Delmonico steak (also known as the Club Steak) has had a bit of an identity crisis over the years. Made world-famous by Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in the mid 1800s, controversy rages over exactly which cut of beef the restaurant used first, including the top boneless sirloin and a boneless rib-eye. I believe, and most butchers would agree with me, that a true Delmonico steak is the first cut of the top loin next to the rib end.
T-Bone steaks take their name from the letter "T" shaped backbone that the muscles are attached to on both sides. The larger of the two sides can be removed to make New York Strip steaks, whereas the smaller piece of meat comes from the ultra-tender yet mostly flavorless tenderloin.
The Porterhouse's name came a New York tradition from the 1840's. Restaurants would advertise specials on a beef steak served with a flagon of porter, which sounds like my kind of party. The cut houses an excellent amount of Top Sirloin, and a bigger amount of the aforementioned Tenderloin.
There is a healthy debate ongoing about how much Tenderloin must be attached to the backbone for a steak to qualify as either a T-Bone or a Porterhouse. I'll quote the exact measurements the US Department of Agriculture states in their Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications Guide in an attempt to not play favorites to either side:
- "Item No. 1173 - Beef Loin, Porterhouse Steak - The steaks shall be prepared from any IMPS short loin item. The maximum width of the tenderloin shall be at least 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) when measured parallel to the length of the back bone."
- "Item No. 1174 - Beef Loin, T- Bone Steak - The steaks shall be prepared from any IMPS short loin item. The maximum width of the tenderloin shall be at least 1⁄2-inch (13 mm) when measured parallel to the length of the back bone."
Short Loin IMPS/NAMP Variations
Below are variations of Short Loin cuts taken from the Meat Buyer's Guide and should be available from your meat vendor.
Beef Loin, Short Loin IMPS/NAMP 174 (rib end view)
Here she is in her full glory. This is the front end of the primal, with a Delmonico style steak ready to be sliced off, or a Strip Steak if removed from the bone.
Beef Loin, Short Loin IMPS/NAMP 174 (sirloin end view)
Same primal, but turned around so you can see a Porterhouse style steak, with a big hunk of tenderloin on the right side of the backbone.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin, Bone-In IMPS/NAMP 175
Ladies and gentleman, I give you your New York Strip steak (sometimes called Kansas City steak) with the bone in. The tenderloin and chine bone have been removed completely.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin, Boneless IMPS/NAMP 180
Same cut as above, but without the bones.
Beef Loin, Porterhouse Steak IMPS/NAMP 1173
Here you can see the maximum and minimum amounts of tenderloin required for Porterhouse steaks.
Beef Loin, T-Bone Steak IMPS/NAMP 1174
And now you can see the maximum and minimum amounts of tenderloin required for T-Bone steaks. The one on the left should be considered a Porterhouse, in my opinion.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin Steak, Bone-In IMPS/NAMP 1179
The bone on these steaks have been carved to remove the part of the back bone that housed the spinal cord.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin Steak, Bone-In, Center-Cut IMPS/NAMP 1179A
A variation on the steaks shown above, these exclude the sirloin butt end of the bone-in strip loin.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin Steak, Boneless IMPS/NAMP 1180
The boneless steaks can be cut from any beef short loin or boneless strip loin item, as long as it meets the requirements of the Beef Loin, Strip Loin, Boneless from above.
Beef Loin, Strip Loin Steak, Boneless, Center-Cut IMPS/NAMP 1180A
These are a variation on the steaks shown above. They exclude the sirloin butt end of the bone-in strip loin.
What to look for when buying
Look for a thick cut steak, preferably with the bone in, with as much fat speckled throughout the muscle as you can find. You want the bone in because not only will the piece be cheaper, but it'll usually have more meat and flavor as well. It will also add a little extra moisture and protection to keep your steak tender. The meat itself should have a bright, cherry-red color. Check that the muscle is firm to the touch, and that the cryovac doesn't contain excess liquid. If you're looking for a nice porterhouse steak, try to avoid the last slice of the primal. There is a bone between the upper part of the loin and the tail end, with lots of tendon connections that make for poor eats.