Porterhouse Rules Transcript

La Maison 'du Boeuf

GUESTS: Garçon, Assistant

    John Wayne ate steak. This we know. But if he knew what top-drawer, high-flatulent joints like this were charging for a hunk of steer, he'd holler, "Fill your hands you son of a ..."

PATRONS: [off camera] Shhh...
AB: I'm sorry. Sorry.

    Let's just say, I don't think he'd be very happy to see that the quintessential American meal has become such an over-the-top fuss fest. Ooo. Oo. The enemy approach-eth.

GARÇON: Good evening, sir.
AB: Good evening.
GARÇON: And welcome to La Maison 'du Boeuf
AB: Thank you.
GARÇON: Perhaps my associate and I could tell you about our steaks.
AB: Oh, please do.
GARÇON: We begin with the petite fillet.
ASSISTANT: [removes lid to reveal several uncooked hunks of meat]
AB: [raises hand and turns away] Oof. I beg you, spare me your table scraps. I wish to see The Money.
GARÇON: [clears throat and gestures to the Assistant]
ASSISTANT: [removes 2nd covering]
GARÇON: Allow me to present La Maison 'du Boeuf's 24 ounce prime porterhouse, the ultimate steak experience.
ASSISTANT: [in a fading whisper] ... experience, experience, experience.
GARÇON: The porterhouse is an etherial marriage of bold New York strip on one side and seductive tenderloin on the other. Between them, a gnaw-worthy bone enhances the flavor experience.
ASSISTANT: ... experience, experience.
GARÇON: Perfection is taken to the next level, sir, by our old world dry aging process.
AB: Ah, dry aging. The plot thickens.
GARÇON: Our porterhouse is then sss-seared to perfection under a 16 hundred degree patented La Maison 'du Boeuf broiler.
AB: Sixteen hundred degrees of broil. Impressive. So, garcon, do tell: what do you get for that-there slab of cow?
GARÇON: Our porterhouse is valued at $120 American dollars.
AB: [does a spit take] What does it come with? A bowl full of Kruerands?
GARÇON: Heh, heh, heh, heh. All our sides are served a la carte, sir.
AB: Naturally. Well, then, I'll have the shrimp cocktail ... to go.
GARÇON: Perfection.

    Alright, let's recap: 24 ounces of prime, dry-aged porterhouse, broiled under intense heat—I assume to medium rare ... A hundred and twenty clams, that's [laughs] $5 an ounce. And that, my comrade cooks, is gustatory grand larceny. Why, I'll wager that a half hour from right now we'll have an equally handsome slab of tasty, beefy goodness on the plate for ... Look at it this way. If we start with 120 bucks we should have enough left over for a couple of side dishes, dessert, nice bottle of wine and 2 tickets to the movies. SoundP like the ultimate date meal? Perhaps. I just think it sounds like ...

[Good Eats theme]

The Kitchen

    Okay, let's review our Maison du Boeuf checklist:

  • Prime beef
  • Porterhouse, which, of course, contains a bone
  • Dry age
  • Sear, 1600 degrees

    All right, let's address each of these summarily, starting with 'prime'. Of course, "prime" is the numero uno of the eight U.S. beef grades. 'Choice' and 'select' are others you may have heard of. Now to be graded as 'prime', the steer in question has to be relatively young, between 18 to 24 months. And the flesh must be deeply marbled, meaning that the meat itself contains a fair amount of fat in the form of streaks and flecks, such as the mineral deposits found in fine marble, okay? This intramuscular fat does result in a very succulent, juicy mouth feel. Although some top-end butcher shops do occasionally get hold of prime beef, most of it goes directly to restaurants like Maison du Whatever. But that's okay, I actually prefer the leaner choice cuts because, well, they contain less fat, and I actually think they taste more beefy. 'Select',well, it's rarely associated with fine steaks. But we'll get to that in a minute.
    Now the porterhouse itself is considered precious, in large part because of location, location, location. [approaches a model of a steer] That means the short loin, the short loin, [is] composed of two main muscles. There is the large loin, or back muscle, and then there is the, or at least most of, the tenderloin. The other end of this is actually stuck into the sirloin.
Now this is a desirable location because it is far from both hoof and horn, and therefore does little in the way of work. Besides, the T-shaped spine bone arrangement, there's very little connective tissue to complicate the meatscape. And yet, not all the steaks cut from this area are the same, okay? One must consider the fact that the tenderloin is a tapering muscle, small in the front and big in the back. And the loin, although consistent in size and shape, is completely clear of connective tissue at one end, and the other end? Well, let's just say that it's starting to transition into a working class neighborhood [refers to the round primal].
    So, you know, it's like real estate. We really got to go walk the territory. Come on.

Buckhead Beef
Atlanta, GA

GUESTS: Federal Agents

    [AB standing behind cuts of steaks, made serially from the short loin] Despite the fact that these steaks were all cut from the exact same bolt of moo cloth, they change radically from here to here. And luckily, our government has sorted things out for us.

AB: [puts on glasses and transitions into a federal agent] The T-bone may be prepared from any short loin item. The maximum width of the tenderloin shall be at least one-half inch when measured parallel to the length of the backbone. [removes shades]

    Roughly, that means that everything here qualifies as a T-bone except maybe this guy and this guy. These will have to be sold as bone-in strip steaks. Nothing wrong with that.
Now this begs the question, when does a T-bone become a porterhouse? Again, from the government.

AB: [repeats process] In the porterhouse, the minimum width of the tenderloin shall be at least 1.25 inches when measured parallel to the length of the backbone.

    So, that helps. That means that this [points] is a T-bone and this is a T-bone. This is a porterhouse, porterhouse, porterhouse, porterhouse. But even then, they are not all equal. For instance, when the tenderloin is the widest, the loin actually contains this kind of eye-shaped vein of connective tissue. And in this case, I mean vein as in iron ore, not a tube that, you know, blood pumps through. Anyway, it's chewy stuff. So the quality here is definitely compromised.
    Well, we back up and see that right here in the middle you cut a smaller piece of tenderloin, but beautifully clear meat. If I'm going to pay 20 bucks a pound for a piece of meat, this is the piece of meat I'm going to pay 20 bucks a pound for. [addressing the steak] Let's go home.

Americans consumed 27.3 billion pounds of beef in 2008.


    [at the display case] All right, besides proof of the standard United States Department of Agriculture inspection for wholesomeness and the grades that may be applied to beefselect, prime, choice, and whatnotthere are other terms these days that the steak hunter needs to be fully informed about.

    For instance, "natural". What does it mean? It means the beef has been minimally processed and contains no additives, such as artificial flavors, colors, and/or preservatives. Now if the meat is not "natural", there'll have to be an ingredient list attached. In other words, when it comes to steak, natural, well, it doesn't really mean diddly.


    Now you may see a brand attached to the beef. And I don't mean a hot, cowboy type of brand, but rather, a brand, like "certified longhorn" beef. Now branded beef is not necessarily better, but it does have to measure up to whatever specifications have been defined by that certification process. May be better, maybe not.


    Speaking of certification, there is, of course, "certified organic" beef. These cows must consume organic feed, they cannot be treated with antibiotics, and they must be certified as organic by the government. This means you're going to pay more for this beef. Will it be better? Not necessarily.


    Oh, here's another one that's cropping up just recently, grass-finished. This doesn't really mean anything to the government or anyone else.


    The "grass" word that does, however, is this one, and I really do think that this makes a big difference to the taste and flavor of the finished product, is "grass-fed." Okay. That means that once the animal is weaned off of mother's milk, it only eats forage, grass, the way that a cow is supposed to. Now most of the beef cattle raised in the U.S. start on grass, but they're then finished in feed lots, where they spend their last weeks, or months even, being fattened up on corn, which also standardizes the flavor. I call this the blandification of beef, which, it turns out, most of us have been trained to like.


The Kitchen


    All right, I'm just double-checking the green weight, which is one pound, eight ounces, so 24 ounces. If we spun this up in a high-speed laboratory blender ... 1¼ Inch Thick Porterhouse

THING: [takes stake off camera and does what AB is talking about]

... and then squeezed it in a hydraulic laboratory press, and then removed the various suspended solids via flocculation and centrifuge ...

THING: [returns to hand AB a test tube containing the result]
AB: Thank you, Thing.

... we would come up with, well, dry meat powder and water. In fact, 18 ounces of water, which makes up a majority of the steak's green weight. Now it would be logical to hypothesize that were we to reduce the amount of water in the steak, we could, in fact, intensify its flavor, right?
    Now top-drawer steakhouses have special climate-controlled rooms dedicated to aging primals and sub-primals that are then cut into steaks as needed. I don't really have a special room, but I do have some very nice recyclable pie tins, some very nice wooden skewers, and a very scary ice pick. The cork is for protection, of course.
    Now just punch five holes in one side of the tin and repeat on the other side. Then just run the skewers through. Be careful of splinters. There. Now put down one paper towel, wrap one porterhouse steak, flip over like that, and you've got your aging rig.
    [at the refrigerator] Okay, stash this in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which most likely will be down in the bottom, which is good because that'll also keep it isolated from other foods. Cross-contamination, always a concern. Leave in place for 24 hours, and then change out the paper towel. And it'll be kind of wet and gooey. Then store for another three days.
Now at this very moment, other forces have come into play deep inside the meat: enzymes.

Old Time Movie

    [AB is in a Charlie Chaplin-esque movie reminiscent of "Modern Times"] Let's consider the inner workings of living muscle. It's complex machinery, which, upon expiration of the animal, grinds to a half. Oh well, that's the circle of life. Now for a short while immediately following the demise, the meat remains nice and loose, tender. But then rigor mortis sets in, and things can get very, very tough. However, over time, natural chemical catalysts called enzymes go to work. Like this wrench, enzymes have specific shapes, which bond only with specific molecules. Once in place, the enzyme can either unite unrelated molecules or dismantle certain structures, such as the ones that toughen meat.
    Now the more time you give the enzymes to work, the more tender the meat gets, when, of course, the proper temperature and moisture level is maintained.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Bacterium, as a sock puppet

    Hooray, it's steak day! Now let's check and see just how much weight we have lost during the dry-age process.
    So we are down to 21.75 ounces from the original 24.15, for a net loss of, wow, 2.4 ounces averaging .6 ounces per day. And that is a total percentage loss of 9.94 percent. Wow, that's almost 10 percent of the weight of the steak has just evaporated. That will certainly intensify the flavor. Enzymatic action has taken place. I've got a darkening, which certainly makes sense. So we will ditch the paper towel, yuck, and allow this to sit at room temperature for one hour. Yeah, I know it's raw meat, but the shorter the thermal trip it takes, the faster it will cook and the less moisture will be lost. And don't worry, bacteria not going to have time to do anything drastic here. Besides, we're going to cook it.

    When you are half an hour out from the actual cooking, sprinkle the steak on both sides with kosher salt. It'll take about three-quarters of a teaspoon, total. Now the salt is going to pull moisture out of the meat, no question, but it's not just moisture. It's protein-laden moisture that, once brought to the surface, will help to enhance the searing process. Now it's high time that we consider our thermal options. ¾ tsp. Kosher Salt

When meat is vacuum-sealed in its own juices and refrigerated,
it is called "wet aging".

Coastal Wholesale, Inc.: Atlanta, GA

    Here in America, the word "steak" is strongly associated with the word "grill." But truth is, the specimens produced in high-end steakhouses like Maison du Fluffy Stuff rarely see a grill. They are instead cooked under powerful broilers like this. Come here.

    A simple device, really. Gas flames super-heat ceramic elements, capable of generating radiant energy in the 2500 degree range, Fahrenheit, of course. The drawer comes out, steak goes on the drawer, steak goes under the broiler, and in no time at all, you have yourself a beautifully, ouch, seared piece of meat. No muss and not a lot of fuss. So if you've got one of these babies, you're good to go. [spots the price tag] Yeah, me either. Luckily, we can fake it.

SALE! $1,095

Back Yard

    Here's what you need:

  • A flat fireproof spot, and I like a fireproof mat available at your local barbecue store

  • A cinder block

  • A charcoal grill grate, also available at a hardware or grilling store

  • A large chimney starter for charcoal, available ... well, you've got it

  • And you're also going to need a large metal mixing bowl, preferably one you don't care a lot about

  • And a pound of natural chunk charcoal.

1 Pound Natural Chunk

    Yes, I actually weighed the charcoal. And what better method to quantify the amount of a bunch of jagged chunks like that, hmm?
    Well, all right, ignition will require fuel, and that will come in the form of just a little bit of yesterday's paper. We're also going to use some accelerant, vegetable oil. Nice shot, nice shot, or canola oil will do. Just wad that up and place below the charcoal. Light with your trusty fire stick or long matches. Now the oil will burn very slowly, keeping the fire active long enough to thoroughly set the charcoal ablaze. And that'll reach optimal thermal range in about 15 minutes. In the meantime, let's contemplate the rest of our grilling hardware.
    You do have your very own comfy custom kettle grill chair, don't you? No? Well, you should get your prop people on that right away.
    Now what else do we need? Long spring-loaded tongs, a fire extinguisher, and, of course, insulated gloves. Now as you can see, the coals have burned down a good amount. There are ashes all around. I can see all the way through the grate to the bottom of the chimney. This is a perfect fire. So take the chimney off, knock off as many ashes as you can, remove ashes from the grate itself... remember, hot. Place the seasoned steak dead center, and replace the chimney right on top. Now set your timer for 90 seconds, okay. Now I have never seen a porterhouse that wouldn't fit under the chimney, but you should always check ahead just to make sure you've got a good fit. So what we have here, of course, our very own high-powered broiler. Ha, take that, Casa de Maison du Boeuf, or whatever you're called.
    [90 seconds later] Time's up, and we flip. See that crusty exterior? That's what happens when high heat tangles with water-soluble proteins like the ones pulled out by the salt. Re-cover and time another minute and a half. Not a second more or less, please.
    [after 90 more seconds] Time's up. Okay, we're three minutes into the cooking, and our steak has had all of the close-up searing heat it can take. Any more, and the mahogany brown crust will turn to black. By the same token, the inner meat, not yet at the sweet spot, say between 120 and 125, medium rare. So lift the chimney, remove the grate, and place on top of the chimney. Then cover with your bowl. This creates kind of a mini oven, which, despite convective heat, will not create nearly the BTUs that the steak faced below. Set your clock for one minute.
    [one minute later] Bowl comes off, meat is turned, bowl goes back on, and we cook for one more minute. That's going to be a total of only five minutes of heat.
    [after one more minute] Time to evacuate. Now as is typical of large pieces of red meat, the temperature can actually continue to go up for a short period of time after removal from the heat. And we have topped out at 123 degrees, which is fine. It'll coast up to medium rare. Now we've got to give this steak at least a five-minute rest, and I like to do it right here on the rack so that it doesn't sit in its own juices. That could dissolve the outer char, which I don't want. Now this will give the heat inside, and, of course, the associated pressure, time to subside. Now if you skip this step and just cut into the steak, you're going to see all the beautiful juices just run all over the tray. You don't want that, do you? I thought not. Patience.

One of Mark Twain's favorite meals was pan-fried porterhouse steak with mushrooms and peas.

The Kitchen

GUESTS: Steakhouse Patrons
             River Pilot

    Ah, while the pedigrees of most classic dishes are foggy at best, we may actually be able to pinpoint when and where the porterhouse steak was born. But, well, first let's set the stage. In the 18th century, a peculiarly dark and particularly strong beer became so popular with street and river porters in London that it eventually took their name, Porter. Now a 16-ounce glass of this stuff was, at the time, the safest, fastest, most nutritious drink you could down. In fact, porter was really kind of the energy drink of its age.
 Now the establishments that catered to porters were called Porter Houses. And the porter houses that sprang up along the waterways of London, and eventually New York, were equally popular with sailors, river pilots, who often dropped by after docking for a pint and a roasted hunk of critter.
    Now according to the respected New York author, historian, and prince of butchers, Colonel Thomas F. DeVoe, once upon a time, in 1814, a crusty old river pilot entered a porter house owned by one Martin Morrison on Pearl Street in New York City.

PATRONS: [at once] New York City?
AB: That's right, yeah.

    Said Crusty called for something substantial to eat.

RIVER PILOT: Look here, bring me something substantial to eat!

    Having sold out of the evening jointthat's what they used to call, you know, the big hunk of meatMorrison, in the back, hastily cut a slab from the back of a large loin roast meant for the next day, a hunk that probably included a goodly portion of short loin, tenderloin, and whatnot. He fried it up, he served it up, and...

RP: Oh. Oh. Oh my! That is good! Yes, yes!
PATRON #1: I'll have what he's having.
PATRON #2: Yeah, me too.
PATRONS: [all moan in agreement]

    From that night on, Morrison asked his butcher to cut all his roasts into steaks for the porter house. Move some words around, and you've got yourself a legend. Oh, and look, after steak and charcoal, we got a hundred bucks left over.

AB: A round for the house!
PATRONS: [all cheer]

    Ha-ha, and all of a sudden, I'm popular. It's the power of good eats.
Well, I hope we've inspired you to take the porterhouse back from the steakhouses and put it on your home menu, where it belongs. I suggest buying grass-fed when you can, age it in the fridge if you've got time, salt it well ahead of cooking, and when you're ready for the heat, put the spurs to it with a handheld charcoal broiler. It's just that simple. Not that the guys at Maison du Boeuf would tell you that. See you next time on Good Eats.

AB: [to the river pilot] How is that?
RP: [grunts]

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 09/27/2011