How to Cook T-Bone Steaks in a Frying Pan

What's the best way to cook T-bone steak? Some will say the oven, and others will say the frying pan. Either way, you'll have a tasty steak, so can you really go wrong?

The T-bone is known for its characteristic “T” shape because of the vertebrae and the large eye muscle.
Credit: The Picture Pantry/Alloy/GettyImages

What Is a T-Bone Steak?

According to the University of Nebraska, the T-bone is known for its characteristic "T" shape because of the vertebrae and the large eye muscle. Cooking method recommendations include broiling, grilling, pan broiling or pan frying.

It comes from the loin, which is home to some of the most popular and most tender cuts of steak. The porterhouse is also cut from the loin and is highly similar to the T-bone. The difference is that the porterhouse is cut from the rear of the loin so it contains more of the tenderloin steak and a large strip steak.

The USDA Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications require the filet portion to be at least 1 1/4 inches thick at its widest point to qualify as a porterhouse, and a T-bone's tenderloin must be at least 1/2 inch thick at its widest point.

The USDA says a 4-ounce serving of T-bone steak that's trimmed to 1/8 inch of fat contains 181 calories, 25 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. This does not include any oil or butter used in cooking.

Read more: How to Cook T-Bone Steak on the Grill

T-Bone Steak Cooking Times

If you're looking at T-bone steak recipes in a frying pan, T-bone steak cooking times vary based on the thickness of the steak and the temperature you're looking to achieve.

Pan searing works well for both thin and thick cut steaks. T-bones are thick cut, so when shopping for the right steak, aim for between 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches thick for the juiciest steak.

Before you start cooking, pat the steaks down with a paper towel to remove the moisture. This will help you get a nice brown crust on your steak. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper right before you start cooking. If they sit too long with the salt on them, it will start drawing moisture out of the meat.

Heat a cast-iron pan over high heat until it gets hot. If you don't have cast iron available, use the heaviest stainless steel pan you've got to hold and retain the heat for more even browning.

Add a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. Swirl to coat the skillet and keep heating the pan until starts to smoke. Stay close because it won't take long.

Add the steaks to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Leave a couple of inches of space between them.

Cook until the meat is deeply brown and a meat thermometer reads 120 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare and 130 F for medium. This should take anywhere from eight to 12 minutes total.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says you should cook steaks to 145 F for safety. Pulling the steak from the pan at 130 F will allow it to finish cooking with carryover heat during the resting period, without overcooking the meat.

Flip the steak halfway through the cooking time. If the steak is browning too quickly, reduce the heat to medium.

To add more flavor, add butter and aromatics such as herbs and garlic during the final two minutes of cooking. Adding the butter too soon causes it to burn. After the butter melts, tilt the pan and spoon the flavored butter over the steak so the flavors seep into the meat.

Once your T-bone steak recipe in a frying pan has reached your desired doneness, remove it from the pan. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover it with foil to allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Slice against the grain.

Read more: The Difference Between Broiling and Baking Steaks

Thin vs. Thick Steaks

The best way to cook a T-bone steak, whether in the oven or on the stove in a frying pan, varies a bit if you're dealing with a thin steak instead of a thick cut.

If you're cooking T-bone steak recipes in a frying pan with a steak that is less than 1 ½ inches thick, it's considered a thin steak, and that changes things a bit, particularly the T-bone steak cooking times.

Instead of waiting until the last two minutes of cooking time to add the aromatics, you should go ahead and add chopped herbs and garlic before you add the steaks to the hot pan. If you're going for a medium rare, you'll only need to cook for about three minutes per side. If you want a medium steak, cook for four to five minutes per side.

Thinner steaks also don't require as much resting time as thicker ones. Instead of allowing it to rest for 10 minutes, you can go ahead and serve after a five-minute rest period.

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