Tomahawk Steak Guide: What Is It, Where to Get It, How to Cook It


Tomahawk steak is a show-stopping cut of beef rib that makes a statement on any BBQ plate. But what is it exactly, and does it deserve the hype? Learn everything you need to know about prep, temperatures, and techniques with our tomahawk steak guide.

tomahawk steak guide

For a chef, using premium ingredients is essential. When it comes to cuts of meat, it doesn’t get much better than the tomahawk steak. This beautiful cut of bone-in ribeye brings a joyful challenge to chefs who work hard to perfect their cooking techniques.

If you’ve been wondering exactly how to get this glorious cut of meat perfectly cooked, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about the tomahawk steak and how to prepare this iconic meat centerpiece.

reverse seared tomahawk on white wood board background

What is a Tomahawk Steak?

The tomahawk steak is named for its prominent hatchet-like bone that extends from one end of this large beef cut, taken from the steer’s rib section. It’s essentially a ribeye steak, just with a five-inch bone still left intact.

Butchers prepare this cut of meat by “frenching” it—a technique that involves removing the fat and meat cleanly from the bone for presentation. Butchers and chefs will french a crown roast and a rack of lamb to give it the formal presentation, too.

Tomahawks have a few notable characteristics that set it apart from other steaks. One, obviously, is the massive piece of bone that makes the steak look primal—almost Flintstonian. The second trait is the thickness, which presents beautifully on a plate. Most importantly, the steak is delicious, especially when cooked to perfection on the inside with a charred crust on the outside.

Butchers cut the tomahawk steak from the rib, just like they would for any other rib steak. Most tomahawk cuts are at least two inches thick. Butchers include the longissimus dorsi, spinalis, and complexus in the cut. Consider cutting the rib primal from 6 through 12, leaving the bone in place, then cutting individually large pieces.

The tomahawk cut is large. Most are about two inches thick, and the bone is about seven inches long. This substantial cut occupies a large space on the grill and the plate. The steak weighs about 2.5 pounds and usually has at least five inches of meat left on the bone.

Tomahawk Steak vs. Ribeye

The tomahawk steak and ribeye are cut from the same part of the cow. One notable difference is the bone that protrudes from the tomahawk steak. The ribeye steak just has the meat and is much smaller.

A tomahawk usually weighs between 2 and 4 pounds (or 30 to 60 ounces) and tends to be about two inches thick. Meanwhile, a ribeye steak is usually a 12-ounce cut and only about an inch thick.

Tomahawk Steak vs. Cowboy Steak

The cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye, just like the tomahawk. But it has a smaller frenched bone in it. Cowboys reportedly cooked this steak with the bone so they could use it as a handle while grilling it. 

Both cuts have well-marbled meat with plenty of flavors. The cowboy steak is usually about half the weight of the tomahawk cut. 

Do Tomahawk Steaks Taste Better?

The tomahawk steak tastes delicious, especially if the meat has sufficient marbling. Cuts of meat closest to the bone taste the best. The challenge is getting the thick steak cooked correctly, yet it’s the thickness that makes it taste so good. Because the steak is so thick, chefs can get the crust to brown while the inside stays juicy and colorful.

A thin cut does not cook in the same way as a thick one—the thin cuts of meat brown through before the crust browns. While the thickness is a challenge, it is also a blessing because it gives you time to get the inside and outside just right.

How Much Does a Tomahawk Steak Cost?

The cost of a tomahawk steak varies based on the butcher, the farm, and the seller. The price of the steak does not always determine the quality or flavor of the meat. For example, steaks from grass-fed cows tend to cost more than steaks from cows raised in factory farms.

Price Per Pound

The price per pound ranges between $30 to $80. Unfortunately, much of that cost comes from the bone. But the bone is essential to the meat’s character, so if you want a tomahawk, you have to pay for it.

Why Is It So Expensive?

The steak is so expensive because of the cut and the bone. Frenching a cut of meat is time-consuming, and butchers should be compensated for their work. Ideally, if you give the meat time to cook, the bone marrow will add flavor to the cut. But, grilling the meat does not give the marrow time to affect the taste of the steak.

Where to Buy Tomahawk Steak

You can buy tomahawk steaks in several places, and where you buy it determines how it is prepared. If you purchase it at your favorite steakhouse, a skilled chef prepares it for you. If you buy it from a butcher, you have to prepare it. No matter where you buy them, you should expect to pay a hefty sum.

Butchers sell them in their brick-and-mortar shops and online. These notable butchers sell them online:

Porter Road

Their 2.5 to 3-pound steaks sell out quickly, so you might have to get on the waiting list. Their tomahawk ribeye comes from the largest ribeyes of each cow and includes the entire rib bone. The butcher frenches the bone to show how clean and white it can get. Porter Road ties up the cuts before they ship them to you.

Porter Road Tomahawk Ribeye

Porter Road cut the two largest ribeyes off of each rib section, and leave the entire rib bone attached. The extended rib is then frenched, removing all of the meat and tissue to expose the beautiful white bone. We tie these mammoth cuts up for easy cooking, then send them your way.

porter road wagyu tomahawk ribeye

Snake River Farms

Their 2.75-pound Wagyu tomahawk steak is loaded with marbled fat for extra flavor. To make space for the bone, the steaks are at least two inches thick. Their steaks come from Japanese black cattle grown in the United States, like the ones in Japan used for Wagyu beef.

Snake River Farms American Wagyu Tomahawk

Thick and rich with a high level of intramuscular fat or marbling. Each steak is cut to accommodate the width of the rib bone making it two inches or more. The Snake River Farms American Wagyu tomahawk is the full ribeye including the delectable ribeye cap or deckle.

snake river farms american wagyu tomahawk

How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak

Creative chefs have several methods for how to cook a tomahawk steak. Try them all so you can find your favorite.

Reverse Searing

Reverse searing Tomahawk steak involves slowly smoking the beef before finishing it off with high-temperature searing. You start this cooking technique by cooking the meat in an oven for a long time at a low temperature. Slowly roasting the meat in a closed oven lets the inside cook to your desired doneness. After the inside has reached medium-rare or medium, you can brown the outside on a sizzling hot pan.

Given the steak’s thickness, use a meat thermometer to ensure the interior reaches a safe temperature.

Hybrid Grilling

When you hybrid grill a tomahawk ribeye steak, you use two techniques to get the steak cooked to your choice of doneness. A top-notch hybrid grill lets you slowly smoke the steak in the smoker section.

Then, after a few hours of slowly smoking, you pull the steak and let the meat rest for a few minutes. Then, put it on the hot grill.  This type of grilling lets you get the best of both worlds with the woody smoke flavor highlighted by the seared exterior with flavorful grill marks.

What is the Best Smoking Temperature for Tomahawk Steak?

The goal of smoking a tomahawk steak is to give the steak time to slowly cook on the inside. Many chefs recommend using a smoker set around 225-250°F (107-120°C). If you are roasting in an oven, you should set your oven to 250-275°F (120-135°C).

Meat Prep

No matter what method you choose, you will need to give the inside time to cook and to rest. For safety purposes, you should also check the internal temperature before you sear the outside. Once you have determined the inside is a safe temperature, the last step is to cook the outside, either in a pan or on a grill.

You should season the steak with your favorite salts and peppers. You can also marinate the steak, but plan for more time than a typical beef cut.

Preparing a tomahawk steak takes time. You cannot expect to cook it quickly on the grill like you would a sirloin steak. If you’ve ordered your meat online and it has arrived frozen, the best way to thaw steak is in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Before you cook the steak, let it reach room temperature, which adds another 30 to 40 minutes to your prep time.

Once the meat reaches room temperature, pat it dry and season it. Smoking a tomahawk steak takes at least two hours. Roasting it in the oven takes about 30 minutes.

After the first cooking, searing the steak takes about 30 seconds per side, especially if the pan or grill is hot.

What are Safe Internal Temperatures?

Safe temperatures for tomahawk steaks are 135°F (57°C) for medium-rare and 145°F (63°C) for medium. See our guide to steak temperatures to find out exactly what reading to aim for, including if you prefer your steaks rare or well done.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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