Tomahawk steak is an unusual 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.
For a chef, using the best ingredients is a necessity. 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 clicked on the right spot. Read on to learn about the tomahawk steak and how to prepare the mouthwatering delicacy.
What is a Tomahawk Steak?
The tomahawk steak gets its name from the large bone that protrudes from the large part of meat taken from the cow’s ribs. This bone gives the look of a hatchet or tomahawk handle.
Butchers prepare this cut of meat by “frenching” it – this technique involves creating an attractive presentation by removing fat and meat cleanly from the bone. Butchers and chefs will french a crown roast and a rack of lamb to give it the formal presentation, too.
Tomahawk steaks have a few remarkable traits. One 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 30 and 60 ounces and is two-inches thick. A 60-ounce steak weighs 3.75 pounds! The ribeye is usually a 12-ounce cut that is 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 need to 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:
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.
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 Kobe steak.
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 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.
Because of the steak’s thickness, use a meat thermometer to see if the inside has reached a safe temperature.
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 remove the steak and let it 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 Ideal Smoking Temperature?
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 225-240°F. If you are roasting in an oven, you should set your oven to 250-275°F.
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 for medium-rare and 145°F for medium. You should check the temperature after the steak rests for about three minutes.
After you have prepared the steak, the final step is to place it lovingly on the plate. Then, garnish the plate and find the perfect light so you can take a fantastic shot for Instagram.