Tomahawk Steak Explained and Made

We tout a tomahawk steak as one of the best steaks. They’re tender, buttery, and a delicious show stopper when you’re looking for a big chunk of meat. Tomahawk steaks are expensive. Is this cut of meat worth the price? We think so and here’s why. 

Tomahawk Steak On Griddle
Tomahawk Steak on the Griddle

What is a Tomahawk Steak? 

Tomahawk steak, also called a cowboy ribeye, is a large ribeye steak that is cut with about 8-12 inches of the rib bone attached. They leave the bone in partly for presentation but also because it helps insulate the meat when it cooks. 

This cut of meat is taken from the beef rib part. It’s a very thick cut, normally 2 inches thick. We cut tomahawk steak from ribs 6-12 on the rib primal and also included in a few different sections of the cow, such as the longissimus dorsi, spinalis, and the complexus. 

Fat and muscle is trimmed from the long bone that is left in the meat. Some say it resembles a handle, which is where the name tomahawk steak originates. 

Are Tomahawk Steaks Worth the Money?

It’s easy to argue that a Tomahawk steak is overpriced because you are paying more for less essentially. You are getting a ribeye steak with the bone attached and frenched. You are essentially paying for the extra butcher labor to French the cut and leave a large protruding bone. Tomahawk steaks are not as easy or efficient to package either.

Famous Tomahawk Steaks

As you can imagine, chefs like to have fun with the tomahawk steak. Although, some things are better left alone, like the Golden Tomahawk Steak. Restaurants and high-end celebrity chefs have been known for covering bone-in wagyu tomahawk steaks with gold leaf. A totally tasteless and texture less ingredient, the gold leaf just adds flair to the look of the steak. It’s a steak that costs a lot of money but isn’t worth the pretty looks. 

Golden Tomahawk Steak

A chef named Salt Bae owns a chain of restaurants (Nusr-Et) in the world, invented and made famous the Golden Tomahawk steak. It’s the epitome of excess but it got the worlds attention.


Sam the Cooking Guy Tomahawk Steak

Sam did a Tomahawk Steak on his Traeger Pellet Grill and finished it off with a sear on a griddle.

How To Cook Tomahawk Steak

Cooking a perfect tomahawk steak may seem daunting because of its size, but with the right preparation and ingredients, it’s worth the time and effort. Make sure you thaw your steak completely using the refrigerator method of thawing and maintain food safety protocols throughout your cooking process. 

How To Grill A Tomahawk Steak – Reverse Sear Method

Since a Tomahawk is such a large cut of steak in size and thickness, you need to approach the cook of this steak differently. The reverse sear method works perfectly with a steak of this size. Simply just searing a steak this large, will never get the internal temp anywhere near done. That is why we will show you the reverse sear method. This is how we do it at Angry BBQ. 

Time:

Total time to complete this cook properly is about 2 hours. Prep time is about 30 minutes. The first slow cook is about 60 minutes, and the remaining steps would take another 30-45 minutes.

Ingredients: 

  • Large Tomahawk Ribeye Steak – 4lbs
  • 4 TBSP Butter
  • 4 Cloves of Crushed Garlic
  • 2 TBSP Thyme
  • 2 TBSP Rosemary
  • Coarse Kosher Salt
  • Coarse Ground Black Pepper

Instructions:

  • Start, with a good quality, well marbled bone-in ribeye (full bone, aka “Tomahawk”).  Pictured here is a Tomahawk, weighing approximately 4.5lbs and approximately 2.25” thick.  Thickness will vary from tomahawk to tomahawk.  Essentially the steak is as thick as the animal’s ribeye was.
4lbs Tomahawk Steak Raw
  • We let the Tomahawk steak rest at room temperature for 1 hour before applying the salt.
  • While you’re waiting, preheat your smoker to 250F. 
  • Apply coarse Kosher salt liberally to the steak. Since the steak is so large, a lot of salt is not going to ruin it. 
  • Once salted, I massage the salt into the steak and wait another 20 mins.  Following this, I apply a layer of fresh cracked pepper, and massage again.  Then I apply a layer of garlic powder and massage again.  I ensure every surface of the steak is seasoned at this stage. 
  • With your smoker (or oven if you don’t have) preheated to 250F, place the Tomahawk inside. 
  • After about 20-30mins start checking the internal temp of the Tomahawk. Once it gets to 120F – 125F (depending on how you like your steak), it is time to pull the steak and let it rest. 
  • While the steak is resting, get your gas grill up to searing temperatures. We use a griddle on a side burner for this step. You could also use a cast iron pan on your stove top. 
  • While the steak is resting (10-15mins), add the butter, minced garlic, thyme and rosemary into a heated sauce pan and mix well. Save for later. 
  • Drop the Tomahawk steak on the hot griddle and sear for 45-60 seconds. While it is being seared, brush some of the butter mixture on top of the steak. Don’t worry if it is smoking a lot, that is normal. Flip the steak and repeat the sear for another 45-60 seconds while applying the butter mixture.
Tomahawk Steak On Griddle
10-15 second sear on first side

Tomahawk Sear Second Side
10-15 second sear on other side
  • Remove from the griddle and rest in foil for 8-10 minutes. 
  • Once the resting is complete, slice the Tomahawk to serving size.
  • Serve

How to Cut A Tomahawk Steak

First slice the bone away from the steak meat. Then cut the steak against the grain in 3/8″ wide strips. Image below demonstrates this well.

How to Cut a Tomahawk Steak

How long to cook a tomahawk steak

Since tomahawk steaks are a larger piece of meat, they take longer to cook. Depending on the heat method, it can take anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes total. Our recipe above will take about 50-60 minutes of slow cooking in the oven or smoker and then a final sear time of 2 minutes.

As with most pieces of meat, the best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer. Follow these temperature guidelines when cooking your steak. 

Rare: take the steak off heat at 120°F and rest for up to 10 minutes 

Medium-rare: pull steak off the heat at 130°F and rest 

Medium: at 140°F, take it off the heat and rest 

Well-done: pull the steak off the heat at 155°F + and rest. Might as well throw it in the garbage.  

A steak will rise another 5 degrees during rest.

Tomahawk Steak Recipes

Below are a couple other Tomahawk steak recipes we feel are worth checking out.

Tips for the Best Tomahawk Steak 

  • Use an oven-safe, stay-in meat thermometer 
  • Season your steak very well with salt and black pepper or whatever spices you choose 
  • Top with butter to add an element of fat and help with searing
  • Searing over high heat after cooking will cause a crispy crust 
  • Let the meat rest before searing 
  • Fresh herbs, like rosemary, can infuse flavor and pairs well with meat 
  • Buy a great cut. If you can afford it, try a Wagyu Tomahawk steak.

Pro-Tip: If you want to save yourself a lot of money and skip the large rib bone, ask your butcher for a 2” boneless ribeye. You’ll save $30/steak easily and you’ll be eating just as well.

Tomahawk Steak Slight Browned Crust

Where to Buy Tomahawk steak?

Tomahawk steaks are a high-cost piece of meat because of the quality, the size, and the presentation. To some the cost of the Tomahawk steak is prohibitive but to others it is worth the cost. Tomahawk wins for presentation and wow factor.

Restaurants Offering Tomahawk Steak

There are a lot of locally owned restaurants that will offer a Tomahawk but here are a couple steak house chains that offer the Tomahawk on their menu.

Grocers and Butchers Selling Tomahawk Ribeye Steaks

If you want to try your hand at grilling a tomahawk, you can easily buy this meat online. 

  • Snake River Farms offers Gold Grade tomahawk. Each steak is a generous cut of meat and has the most marbling available. Prices for their tender steak start at $159.  
  • Omaha Steaks sells a 36 oz., 7-inch bone flavorful steak. The rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth steak costs $200. 
  • Costco in typical Costco style, they offer a package of 4-38 oz tomahawk steaks for just over $329. 

These online places offer the convenience of having your meat delivered right to your doorstep. Yet, you may find high-quality steaks at your local butchers. Another advantage of shopping locally is they can tell you where the meat comes from and share tips on how to grill it. 

Wrapping it Up

That about sums it up for everything you need to know about Tomahawk steaks. They are pricey but they have amazing presentation and are a hit at any dinner party. Pair it with a nice Cabernet Sauvignon wine and you are having one of the best meals in your life.

Enjoy.

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