The Ultimate Tomahawk Steak

A tomahawk or cowboy steak is a “Flintstonian,” thick ribeye cut with a 6-8-inch bone handle.  Can’t you see Fred Flintstone gnawing on something like this? Well, cartoon reference aside, the tomahawk is an impressive cut to serve guests and has become very popular in steakhouses.

Reverse seared tomahawk steak on a wooden board, sliced wit a side of potatoes in a ramekin.

The Ultimate Tomahawk Steak is our home’s big summer holiday or Father’s Day favorite. 

I like to serve it with a Classic Wedge Salad, Steakhouse Creamed Spinach, Roasted Garlic Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, and Key Lime Custard for dessert. With all the money you’ll save by making Dad a beautiful meal, you can buy him a set of gorgeous steak knives as a Father’s Day gift.

What Is A Tomahawk Steak?

Large raw tomahawk steak wit a 6-inch bone on a wooden carving board.

A Tomahawk steak is a rib-eye steak that is at least 2 inches thick and has a 5-inch or more bone that is scrapped of all tissue, leaving only the exposed bone like a handle. This is called the ‘French technique’ and is often how lamb chops are presented.

This steak is a particularly tender and soft cut, coming from the larger rib region where the muscles are typically underused.  It will easily feed four people with an average weight of between 25 and 45 ounces.

Because it is so thick, usually two or more inches, you will want to change your cooking method for this behemoth. The traditional searing and finishing over indirect heat or in the oven will result in either a cold, raw center or a tough, overcooked chunk of something resembling shoe leather.  And really, that would be shameful. I suggest tackling this monster by grilling it using a reverse sear method.

Where And How To Buy A Tomahawk Steak

If you have a butcher in your area, you’re lucky! This is the best way to get precisely what you want – cut from the center of the rack, the perfect thickness, with a Frenched bone, and great marbling.

However, sometimes you can find or pre-order them at your grocery store, Costco, or Sam’s Club.

Start with a great cut of meat. Prime is the best. I like grass-fed. It is a bit leaner and, in my opinion, tastes better. Go to a reputable butcher or grocer or order online. Look for a well-marbled piece. The fat or marbling should be white, not yellow or brown. The flesh should be very pink or cherry red, looking moist but not wet or dry.

Always allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking. For this ultimate tomahawk steak, rest the meat outside the refrigerator for at least an hour. Cooking cold meat makes it harder for the heat to reach the center, thus resulting in uneven cooking.

Season, season, season. This is a BIG hunk of meat. Don’t be shy with the coarse kosher salt; leave the black pepper until later. Pepper can burn at higher temperatures and cause a bitter aftertaste. It’s never a good thing. Why chance it?

Treat yourself to a digital thermometer. They are inexpensive and a game-changer. I’ve been using this one for years.

Rest the meat after cooking. This will allow those hot juices that pooled in the center to redistribute out to the sides, so every bite of your steak is juicy. The meat fibers will rest and relax, making every bite equally tender. No, your steak will NOT get cold. Trust me on this.

What Is A Reverse Sear?

A reverse sear consists of grilling the steak over low heat and finishing it over high heat for a well-caramelized crush with a tender and perfectly cooked interior. Unlike traditional searing, a reverse sear offers more control over the cooking process, avoiding an overly cooked and caramelized exterior with an unevenly cooked interior.

To Season Or Not To Season. Or Should I Salt, Dry Brine Or Wet Brine?

  • Salting is the most common way to add flavor to your steaks. You can use kosher, sea, or seasoned salt. There are delicious smoked salts for sale that are incredible on grilled beef. The salt adds extra flavor and a bit of tenderizing. Salt your steaks just before slapping them on the hot grill. Unlike dry brining, adding salt just before cooking will not extract your steak’s juices and cause it to lose flavor.
  • Dry brining is exactly the same as salting, but dry-brined steaks are left to sit for 45 minutes up to 48 hours before cooking. This method allows you to force deeper flavor into the meat and tenderize the protein fibers. How? The salt extracts moisture from the meat, dissolving the salt, which will then melt back into the meat. This creates a chemical reaction that softens and tenderizes the protein fibers, allowing the salt to penetrate the meat deeply (and flavor).  The meat must sit for at least 45 minutes before cooking. Place your dry-brined steak, uncovered, in the back of your refrigerator. This will allow airflow to circulate around the steak. You can place a rack over a rimmed baking sheet, place the steak on the rack or the baking sheet, and flip it every few hours.
  • Wet brining—Please save this for your chicken, pork, or less expensive cuts of beef. A wet brine will only dilute the steak’s rich beefy flavor.

Reverse Searing Versus Traditional Grilling

  • Traditional move and sear grilling is faster than reverse searing.
  • Reverse searing produces a more tender, buttery steak. 
  • Traditional searing—where you sear the raw meat and then cook it—can produce an unevenly caramelized and charred crust. Reverse searing allows the meat to be cooked almost all the way through before searing the outside, resulting in fewer charred bits but a beautifully evenly cooked steak.
  • The reverse searing method removes any stress by controlling the temperatures of cooking steak, cooking the whole steak first, and then activating the Maillard Reaction to sear the delicious juices in.
Close up view of sliced reversed sear tomahawk steak on a wooden background.

Seasonings For Your Tomahawk Steak

Remember how thick and large your tomahawk steak is, so season generously. Here are a few blends to consider:

  • Garlic Pepper—Sprinkle your steak with coarse salt and garlic powder for a simple flavor burst. When your steak is taken off the grill, sprinkle freshly ground, coarsely ground pepper just before you allow it to rest. Yum!
  • Purchase a steak rub from your grocery. I like using THIS savory, smokey steak rub or THIS one when I want a sweet and savory flavor.

Steak Temperature Guide

How do you like your steak? Every desired level of doneness has it’s own temperature and characteristics. Let’s take a look at each of them.

  • Rare – 120-125 degrees. The steak will maintain a deep red, cool, and juicy center. To make it safe for consumption, it should reach 115 degrees on the grill and 125 degrees after resting.
  • Medium rare – 130-135 degrees. The center will have a warm, red center with darker pinkish/brown edges for a medium rare steak. This is the most popular level of doneness.
  • Medium – 140-145 degrees. The meat will be pink and warm with light pink edges.
  • Medium well – 150-155 degrees. For a medium-well steak, look for a hot and slightly pink center. The chew will be tight and stiff.
  • Well done – 160-165 degrees. This steak will have a hot and gray center with no pink. It will have a drier and chewier texture.

Tips For Cooking Your Tomahawk Steak

  • Allow your steak to come to room temperature before grilling. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for at least 30 minutes. I like a large cut of meat, like a tomahawk, to sit out for at least one hour.
  • Season liberally and press the seasonings onto the surfaces of the steak. For the best flavor, season all sides of the meat, including the bone.
  • Preheat the grill. Use two-zone cooking – one hot and one warm, if possible. This way, you can cook on one side and sear on the other.
  • Please, please, please use a meat thermometer! Remove the steak when its internal temperature rises 10 degrees within the desired doneness.
  • Brush all sides of the meat with melted butter before searing on the hot side of the grill. This will help the meat get a lovely caramelized grill grid pattern and add incredible richness. This takes about 2 minutes per side.
  • Flip your steak often wen reverse searing. Don’t worry so much about the pretty grill marks. The dark sear marks are full of flavor, so wen you flip your steak, position it on te hottest sections of the grill for even flavor and texture.
  • Allow the meat to rest and redistribute the juices within the meat for 10-15 minutes. Tent the platter with foil to maintain eat.

Wine Suggestions For Your Tomahawk Steak Dinner

  • A bold Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins in this wine will cut through the steak’s fatty richness, making the wine softer and more fruity.
  • Bordeaux, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, has a tannic, spicy, and herby quality that pairs well with the steak’s herb and butter topping.
  • With its velvety tannins and floral characteristics, a Malbec will enhance the beefy flavors of the meat and the steak’s mouthfeel. If you are a ‘texture’ person, you’ll understand that.

Sides For Your Tomahawk Steak Diner

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The Ultimate Tomahawk Steak

A tomahawk or cowboy steak is a “Flintstonian,” thick ribeye cut with a 6-8-inch bone handle.  Can’t you see Fred Flintstone gnawing on something like this? Well, cartoon reference aside, the tomahawk is an impressive cut to serve guests and has become very popular in steakhouses.

The Ultimate Tomahawk Steak is our home’s big summer holiday or Father’s Day favorite. 

  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 our
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish – Beef
  • Method: reverse sear
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale

2-pound tomahawk steak

1 ½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 ½ teaspoons low-sodium steak seasoning

3 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons compound or garlic butter

Instructions

Salt all sides of your steak with coarse salt. Press the salt into the meat and place the steak on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the steak, uncovered, in the back of your refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Remove the steak from the refrigerator and pat dry. Allow it to sit out at room temperature for one hour. Keep patting any moisture off of the surfaces with paper towels.

Meanwhile, light one burner on your grill and set it to high. Close the lid to preheat the grill to 225 degrees.

Do a final pat on the steak to remove any surface moisture. Sprinkle all surfaces with the steak seasoning and pat the spice into the meat so that it adheres.

Place the steak over the indirect heat, close the lid, and cook until the internal temperature is 10 degrees lower than your desired doneness. Remove the steak from the grill.

Turn all of your grill burners to high and close the lid. Allow the grill to preheat for at least ten minutes.

Meanwhile, pour any accumulated juices from the steak into your melted butter.

Brush all sides of the steak with the melted butter and steak juice combination.

Place the steak back onto the grill. Flip it every minute or so, repositioning it in a new, hot spot each time. 

Cook until you have achieved the desired crust on the outside. Continue to baste with any leftover butter as you flip the meat.

Remove the meat from the grill, tent it with aluminum foil, and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

If desired, place a pat of butter or compound butter on the steak before serving.

Keywords: Ultimate reverse sear tomahawk steak, tomahawk steak, grilled steak, Father’s Day recipes, Rosh Hashana recipes, beef recipes,