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Reverse searing can be done with a smoker, grill, sous vide or oven and guarantees a juicy steak with a remarkable crust.
What is a tomahawk steak?
A tomahawk steak is a thick-cut, bone-in ribeye steak that’s known for it’s showiness and is great for a special occasion.
Unlike a traditional beef bone-in ribeye that has a bone the length of the steak, a tomahawk ribeye has the full rib bone attached, which can be one to two feet long.
A cowboy steak has a bone that’s longer than a regular steak but significantly shorter than a tomahawk.
Additionally, a tomahawk steak is generally sliced a lot thicker than a standard ribeye. Some can be up to 3 inches thick and weigh up to 4 pounds.
The meat comes from the beef rib primal and is extremely marbled, especially if you purchase prime-grade or American Wagyu beef.
The steak got its name because it resembles a tomahawk axe, which was a tool and weapon used by indigenous people of North America. Because the term may be considered offensive to Native Americans, some butchers now refer to the cut as a long-bone ribeye.
The North American Meat Institute refers to it as a frenched, bone-in rib steak cut from the rib with the full rib bone attached.
Tomahawk Ribeye Steak: Ask your local butcher for a long bone-in ribeye or tomahawk ribeye. If they aren’t able to source it for you, you can purchase one online. For the best flavor, choose one that is well-marbled and graded prime or above.
Steak Seasoning: The beef in tomahawk ribeye steaks is so good, I usually just use kosher salt and coarse-ground black pepper. Another great combo is to layer Girl Carnivore’s Ooomami Rub with my Steak Rub or Brisket Rub.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
Different ways to cook a tomahawk ribeye
Tomahawk ribeye steaks are thick, so they need a little special treatment compared to your standard 1-inch ribeye. If you were to just throw one on a hot grill, the outside would finish cooking before the inside was done.
There are two primary ways to adjust for the thickness. You can either start by cooking the steak slow and low and finishing it at a high temperature, or you can sear it first and finish it over a lower temperature.
I prefer the first method, which is known as the reverse sear cooking method.
For the slow and low part of the cook, you also have a few options. With each, the goal is to get the internal temperature of the meat to 110F degrees.
- Place the steak in a bag and submerge it in a water bath with a sous vide machine.
- Place the steak on a wire rack over a sheet pan in a 250F degree oven.
- Place the steak on a 250-degree grill or smoker over indirect heat.
Once the steak reaches 110F degrees, you can sear it off on a hot grill, in a cast iron pan or under a broiler in the oven. I find the grill to be the easiest, because the long bone makes it a little cumbersome to sit flat in a pan.
How to reverse sear a tomahawk ribeye steak
As a pitmaster, my favorite way to reverse sear a steak is on a smoker or charcoal grill over Cowboy Charcoal briquets and lump charcoal. Just before seasoning the steak, I light the grill and set it to 250F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
If you have a pellet smoker, add your favorite wood pellets and set the digital temp to 250F.
- STEP ONE: Season your steak on all sides, including the thick edge with seasoning. Let it rest at room temperature for about an hour to brine while the grill heats up. For the best results, let the steak reach an internal temperature of 50F degrees before smoking it.
- STEP TWO: Place the seasoned steak on a 250F-degree grill or smoker over indirect heat.
PRO TIP: It’s important to keep an eye on the internal temperature of the steak as it smokes. I use a Thermoworks Dot meat thermometer, which includes a probe I can leave in the meat while it’s on the grill.
- STEP THREE: Once the steak reaches an internal temperature of around 110F degrees, remove it from the smoker. The time it takes to reach this temp will vary, depending on the thickness and weight of the steak and how cold it was when it was placed on the grill. Plan on around 1 hour.
- STEP FOUR: Finish the steak by searing it on a flaming-hot grill or in a large cast iron pan to form a nice brown crust. Make sure each side is exposed to the heat. Continue cooking and flipping, until it reaches your desired doneness. I pull it off at a final temperature of around 130F degrees for medium rare.
- STEP FIVE: Let the steak rest for 10-20 minutes before slicing, in order to lock-in the juices. Tent it with aluminum foil to keep it warm.
How to serve keyword
Once the steak has rested, it’s time to bring the wow factor to the table. It makes for a pretty cool presentation to serve the steak on the bone on a cutting board where you can slice it tableside.
The most delectable part is the spinalis or fat cap toward the top edge of the steak. Make sure everyone gets at least one piece of that cut of meat.
Because the steak is so thick, I recommend sprinkling the sliced pieces with some finishing sea salt and fresh thyme.
It’s always fun to see who grabs the bone and starts gnawing the meat off of it.
Leftover tomahawk steak can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. It can be eaten as regular leftovers or seared in a skillet and served with fried eggs. Leftover steak can also be frozen for up to 6 months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Let your steak rest at room temperature for about an hour
- Slowly cook it to 110F degrees
- Finish it with high heat to your preferred doneness
Frequently Asked Questions
Tomahawk steaks can weigh anywhere from 2-4 pounds, so the cooking time will vary. For an average size steak, plan on 1 hour for the seasoning to brine the steak, 1 hour on the grill and 20 minutes for resting.
Tomahawk steaks are generally specialty items. Some local grocery stores may carry them occasionally. I source mine from Snake River Farms. Their American Wagyu beef is delicious. You can save 20% on your order by using code GIRLSCANGRILL at checkout.
Turn at least one burner on to medium heat and leave one burner off. Slowly cook the meat over indirect heat (where the burner is turned off). Once the steak reaches 110F degrees, move it to the direct heat (where the burner is turned on) to get the final sear and to cook it to your preferred degree of doneness.
Set your smoker up to 250-275F degrees with an indirect heat zone. Cherry, oak and hickory woods are great options when adding smoke. Cook the steak until it reaches an internal temperature of around 130F degrees for medium rare.
Yes. You can cook a tomahawk steak using a sous vide machine, an oven and a stovetop. See the post above for details.
There are two things that make a Tomahawk steak worth it, the quality and rich flavor of a good ribeye and the entertainment value of the long bone. Prices will vary, depending on the grade and breed of beef that you choose, but remember an entire steak will easily feed 4 people.
What to serve with tomahawk steak
More steak recipes
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- 1 tomahawk ribeye steak
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp coarse-ground black pepper
- Heat grill: Heat your grill or smoker to 250F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
- Season: Season the steak liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for about an hour or until the steak has an internal temperature around 50F degrees.
- Smoke: Place the seasoned steak on the smoker over indirect heat. Use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature and cook it to 110F degrees, which will take about an hour.
- Sear: Once the steak reaches 110F degrees, finish cooking it over direct heat on a hot grill or in a large cast iron pan on the stove. Flip it often to sear all sides and reduce flareups. For medium rare, cook it until the internal temperature reaches 130F degrees.
- Rest: Let the steak rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before slicing.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.