How to Cook Tomahawk Steak

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Photo by Madie Hamilton on Unsplash

In the world of steak, there’s virtually no beef cut that’s as eye-catching and dominating as the rustic, meaty tomahawk. Tomahawk steak is easily one of a food photographer’s most prized pieces of meat, practically coming to life in photos. However, if you’ve ever tried one of these tasty steaks, you know that no photo beats it sitting on your plate.

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Although this cut of beef is usually reserved for fancy steakhouses and five-star restaurants, there’s no reason you can’t have it on your dinner table. This guide teaches you how to cook tomahawk steak on the grill, in the oven, and even deep-fried.

What is Tomahawk Steak

The tomahawk steak resembles — you guessed it — a tomahawk ax from Native American tribes. Its protruding bone makes it the star of any dinner plate it’s on, and it’s this bone that makes people know that it’s a tomahawk steak immediately.

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Tomahawk steak is known for its beefy, slightly buttery flavor. It’s thick and juicy, making it one of those cuts that works perfectly on its own without the need for tons of spices, marinades, or sauces. 

What Cut of Beef is Tomahawk Steak

Essentially, a tomahawk steak is a ribeye with its bone left in place. This cut comes from the rib area of the cow, in front of the short loin and behind the chuck area. That large, commandeering bone that juts out from the meat is one of the cow’s ribs. A butcher uses a technique called frenching to trim the excess meat and fat from that bone, leaving it clean and pristine when it’s ready to cook.

Like a ribeye, the tomahawk steak is well marbled, helping out its flavor and texture as it cooks. Bold taste and thick meat make this cut a steak enthusiast favorite.

6 Ways to Cook Tomahawk Steak

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A tomahawk steak is just about as versatile as its cousin, the ribeye. Choose from the following cooking methods to use with your tomahawk steak. Before each, consider creating a dry brine to help crisp the steak as it cooks. To do this, remove the steak from the refrigerator and salt generously on all sides. Then, leave at room temperature for 45 minutes before cooking.

Grilling Tomahawk Steak

  • Brush oil on the grill grates. Preheat the grill on high heat.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper on the steak.
  • Place the steak on the hottest part of the grill, allowing to sear for 2-4 minutes.
  • Flip the steak to the other side with tongs and sear for another 2-4 minutes.
  • Move the tomahawk steak to a low-heat part of the grill to continue cooking for 5-15 minutes, depending on your desired doneness level. Use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of the steak. Remove from the grill at 120-125 degrees for medium-rare, and adjust accordingly to your doneness preference.
  • Let rest at room temperature on a foil-tented plate for 5-10 minutes.

Pan-Seared Tomahawk Steak

  • Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat with one tablespoon of butter.
  • Season steak with more salt, if desired, and black pepper.
  • Place steak in the pan and sear for 2-3 minutes; flip and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes. Spoon the butter over the top of the tomahawk steak while searing.
  • Check that the internal temperature reaches 120-125 degrees for medium rare. If you need a longer cook, turn down the heat to low and continue cooking until desired temperature is reached.
  • Rest on a plate tented with foil for 5-10 minutes.

Cooking Tomahawk Steak in the Oven

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Follow the directions for pan-searing tomahawk steak, except you don’t need to continue cooking the steak in the pan. After searing, move the cast-iron skillet to the oven’s middle rack. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, switch the steak to an oven-safe pan.
  • Roast for 8-10 minutes or until desired doneness temperature is reached.
  • Rest on a foil-tented plate for 5-10 minutes.

Reverse Sear Method for Tomahawk

  • Preheat the oven or grill on low heat, about 225 degrees. 
  • Season the steaks with more salt, if desired, and pepper.
  • Roast or grill for about one hour for medium-rare. 
  • Preheat a cast-iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.
  • Sear on each side for 2-3 minutes, spooning the butter over the top.
  • Rest on a plate loosely tented with foil for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tomahawk Sous Vide 

  • Add water to your precision cooker and preheat the cooker to 125 degrees (130-135 degrees if you don’t want to sear it afterward).
  • Wrap a paper towel around the bone and tie it in place with butcher’s twine to prevent it from tearing your vacuum bag.
  • Season the steak with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the steak and fresh herbs, if desired, to the bag. Seal the bag with a vacuum sealer.
  • Place the bag into the water, ensuring that the meat is fully covered (it’s okay if the bone sticks out). 
  • Cook for about 3-4 hours until done, although precision cooker times and steak thickness can affect cooking time.
  • If you’d like to sear your steak, preheat a cast iron skillet with one tablespoon of butter. Add the steak, sear on each side for 3-4 minutes, spooning butter over the top. 
  • Rest for 5-10 minutes on a plate tented with foil before enjoying.

Deep-Frying Tomahawk Steak

Did you know that you could deep-fry a steak? Tomahawk steak is actually a favorite for this because of its long bone that serves as a convenient handle for the steak. To deep-fry your tomahawk steak, preheat the deep fryer until the oil is ready. Slowly dip the steak into the fryer, leaving the rib bone standing up. 

Allow the steak to cook for 8-15 minutes or until a digital meat thermometer inserted into its thickest part reaches your desired doneness level (120-125 degrees for medium-rare). Let rest for 5-10 minutes at room temperature. 

Seasoning Tomahawk Steak

Season tomahawk steak like you would most other steaks for the best sear by salting generously on both sides and letting rest for 45 minutes before grilling, oven-baking, reverse-searing, or pan-searing. Add some ground pepper right before cooking if desired.

For more robust flavoring, use a dry rub made with your favorite seasonings that pair well with steak, like garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Rub the mixture all over the steak, and you’ll end up with a flavorful crust when seared.

Marinating Tomahawk Steak

Marinating is entirely optional for a tomahawk steak, as this cut is wonderfully tasty and juicy without any additives. Still, a marinade can be a good way to introduce some new flavors into the steak and works especially well on the grill. If marinating, consider using herbs that complement the tomahawk’s beefy flavor profile well, like rosemary and thyme. Marinate for at least four hours, if possible, or overnight in the fridge.

cooked tomahawk steak in cast iron skillet

Grilled Tomahawk Steak

Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 30oz tomahawk ribeye steaks
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Remove steaks from the refrigerator. Season generously on both sides with salt and let rest at room temperature for 45 minutes.
  • Brush grill grates with olive oil. Heat one area of the grill to high (you can use a charcoal or gas grill).
  • Season steaks with additional salt, if desired, and pepper and thyme.
  • Place steaks on the hottest side of the grill, searing for 3-4 minutes. Use tongs to flip the steaks to the other side and sear for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Move tomahawk steaks to a low-heat area of the grill to continue cooking until they reach your desired internal temperature, usually between 10-20 minutes. Remove from heat when a digital thermometer reads 120-125 degrees for medium-rare, and adjust accordingly for other doneness levels.
  • Rest at room temperature on a plate tented with foil for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Additional Information

To make the most of your newfound tomahawk cooking experience, learn more about what cooking times to expect from each cooking method and how to measure doneness to ensure the right cook.

Cooking times

Cooking times vary with each cooking method and pieces of equipment you use. However, the following times are what you can generally expect from each method when cooking tomahawk steak:

  • Grill: 20-30 minutes
  • Pan Sear: 10-15 minutes
  • Oven: 20-30 minutes
  • Reverse Sear: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Sous Vide: 3-4 hours
  • Deep-Fry: 15 minutes 

Measuring Doneness

For accuracy, use a reliable digital meat thermometer to check the doneness of your tomahawk steak. Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat to make sure your steak is cooked to your liking throughout. 

We recommend medium-rare for this cut of beef. To reach a medium-rare cook, pull the steak from the grill, pan, or oven when it reaches 120-125 degrees internally. Adjust this +/-5 degrees for each level of doneness. For example, you’ll want to pull the steak from the heat when it reaches 130-135 degrees for a medium cook. 

If cooking sous-vide, keep the water temperature at 130-135 degrees for medium-rare unless you’re searing the meat afterward. If so, set the temperature to 125 degrees.

The One-Stop Guide to Cooking Tomahawk Steak

Tomahawk steak is just like a ribeye but with a massive ribeye bone exposed. You’ll get the same delicious flavors and appealing texture from tomahawk as you would a boneless or bone-in ribeye. The cooking methods are similar, too, aside from having to make space for the long rib bone in a pan or on the grill.

Order tomahawk ribeye steaks from Chicago Steak Company for convenient home delivery. We offer dry-aged and wet-aged tomahawk steaks featuring 30 ounces of some of the best beef you can buy.