posted November 06, 2023
Tomahawk Steak on the Grill
Grilled Tomahawk Steak is one of the most tender, juicy cuts of beef you’ll ever have the pleasure of enjoying. I’ll cover everything you need to grill the perfectly pink, savory tomahawk to wow at your next special occasion.
What is a tomahawk steak?
Tomahawk steak comes from the rib of the cow. It’s the same cut as the ribeye. The difference is the long rib bone is left attached on a tomahawk. Since your butcher has to cut tomahawks between each bone, they are often thicker than a typical ribeye. Ribeye steak is already about as delicious as beef can possibly be. While the bone isn’t going to add anything in the way of flavor, it gives the steak a unique look and a presentation that simply can’t be topped.
Is tomahawk steak worth the cost?
This particular steak is as much about the presentation as it is the taste. If you’re just looking for a quick steak dinner for your family then you’ll probably want to go with a traditional ribeye, or your go-to cut. The tomahawk is a cut for special occasions. If you’re looking to give someone you love a delicious steak with an unforgettable presentation, it’s definitely worth splurging.
Plus, you’re not getting the same thing you get with a traditional ribeye. A tomahawk is going to be around 2 inches thick compared to most thinner cuts of steak, and it’s going to cost about the same per pound. Your overall price is going to be higher because you’re getting a lot more steak. This massive steak will easily feed more than one person. In fact, this recipe is meant for two.
How to Pick a Good Tomahawk Steak
Now that you’re going to be investing in this delicious tomahawk, you’ll want to make sure you pick out a good one. A couple of things I like to look out for are the color and the fat. If you’re getting it from your butcher, the odds are good you’re getting a fresh, beautiful steak. If you’re picking your own, here are a few of my tried and true tips to picking great steak:
- Color. You’re going to want a nice, red color. You can certainly save most cuts with a few brown spots, but again, this is not the time to skimp. I like to pull the steak out of the case to get a better look at it. The lights in the meat case are meant to make meats look as beautiful as possible. Pulling it out gives you a chance to really inspect it.
- Fat marbling. You want to pick a cut of beef with white flecks of fat throughout the bright red meat. This is one of the keys to a delicious tomahawk steak. I like to look for a large spinalis (the muscle that arches across the top of the ribeye. Save those lean cuts for a regular Wednesday night. This is for celebration, and that means you want flavor. Meat is often graded according to the fat content, so picking a choice or prime grade is a good indicator of flavor.
Can you cook it in the oven?
You can definitely prepare a tomahawk steak in your oven, but there are going to be some drawbacks. Mainly, you’re going to lose the obvious smoky flavor that comes from the natural steam and dripping that you can only get when grilling your steak.
I know a cut of beef this thick can be intimidating, and you may be tempted to use your oven to make sure it cooks through right. You didn’t pick a tomahawk steak to play it safe, did you? Of course not. But don’t worry, I’m going to teach you a two-zone method you can use on any grill to ensure food safety while getting the most flavor possible.
Seasoning Tomahawk Steaks
I like to give my tomahawk steak a simple salt seasoning before throwing it onto the grill. Seasoning with salt and resting before you cook is a simple process for adding a ton of flavor to your steak. This dry brining process (covered in the recipe below) helps draw moisture back into your steak to keep it tender and juicy . I’ve got some great tips for adding a little something extra in the homestretch, but you’ll want to keep it minimal during the cooking process. This thick, marbled cut is packed with natural beefy flavor, and salt is really all you need to help bring that out.
Once your steak finishes grilling, I like to add a few pads of butter to the steak to melt while it rests. At this point I also like to crack some fresh black pepper. You don’t want to do this before the resting phase. That’s because the butter can burn easily in high heat, leaving the pepper with a bitter taste you definitely want to avoid. Plus, there’s nothing like fresh cracked black pepper to bring the flavor home.
How to Grill a Perfect Tomahawk Steak
- Remove steak from fridge and dry brine. Remove the steak from the refrigerator approximately 2 hours before cooking. Set the steak on a flat cooling rack above a rimmed baking sheet. Season the steak liberally on all sides with the salt. Let the steak rest in the salt for 2 hours. The salt will initially draw moisture out of the steak before reabsorbing into the steak to season from the inside out.
- Preheat. Preheat your grill for two-zone cooking. You want half of your grill to be running on high, direct heat (either with your burners set to high or your charcoal banked to one side). The other half of your grill should have no heat. The overall ambient temperature of your grill should be around 275 degrees F. Read my post about two-zone grilling if this is your first time.
- Low temperature grill. Place the tomahawk steak on the indirect, low heat side of your grill grates and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees F for medium rare. This will take approximately 45 minutes-1 hour depending on the thickness of your steak and the temperature of your grill. You will want to flip your steak once during cooking, around the 20 minute mark. Use an internal thermometer to check the temperature periodically as the steak cooks.
- High temperature sear. Move the tomahawk steak to the high, direct heat side of your grill and sear, leaving the lid open, for 3-4 minutes per side. Position the bone of the steak away from the direct heat to prevent it from scorching and turning black. Pull your steak off of the grill at 125 degrees F for rare, 135 degrees F for medium rare, 145 degrees F for medium, 155 degrees for medium well, or 160 for well done.
- Rest with butter and enjoy. Transfer the steak to your cutting board, top with the pads of salted butter, and crack fresh black pepper across the top. Let the steaks rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. If you try to slice it too early, you run the risk of ruining an otherwise gorgeous presentation. Let it rest and then enjoy it.
More Amazing Steaks and Seasonings
Here are a few more of my favorite ways to prepare ribeye steaks, and some incredible seasonings to help you knock them out every time:
- Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Roasted Garlic Resting Butter
- Reverse Seared Tomahawk Steak
- Rib Eye Steaks with Balsamic Red Wine Glaze
- Coffee Rub
- Homemade Steak Rub
- The BEST steak seasoning
Grilled Tomahawk Steak Recipe
I’ve got courses on preparing steaks and buying the right meats over at The Grill Squad to help you better become a backyard BBQ hero. I’ve also got hundreds more recipes to help you feed the people you love in the Hey Grill Hey app.
Grilled Tomahawk Steak
- 1-3 pound tomahawk steak
- 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons salted butter (cut into pads)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper (fresh cracked)
- Remove steak from fridge and dry brine. Remove the steak from the refrigerator and place on a flat cooling rack above a rimmed baking sheet. Season the steak liberally on all sides with the salt and let rest for 2 hours.1-3 pound tomahawk steak, 2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- Preheat. Preheat your grill for two-zone cooking. You want half of your grill to be running on high, direct heat, and the other half no heat. The overall temperature of your grill should be around 275 degrees F.
- Low temperature grill. Place the tomahawk steak on the indirect, low heat side and close the lid. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees F for medium rare (45 minutes to 1 hour). Flip your steak once 20-25 minutes in.
- High temperature sear. Move the tomahawk steak to the high, direct heat side of your grill and sear, leaving the lid open, for 3-4 minutes per side. Position the bone of the steak away from the direct heat to prevent it from scorching and turning black. Pull your steak once it reaches internal temperature for desired doneness.
- Rest with butter. Transfer the steak to your cutting board, top with the pads of salted butter, and crack fresh black pepper across the top. Let the steaks rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and eating.2 Tablespoons salted butter, 2 teaspoons black pepper
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