How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak

How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak

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Updated on February 26, 2024

The Tomahawk steak is a spectacle to behold. With its long, bone-in handle resembling a tomahawk axe, it exudes a primal allure that has captivated meat lovers worldwide. But beyond its dramatic appearance lies a cut of exceptional flavour and tenderness, making it the centrepiece of any carnivorous feast.

In the realm of carnivorous delights, the Tomahawk steak reigns supreme. Its imposing presence, resembling a warrior’s axe, is enough to tantalise even the most discerning palate. But beyond its dramatic appearance lies a true culinary gem, boasting a richness of flavour and a tenderness that will leave you wanting more.

Let’s embark on a journey through the world of Tomahawk steak, exploring its unique characteristics, the secrets behind its exceptional flavour, and the various approaches to unlocking its full potential. From selecting the right cut to mastering the art of cooking, we’ll equip you with the knowledge and confidence to conquer this culinary challenge and create a dining experience that will leave your guests in awe.


Key Takeaways

  • Choose wisely: Opt for a well-marbled Tomahawk steak with a thickness between 2-3 inches for optimal flavour and tenderness.
  • Master the heat: Select the appropriate cooking method for your preference, whether it’s grilling, pan-searing, or oven-roasting, and maintain the correct temperature throughout the process.
  • Let it rest: Don’t underestimate the importance of resting the steak after cooking. This crucial step allows juices to be redistributed, resulting in a significantly juicier and more flavourful final product.

Unique Characteristics

Unlike its boneless cousin, the rib eye, the Tomahawk steak retains the rib bone, adding both structural integrity and an extra dimension of flavour. The bone acts as a natural heat conductor, ensuring even cooking and preserving the juicy interior. Additionally, the bone marrow, rich in flavour and nutrients, can be extracted and used to create a decadent sauce or spread.


The Tomahawk’s popularity can be attributed to several factors:

  • Visual appeal: The dramatic bone handle adds a theatrical element, making it a showstopper at any dining table.
  • Rich flavour: The bone contributes to a deeper, more complex flavour profile compared to boneless steaks.
  • Tenderness: The Tomahawk is typically cut from well-marbled ribeye, resulting in a buttery-smooth texture.
  • Versatility: This cut can be cooked using various methods, allowing for individual preferences and culinary creativity.

Cooking Methods

While the Tomahawk steak can be cooked using various methods, three primary approaches stand out:

Tomahawk Steak


  • Pros: Grilling offers a smoky flavour and beautiful char marks. The bone can be used to shield the meat from direct heat, preventing overcooking.
  • Cons: Requires precise temperature control and careful monitoring to avoid burning.


  • Pros: Provides a flavourful crust and seals in the juices. The entire cooking process can be controlled within a single pan.
  • Cons: Requires a large pan and high heat, making it less suitable for very thick steaks.


  • Pros: A more hands-off approach, ideal for large gatherings. The oven ensures even cooking throughout the steak.
  • Cons: It may lack the smoky flavour and crust achieved with grilling or pan-searing.

Ultimately, the best cooking method depends on personal preference and desired results. Each technique offers unique advantages and disadvantages, allowing you to tailor the experience to your taste and culinary expertise.

Choosing the Right Tomahawk Steak

For you to choose the proper Tomahawk steak, you need to pay attention to some essential elements, as follows:

Tomahawk Steak


  • Ideal thickness: Aim for a Tomahawk steak that is 2 to 3 inches thick. This ensures even cooking and a juicy interior.
  • Considerations: Thicker steaks require longer cooking times and may be more expensive. Thinner steaks cook faster but can be drier.


  • Importance: Marbling refers to the streaks of fat within the meat. These fat deposits add flavour, juiciness, and tenderness.
  • Look for: A good Tomahawk steak should have moderate to abundant marbling throughout, resembling a fine web. Avoid steaks with minimal marbling or large, patchy fat deposits.


  • Benefits: Aging the steak allows enzymes to break down the muscle fibres, increasing tenderness and flavour intensity.
  • Types of ageing: Wet ageing involves storing the steak in a vacuum-sealed bag with controlled temperature and humidity. Dry ageing involves hanging the steak in a temperature-controlled environment with circulating air.
  • Cost: Aged Tomahawks tend to be more expensive but offer superior flavour and tenderness.


  • Reputable butcher: Opt for a butcher with a good reputation for sourcing high-quality meat. They can provide information about the origin of beef and its ageing process and ensure proper handling.
  • Online sources: Several online retailers specialise in high-quality meat delivery. Choose a reputable source with positive customer reviews and ensure they offer proper packaging and shipping methods to maintain freshness.

Tips for Selecting a High-Quality Tomahawk Steak

  • Visual inspection: Look for a steak with bright red meat and a firm texture. The fat should be white or slightly creamy, not yellow.
  • Touch test: Gently press the steak. It should spring back quickly, indicating good elasticity and freshness.
  • Smell: The steak should have a fresh, beefy aroma. Avoid steaks with any off smells.
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher or online vendor about the source, ageing process, and any other details you are unsure about.

Preparing the Tomahawk Steak

Preparing the Tomahawk steak needs some tools and seasoning techniques:

Tools and Equipment

  • Sharp chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Meat thermometer (optional)
  • Paper towels
  • Salt and pepper mill
  • Large cast iron skillet or grill pan (if pan-searing)
  • Grill or oven (depending on the chosen cooking method)

Patting Dry and Seasoning

  1. Pat the steak dry: Pat the Tomahawk steak dry with paper towels. Excess moisture can prevent proper browning and seasoning adhesion.
  2. Season generously: Sprinkle the entire surface of the steak with salt and black pepper. Apply enough seasoning to coat the steak evenly.

Additional Seasoning Options

  • Herbs and spices: Garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, rosemary, thyme, and chilli flakes are popular choices.
  • Compound butter: Mix softened butter with herbs, spices, or other flavourings and spread it over the steak before cooking.
  • Marinades: Marinades can enhance flavour and tenderness. Choose a marinade compatible with beef and adjust the marinating time based on the steak’s thickness.


Cooking Methods

Tomahawk Steak
freshly grilled Tomahawk steaks on wooden cutting board


For successful grilling, apply the following instructions:


  1. Prepare the grill: Preheat your grill to high heat (around 500°F). Aim for a two-zone cooking area: one side with direct heat for searing and another with indirect heat for finishing the steak.
  2. Season the steak: Generously season the Tomahawk steak with salt and pepper. Apply additional seasonings if desired.
  3. Sear the steak: Place the steak over the direct heat zone and sear for 2-3 minutes per side until a beautiful crust forms.
  4. Move to indirect heat: Transfer the steak to the indirect heat zone. Close the grill lid and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the desired internal temperature is reached.
  5. Check for doneness: Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature:
    • Rare: 120°F
    • Medium-rare: 130°F
    • Medium: 140°F
    • Medium-well: 150°F
    • Well done: 160°F
  6. Rest the steak: Once the desired doneness is reached, transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. This makes the meat more juicy and flavorful by allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.


  • Prevent flare-ups: Trim excess fat from the steak before grilling. Keep a spray bottle of water handy to extinguish any flames.
  • Beautiful grill marks: Use tongs to rotate the steak 90 degrees after 1-2 minutes of searing for those classic grill marks.
  • Finger test: For an alternative to a thermometer, lightly press the centre of the steak with your finger. The resistance will change as the steak cooks, allowing you to gauge the doneness.


Pre-searing needs some steps to get it right:


  1. Choose the right pan: Opt for a heavy-bottomed pan, like a cast iron skillet, that can withstand high heat.
  2. Heat the pan: Preheat the pan over medium-high heat until very hot. You can add a drizzle of oil to prevent sticking.
  3. Sear the steak: Place the Tomahawk steak in the hot pan and sear for 3-4 minutes per side until a dark brown crust forms.
  4. Basting (optional): As the steak sears, use a spoon to baste the top with the oil and pan juices. This adds flavour and helps ensure a juicy interior.
  5. Cook to desired doneness: Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the steak for 5-10 minutes per side, depending on the thickness and desired doneness.
  6. Rest the steak: Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.


  • Use a high-smoke point oil, like avocado oil or grapeseed oil, to prevent burning.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan. If the pan is too small for the steak, sear it in batches.
  • Basting is optional, but it can enhance the flavour and prevent dryness.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate doneness.


For oven-roasting, follow these instructions:


  1. Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Prepare the steak: Pat the Tomahawk steak dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a roasting pan: Place a large roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add a drizzle of oil.
  4. Sear the steak: Sear the steak in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes per side until a light crust forms.
  5. Transfer to oven: Transfer the seared steak to the preheated oven.
  6. Roast to desired doneness: Roast the steak for 20-25 minutes for rare, 25-30 minutes for medium-rare, or longer for desired doneness.
  7. Rest the steak: Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.


  • Use a roasting rack to elevate the steak and allow air to circulate around it for even cooking.
  • Let the steak come to room temperature before cooking for even cooking throughout.
  • Baste the steak with melted butter or olive oil throughout the cooking to add flavour and moisture.
  • To guarantee precise doneness, use a meat thermometer.


Resting the Tomahawk steak after cooking is crucial for ensuring maximum juiciness. Resting a Tomahawk steak is an often overlooked yet crucial step for achieving a mouthwateringly juicy and tender final product. Here’s why it matters and how to do it properly:

Why Resting Matters:

  • Juice Redistribution: During cooking, the heat causes the muscle fibres in the steak to contract, squeezing out valuable juices. Resting allows the fibres to relax and reabsorb these juices, resulting in a significantly juicier steak when sliced.
  • Improved Flavour: When juices remain within the meat instead of running out onto the plate, they contribute to a more intense and concentrated flavour profile.
  • Tenderness: Rest allows the meat’s enzymes to break down the muscle fibres further, enhancing tenderness and making the steak even more enjoyable to eat.

How to Rest a Tomahawk Steak:

  1. Transfer to a cutting board: Once the steak reaches the desired internal temperature, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a clean cutting board.
  2. Tent loosely with foil: Loosely tug the steak with aluminium foil to keep it warm while allowing the juices to redistribute. Avoid wrapping it tightly, as this can trap steam and lead to a soggy texture.
  3. Resting time: The recommended resting time for a Tomahawk steak is 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut. Thicker steaks require longer resting times.

Additional Tips for Optimal Resting:

  • Use a warm plate: Pre-warming your serving plate will help the steak retain its temperature during resting.
  • Season after resting: Applying additional salt or pepper after resting can enhance the flavour without drawing out more juices.
  • Carve against the grain: Always remember to slice the steak against the grain for maximum tenderness and juiciness.
  • Enjoy the moment: Take a few minutes to savour the anticipation as the steak rests. It will be worth the wait!

By following these simple steps and understanding the science behind resting, you can guarantee a perfectly cooked Tomahawk steak that is bursting with flavour and tenderness in every bite.

Carving and Serving the Tomahawk Steak

Tomahawk Steak
Grilled cowboy beef steak, herbs and spices on a black stone background. Barbecue. Top view. Free space for text.

To achieve the result, you need to follow these carving techniques.

Carving Techniques

  1. Slice against the grain: Always slice the steak against the grain. This shortens the muscle fibres, making the meat more tender and easier to chew.
  2. Use a sharp knife: A dull knife will tear the meat, resulting in a less flavourful and satisfying experience.
  3. Follow the bone: Use your knife to follow the curve of the bone, separating the meat from the bone in thin slices.
  4. Serve immediately: Once carved, serve the Tomahawk steak immediately on warm plates.

Portion Sizes

  • For individual servings: Cut the Tomahawk steak into individual portions, aiming for 1-inch thick slices.
  • For sharing: Cut the steak into thicker slices, allowing guests to customise their portions further.
  • Present the bone: For added visual appeal, consider leaving the bone attached to the steak when serving.

Serving Suggestions

  • Mashed potatoes: A classic and comforting side dish that pairs well with the richness of the Tomahawk steak.
  • Roasted vegetables: Roasted vegetables like asparagus, Brussels sprouts, or carrots add a healthy and flavourful counterpoint.
  • Creamy spinach: A decadent side dish that complements the steak’s savoury notes.
  • Garlic bread: Soaks up the delicious juices from the steak.
  • Salad: A light and refreshing side dish that helps balance the meal.

Additional Tips and Tricks

  • Compound butter: Use a flavoured compound butter, such as garlic herb or rosemary butter, to further enhance the steak’s flavour.
  • Room temperature: Let the Tomahawk steak come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking. This ensures even cooking throughout.
  • Charcoal chimney: If grilling, use a charcoal chimney for faster and more even heat distribution.


Even with the best intentions, cooking a Tomahawk steak can sometimes go awry. Don’t worry, though! Here are some common issues you may encounter and how to troubleshoot them:

Problem: Burnt exterior, undercooked interior

Possible causes:

  • Too high heat: Cooking the steak over too high heat can quickly burn the exterior while leaving the interior raw.
  • Uneven pan or grill: Cooking on an uneven surface can lead to uneven cooking.


  • Reduce the heat: Lower the heat and cook the steak for a longer period of time.
  • Move the steak to a cooler zone: If grilling, move the steak to a cooler zone on the grill.
  • Use a meat thermometer: Monitor the steak’s internal temperature to ensure it reaches the desired doneness without burning.
  • Use a heat diffuser: If using a grill pan, consider using a heat diffuser to distribute the heat more evenly.

Problem: Dry and tough interior

Possible causes:

  • Overcooking: Cooking the steak for too long can result in a dry and tough interior.
  • Not enough fat: Choosing a steak with minimal marbling can lead to dryness.
  • Not resting the steak: Improper or insufficient resting time prevents juices from redistributing, resulting in a drier steak.


  • Cook to the proper doneness: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the steak reaches the desired internal temperature before removing it from heat.
  • Choose a well-marbled steak: Opt for a steak with good marbling for added flavour and juiciness.
  • Rest the steak properly: Allow the steak to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before carving to allow juices to redistribute.
  • Baste the steak: Basting the steak with butter or oil during cooking can help prevent dryness.
  • Use compound butter: Consider using compound butter with herbs or spices to add flavour and moisture.

Problem: Smoky flavour

Possible causes:

  • Excess fat: Fat dripping onto the heat source can cause flare-ups and result in a smoky flavour.
  • Not trimming excess fat: Leaving excess fat on the steak can also contribute to a smoky flavour.


  • Trim excess fat: Before cooking, trim any large pieces of fat from the edges of the steak.
  • Use a charcoal chimney: If grilling, use a charcoal chimney to get the coals hot and avoid flare-ups.
  • Move the steak to a cooler zone: If the steak is getting too smoky, move it to a cooler zone on the grill.

Problem: Steak sticks to the pan

Possible causes:

  • Not preheating the pan: A cold pan can cause the steak to stick.
  • Not enough oil: Using too little oil can also lead to sticking.


  • Preheat the pan: Make sure your pan is hot before adding the steak.
  • Use enough oil: Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of oil before adding the steak.
  • Don’t move the steak too soon: Let the steak sear for a few minutes before attempting to move it.

Now, you can confidently conquer any challenges and cook a perfect Tomahawk steak every time. Remember, patience, practice, and a little knowledge go a long way in achieving culinary mastery.


The Tomahawk steak is a culinary masterpiece, offering unparalleled flavour and visual impact. However, achieving the perfect Tomahawk experience requires a combination of selecting the right cut, using proper cooking techniques, and understanding crucial steps like resting.

By following these key principles and experimenting with different techniques, you can unlock the full potential of the Tomahawk steak and create a truly unforgettable culinary journey.

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