Are Tomahawk Steaks Just Glorified Bone-in Ribeyes?

By: Muriel Vega  | 

Tomahawk steak
Tomahawk steak are ribeyes butchered with at least 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of the rib bone attached. Lew Robertson/Getty Images

Steakhouses and butchers offer many different cuts of beef, everything from the filet mignon to the porterhouse. But if you're not a beef aficionado how do you tell the difference between them?

And what about the tomahawk steak? Never heard of it?

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What Is a Tomahawk Steak?

It's basically a bone-in-ribeye steak that comes from between the sixth and twelfth rib of the cow. It's butchered leaving at least 5 inches (13 centimeters) of the rib bone attached. The bone itself can be up to 20 inches (0.5 meters) long but often is cut to less than 10 inches (0.25 meters). The long rib bone looks like a hatchet — or a Native American tomahawk — which is how it got its name.

The tomahawk steak is super expensive, but why and is it worth it?

Well first, to obtain the cut, the butcher has to carve it straight from the rib, and the steak itself is usually about 2 inches (5 centimeters) thick and weighs between 30 and 45 ounces (850 to 1,275 grams). Next, the butcher trims the bone using a technique called "Frenching." This removes the fat and meat from the bone to give it its clean look. Leaving the actual steak on the bone helps preserve all the juices in the cut for optimal flavor.

This cut of steak usually also has impressive marbling, which means it's a superior cut of meat. More marbling also means more fat, which means more intense flavor. Of course, this also means more money.

Another reason why it's so expensive? The rib cage muscles where the ribeye steak is cut from are barely used by the cow. That means the meat is incredibly tender and rich in flavor.

The most common places to get a tomahawk steak would be at your local steakhouse or butcher. Expect to dish out between $50 and $100 at the steakhouse. You probably won't find them at the supermarket; you'll likely find a bone-in or classic ribeye instead.

Tomahawk steak
Tomahawk steaks are best when seared in a hot skillet and then finished off in the oven.
ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

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How to Cook a Perfect Tomahawk Steak

Cooking this steak cut at home might daunting due to its size, but it's easy enough to pan-sear it and finish in the oven if you follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper while it comes to room temperature on your counter.
  3. Wrap the bone with aluminum foil.
  4. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat just until it starts to smoke. Add steak to skillet and sear for about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  5. Transfer steak to baking sheet and place in oven. Roast for 7 to 10 minutes, or until it reaches desired doneness (125 degrees Fahrenheit for rare, 135 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare, or 145 degrees Fahrenheit for medium).
  6. If desired, while the steak cooks, add butter, fresh thyme and garlic to the skillet and cook on low for about 2 minutes. Return steak to skillet and baste with butter and garlic.
  7. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

After dining, don't forget to save the bone. You can use it in soups or to make beef broth for future meals. Leftover steak is also great for other meals like beef Stroganoff or a breakfast steak and eggs.

So is the tomahawk worth all the hype — and the high price tag? It just depends. If you don't mind dropping that much cash for a ribeye, by all means, go for it. Just know that pound-for-pound, you're paying mostly for presentation. If you don't care much about that, just stick with a bone-in ribeye and call it a day.

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