Just like any large piece of meat, the most intimidating part of cooking a tomahawk steak is deciding how long to cook it without overdoing it. Worse, because of the long bone, you can also run the risk of overcooking the ribeye cap while leaving the round near the bone undercooked. Getting things just right doesn't have to be difficult, though. We've got some tricks up our sleeve to help you get the perfect medium-rare every time, even when cooking a massive piece of beef like the tomahawk steak. In fact, we are going to show you several ways you can cook this show-stopper to perfection.
How Long Does it Take to Cook a Tomahawk?
The length of time will depend on the cooking method you choose and the actual thickness of your tomahawk steak. Since these steaks are typically a minimum of two inches thick, you are going to want to use a cooking method that ensures the steak is done all the way through without overcooking the outside.
You can sear and barbecue a tomahawk, cook it in the oven, or even grill it over a campfire – but we prefer to do a reverse sear on our favorite tomahawk steaks. This can be done on a hot barbecue, in a large cast-iron skillet, or on a Blackstone griddle.
How Should a Tomahawk Steak be Cooked?
We're going to circle the wagons here and go out on a limb. The only way that a tomahawk steak should be cooked is to a perfect medium-rare.
We know there are going to be people who will argue the proper doneness of a steak but in our experience, you'll get the optimal tenderness and robust beefy flavor from a medium-rare tomahawk steak.
Why Medium-Rare is Best
Food science says that at a medium-rare temperature, a number of chemical reactions are taking place that enhance the way your food tastes. The connective tissue and fats will begin to break down, giving you tender, juicy meat. At about the same time, the Milliard reaction begins, and that is what gives you the crispy, crunchy exterior bark you crave from good barbecue.
Why We Like the Reverse Sear for Tomahawk Steaks
Reverse searing is one of our favorite ways to cook any thick cut of beef. The reason is actually quite simple. The reverse sear gives us the opportunity to cook the meat low and slow so that it doesn't overcook, then the reverse sear puts the finishing touches on the steak just before it goes to rest. That makes the steak ultra-tender, exceptionally juicy, and packed with flavor.
If you want to see the process for reverse searing a massive tomahawk bison steak, we've got a great post that walks you through each step of our process and answers all your questions so that you get a perfect steak.
How to Prepare Tomahawk Steak for Grilling or Smoking
First things first – if you're going to tackle a tomahawk steak, we highly recommend starting off with the highest quality beef you can find. That means you're likely going to want to talk to your local butcher to get the best steak possible. If you don't have a local butcher that can hook you up, \our friends at E3 Ranch (grain fed beef), Sakura Farms (American Wagyu Beef), or Greensbury (grass fed beef) for some of the best beef out there that will ship to your door.
Prepping the Tomahawk
Your tomahawk should be kept at refrigerator temps until you're almost ready to cook it for food safety reasons. Set the steak on the counter, covered loosely, for about two hours before cooking to let the temperature rise slightly. If you put a steak that is too cold on the grill, it will overcook the outside before the center of the steak has come to room temperature, so it's best to start with the steak close to room temp.
Seasoning the Tomahawk Steak
We are big fans of simple ingredients when it comes to flavoring. To enhance the bark and get the best results, we really like using our Bearded Butcher Blend Seasonings, particularly the Original which was specifically crafted for getting the most flavor out of big hunks of meat like a tomahawk steak or a ribeye steak.
How to Season for a Reverse Sear Tomahawk Steak
Place the steak on a piece of pink butcher paper on a cookie sheet or a roasting pan. You can rub a small amount of olive oil on the steak to improve the seasoning adherence to the beef. If you're using our Bearded Butcher Blend Seasonings, be careful adding more salt and pepper because you don't want to overdo it. Season steaks on both sides and let the steak rest. Today, we're going to smoke the tomahawk in our pellet smoker before we reverse sear it on our Blackstone griddle.
Setting the Smoker for Tomahawk Steaks
We are going to run the smoker at a lower temperature than normal for this recipe. Rather than shooting for 225-250 as we would for most things, we are going to be looking for a temperature around 180 degrees. This temp will keep the tomahawk from cooking too quickly and will prevent overcooking while ensuring that the center of the tomahawk is cooked.
When to Pull the Tomahawk from the Smoker
Using a wireless meat thermometer, you'll want to pull the tomahawk when it hits about 117 degrees at the thickest part. This is a rare to medium-rare temperature, but the reverse sear will finish bringing it up to the desired internal temperature. Getting your tomahawk to this point will only take about one to one and a half hours, so keep an eye on things.
The Mid-Cook Rest
Once the tomahawks come off the smoker, wrap them in aluminum foil or pink butcher paper and let them rest for about 15 minutes. This intermediate rest allows the juices that have been pushed to the surface to reabsorb into the meat before going on the griddle for a reverse sear.
Reverse Sear on the Griddle
The Blackstone griddle is an ideal cooking instrument for reverse searing big hunks of meat. It offers plenty of room to get these big cuts on and gives you ideal control of temperatures for the perfect sear.
Make sure the griddle surface is clean, free of debris, and lightly oiled before searing. Set the temperature to high and let the griddle get good and hot. Remove the tomahawk steaks from the smoker leaving the meat thermometer probe in place.
How Long to Reverse Sear
You'll immediately hear, smell, and see the sear happening when you plop those big tomahawk steaks on the griddle. After about two minutes, carefully lift and inspect the steaks. If the sear is at the level you want, flip the steaks and sear on the opposite side for about the same amount of time. You can go a little longer if you want more crackly bark, but don't overdo it because the griddle will quickly cook the inside of the steak.
After the Reverse Sear
Once both sides of the tomahawk are seared and the meat thermometer is reading about 125 degrees, you're ready to rest the tomahawk steaks. Since there was a rest done in the middle, it isn't necessary to rest the tomahawks for a long time. Usually, about 10 minutes is plenty to allow the surface juices to soak back into the meat and give you the ideal, tender, tasty flavor you want. Resting after the reverse sear will allow the internal temperature to rise slightly and you'll end up with a tomahawk that is the ideal medium-rare through and through.
Of course, every meal is better with sides, but we will be honest on this one – a tomahawk is a big piece of meat. Often, the only side we like is a napkin to wipe off our face after devouring it caveman-style. Don't be ashamed if you feel the same way, few things in life are better than a perfectly reverse-seared tomahawk steak.
Enjoy Flavorful and Impressive Steak Every Time
The tomahawk steak is a big, impressive piece of meat that looks like it's straight out of a movie about cavemen or cowboys. It's packed with flavor and offers the best of a ribeye steak with the convenience of a built-in handle. Cooking a tomahawk requires that you have enough space to accommodate the oversized bone, but the process is not any different than cooking other large cuts of meat.
The best way to make sure your steak comes out great is to use a meat probe and an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure that you hit the proper internal temperature without under or overdoing things.
When you whip up a tomahawk steak for a dinner party, birthday, or because it sounds good, you'll be eating one of the most visually stunning and awesome cuts there are. If you follow our tips today, you'll know that your steak is going to be perfectly cooked each and every time.
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