Tomahawk Steak: Doing It Right
A tomahawk steak (see: bone-in ribeye, cowboy steak) is a great way to show off your cooking techniques and raise some eyebrows.
I have found it to have an equally earth shattering and almost aphrodisiac effect on men and women alike. While it may sound like a daunting task, cooking the perfect tomahawk steak is easy peasy.
About This Guide
In this simple guide to cooking THE perfect tomahawk steak every single time, there are 6 distinct sections: procuring the tomahawk steak; defrosting it the right way; seasoning it appropriately; the two stages of cooking; resting the steak; carving it perfectly.
I’ve done the research. I’ve f*cked up enough steaks. I’ve found the sweet spot: don’t worry, I gotchu.
Why a Tomahawk?
When you want to wow your guests, a simple boneless steak like a ribeye or a striploin can easily do the job.
But when you’re looking for that extra oomph factor, why not go the extra mile? Why not a showstopper? Why not a tomahawk?
People will bring out their cameras, so make sure you have your hair and makeup done beforehand. Instagram is your friend, after all. Get ready for some ooohs and aaahs.
Procuring a Tomahawk: Good Luck!
You can’t really find good quality beef in Pakistan, let alone tomahawks, so you have to import your meat. What you’re looking for is an Angus tomahawk, double thick cut. This will weigh in between 1.2 and 1.5 kilograms, including the weight of the bone. Yes, that’s humongous.
Good luck and godspeed.
Defrosting a Tomahawk: Easy Does It
If you’ve managed to get this far, you probably have yourself a frozen steak.
For that crispy flavor crust, you want it to dry out. Salt comes later, so you want no additional moisture to be present when the salt draws more out. Pat this bad boy down with some paper towels.
Since this is a hefty steak, you don’t want to destroy the muscle fibers by exposing it to extremes of temperatures. Slow defrost: first you put it in the fridge overnight, then outside at room temperature approximately 4 hours before cooking. This will leave ample time for seasoning.
Seasoning a Tomahawk: Ingredients and Quantities
Don’t be stingy, this is a steak that needs to be pre seasoned so that the salt gets to the right places and you’re not left poorly impersonating Nusret at your dining tables.
Salt a tomahawk steak too far in advance and you’ll be left with a texture that resembles your grandma’s hands, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
I have found that liberally salting your steak with sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper about 40-50 minutes before cooking ensures that the salt seeps in all the way through. There is no need to add any other spices or rubs to this basic seasoning; remember, you want your beef to shine.
You should also expect a drastic color disorientation over time, as the salt changes the moisture levels.
Cooking a Tomahawk: The Reverse Sear
I always recommend the reverse sear with a steak this big. Not only do you get a fresh crust, you also give the steak plenty of time to breathe while it’s in the oven.
So the oven comes first. With the reverse sear method, you have to remember that the temperature that you achieve for the center of the tomahawk steak in the oven will not be its final temperature. Now I’m more of a cook-according-to-my-instinct kind of person, but I have no shame in saying that I would be royally f*cked if I didn’t use a meat thermometer here.
Estimates can only get you so far, and with a steak this expensive, I’d rather be safe than sorry. When I’m looking around in my tools cabinet, I always depend on these thermometers that I picked up at the Habitt store at Packages Mall. I have a backup thermometer that I also purchased from the same store. They also have a really cool collection of kitchen aprons, baking equipment, and other kitchen paraphernalia that I end up spending all my time and money on.
For all you sea salt and black pepper needs, along with other herbs you probably don’t want to miss, you should check out Hyperstar at Packages Mall, just a stone’s throw away from the Habitt store. I personally could spend days there.
Here’s a temperature guide by Serious Eats that I bank on when cooking my steak. Pick a temperature that goes with your taste preference and really gun for it. I personally aim for a medium rare, so I aim for 45-46 ℃ in the oven, followed by a quick sear.
Please don’t prod and poke your steak around too much when it’s in the oven. Resist temptation. I would hate for you to have an unevenly cooked steak that you end up making Philly Cheesesteaks out of.
Your steak is out. Remember the cameras? This is your time to shine.
By now you should have already whipped out your cast iron pan and put it on a burner turned all the way up. Why a cast iron pan? It’s a no brainer, but here.
Once the pan is screaming hot, you want to transfer the tomahawk steak directly from the oven. I like to go Gordon Ramsay style, putting garlic and rosemary into the pan with the steak. Some olive oil will help, but is not absolutely essential if you’ve got a healthy amount of fat on the steak already.
These last minute additions only affect the crust, but I’ll take nuanced flavors any day. Remember that the goal here is not to cook the steak anymore, but develop the crust and lock in the juices and flavor. One minute per side will seal the steak. A few extra seconds for the fat to cook will make sure you have fat worth eating.
Make sure someone records you so you can brag later.
Once you’ve developed that killer crust, you want to take it off the pan immediately.
Resting a Tomahawk: It’s All About the Juice
Just because the tomahawk steak is off the heat doesn’t mean it isn’t cooking. Steaks can cook in excess of 10 minutes after they’ve been…erm… cooked. You’re going for a very thin grey edge close to the crust.
Resting is done to let the meat cook properly, resulting in a uniform center-to-crust color distribution. At the end of the day, it’s all about the juice. The muscle fibers relax as they cool, and allow for more moisture retention. This means less spillage when you slice.
5 minutes of resting per steak- covered in foil and on a cutting board – is plenty. Loosely wrap it to let it cool without losing too much heat too fast. You’re aiming for a 49 ℃ center when carving, regardless of your preferred overall steak temperature. Out comes the thermometer again. Told you it was helpful.
Once your tomahawk steak is nice and rested, it’s time to slice it up.
Slicing/Carving a Tomahawk: No Funny Business
To get that chewy dewy nonsense and throw it out the window, all you gotta do is – yes – carve against the grain.
Have You Done It Right?
How do you know you haven’t made a complete mess of your first tomahawk?
For starters, it has to taste good. Additionally, you want a center that reflects your taste preference. Finally, you want it to blow everyone’s socks off.
It’s as easy as that.