What Is a Cowboy Steak?

Cowboy steak is essentially a bone-in ribeye steak, just butchered uniquely. It’s a bone-in ribeye that stands out with its short bone that can reach up to 5 inches long. The bone in a cowboy steak is usually french-trimmed for a unique appearance, although untrimmed or partially trimmed versions are also available.

bone-in ribeye steak closer look
Bone-in ribeye steak closer look
A Closer Look at Raw Ribeye Steak
A Closer Look at Raw Ribeye Steak

Another important technical difference between cowboy steak and boneless ribeye steak is how they’re cut. The boneless ribeye can be cut to any desired thickness. On the other hand, the cowboy steak is always cut between the ribs, ensuring the rib bone remains untouched. Because of this, you won’t find a cowboy steak as thin as a boneless ribeye. Also, there’s a bit more meat on a cowboy steak, especially between the bone and the eye of the ribeye.

One very important thing to remember: technically, cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye, so it tastes exactly like ribeye. It boasts a tender, juicy texture and a rich, beefy flavor. 

Why is it Called a Cowboy Steak?

Historically, the Cowboy Steak was a name reserved for quite generous cuts of beef like the porterhouse, t-bone, strip, and ribeye. Today, “cowboy steak” is primarily used for a ribeye steak with a short bone. While some appreciate the name and its rich history, others suggest it’s just a marketing tactic for the bone-in ribeye, a way to make this particular cut stand out in stores and restaurants. But name it what you want: a cowboy steak or a bone-in ribeye (up to 5 inches long); it looks amazing on a plate. And let’s not forget it tastes awesome because it’s a ribeye, after all.

Raw cowboy steak vertical view
Raw cowboy steak

Where Does Cowboy Steak Come From?

The cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye that comes from the rib primal of a cow. What sets the cowboy steak apart from a regular ribeye is that the cowboy steak has a bone that can measure up to 5 inches long.

cowboy steak location on cow

How Big is a Cowboy Steak?

The size of a cowboy steak can vary significantly. The size of the actual cow and how the butcher decides to cut the steak play a crucial role. On average, a typical cowboy steak is about 2 to 3 inches thick and can weigh anywhere from 15 to 40 ounces, making it one of the larger steaks available.

raw cowboy steak
Raw cowboy steak

Is Cowboy Steak the Same as Tomahawk Steak?

Cowboy steak and tomahawk steak are the same cut of beef but butchered differently. The cowboy steak has a bone up to 5 inches long, whereas the tomahawk steak boasts a much longer bone. Despite this difference in bone length, the muscle content in both cuts remains the same. However, it’s interesting how a simple bone length difference can transform a steak’s visual appeal, reminding us of the importance of presentation. After all, a dish’s appearance plays a big role in our dining experience.

raw tomahawk steak
Raw tomahawk steak

Where to Buy Cowboy Steak?

You can usually find a cowboy steak at local butchers or occasionally at grocery stores. But for a high-grade cowboy steak, consider checking out online butcher shops. They often have those harder-to-find cuts. Stores like Snake River Farms, DeBragga, and Grand Western Steaks have a good selection. They’ll deliver your steak straight to your door, no matter where you live. And honestly, shopping online makes comparing beef prices a breeze, so I lean toward recommending it.

Is Cowboy Steak Expensive?

Well, yeah, it is expensive. The cowboy steak is one of the pricier beef cuts out there. It’s more expensive than boneless ribeye. But what’s funny is it’s usually cheaper than a tomahawk steak, even though they’re the same cut of beef. The big difference? The tomahawk has that long bone, making the steak look special.

Why is Cowboy Steak So Expensive?

Cowboy steak does take a bit more effort from the butcher, especially when getting that bone to look just right. But let’s be real – that’s not what really pushes its price up. What truly makes cowboy steak expensive is the buzz around it. People love how it looks on the plate, and when you’re out at a nice steakhouse, you’re not just paying for the steak; you’re paying for the experience. Having a good time creating memories with friends and family that’s what it’s all about. That’s the main reason why restaurants love serving up cowboy steaks and why they can charge top dollar for them.

Is a Cowboy Steak Worth It?

If someone asked me to pick between a boneless ribeye and a cowboy steak for just any regular dinner, I’d go with the boneless ribeye. It tastes the same as cowboy steak and is cheaper. But for a special dinner with friends? I’d pick the cowboy steak. Sure, it’s more expensive than the bone-less ribeye, but sometimes it’s worth spending that extra bit for a memorable dinner.

The cowboy steak and the boneless ribeye are the same cut of beef with the same flavor. The main difference? How they look on the plate. So, the real question should be: are you okay with paying more for the steak’s presentation? If that’s a yes, then the cowboy steak is a solid choice.

The Bottom Line

Cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye, and everyone loves a ribeye for its exceptional tenderness and rich flavor. The cowboy steak stands out because of the frenched bone, which gives it a stunning appearance on the serving platter. However, if you’re all about the flavor and don’t care how the steak looks, just get a regular ribeye – it’s cheaper. That extra cost for the cowboy steak? It’s mainly for the show. When it comes down to taste, there’s no difference between a cowboy steak and a boneless ribeye; they’re the same cut of beef, just butchered differently.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over 5 years, so he understands well all aspects of steak, from the types of steaks and their cooking times to choosing the best cooking technique for any steak.