What is a Tomahawk Steak?

The tomahawk steak is a high-quality cut of meat that has grown enormously in popularity. Due to its outstanding taste and appearance, it has found its way onto the menus of the best steakhouses worldwide. Properly prepared can satisfy any steak lover. Let us show you everything you need to know about tomahawk steak.

What is a Tomahawk Steak, Exactly?

Tomahawk steak is a piece of rib meat with the bone attached. In fact, it is a bone-in ribeye that has been trimmed to resemble the shape of a tomahawk axe. The cut is made using the “French trimmed“ method, which involves trimming the bone from the meat and fat until it is exposed.

The tomahawk comes from two muscles outside the steer’s rib cage. These muscles are not used as much as others, which is why they are tender and soft. When you cook a tomahawk steak right, you get a rich flavor that melts in your mouth.

Because they are generally a large cut, you’ll likely have trouble cooking them in a skillet. While some people choose to oven-roast them, grilling is the best method.

aged raw tomahawk steak on the table with a knife, fork and spices
raw tomahawk steak
cooked tomahawk steak served on a wooden board
cooked tomahawk steak

What part of the cow is a Tomahawk Steak?

The Tomahawk steak comes from between ribs six through twelve (the rib primal). The cut is at least two inches thick and “frenched” (they trim the fat away). The cut leaves the rib bone intact, which is part of what makes this such a juicy option in liquid-based cooking.

How big is a Tomahawk steak?

The size of the tomahawk steak depends on the animal’s size, but we can assume that usually, the tomahawk is about 2 inches thick and weighs between 30 and 45 ounces (The average weight is: 2.5 pounds). You should also add the rib bone, which measures from 8 to 15 inches.

Without a doubt, this is one of the biggest steaks.

What Does Tomahawk Steak Taste Like?

Tomahawk steak is as tender as can be, with a rich buttery flavor. The meat is beautifully marbled, and the addition of the bone adds a wonderful meaty flavor to the steak. It delivers robust flavors when you prepare it correctly.

It is so flavorful that it only needs a pinch of salt and pepper to create an unforgettable meal. A perfect description for this high-quality cut of meat would be “succulent,” but you will have to try it for yourself.

Tomahawk Steak vs. Ribeye: What’s the Difference?

Most people confuse Ribeye with Tomahawk steak, and we can see why—it is actually the same piece of meat. A Tomahawk steak is a bone-in Ribeye, taken from the rib area. The butcher can sometimes take out the bone, leaving the boneless Ribeye cut. The easiest way to differentiate Tomahawk steak vs. Ribeye steak is through the presence of a bone—a Tomahawk Ribeye steak is on the bone, and Ribeye is not.

Tomahawk steak will take longer to cook than Ribeye because the bone serves as an insulator. They taste the same in terms of flavor, but because Tomahawk steaks cook more slowly than Ribeyes, it may be juicer (if left 1-2 minutes longer on the grill). Many have trouble cooking the Tomahawk steak evenly because of its large size.

Bone-in steaks hold their shape better and make for a unique presentation, whereas boneless Ribeye steaks allow for caramelizing all sides evenly.

The consistency of any beef cut is impacted by the temperature and device in which the meat is cooked.

Buying Tomahawk Steak

When you buy a tomahawk steak, you want to go to a quality butcher. You can pick them up from your local grocery store pre-sliced and packaged. However, a butcher will be able to give you the cut and quality you desire.

An alternative solution is to use the offer of a specialized butcher store that delivers steaks straight to your door. This is a great option, especially regarding premium steaks (which tomahawk steak is). It’s also great for people who, unfortunately, don’t have access to high-quality, specialized butcher stores in their area.

After you find a butcher, you need to know what to look for in a steak. The most important elements are:

  • Color – You want to select a steak with no brownish spots. If the meat is in a case, pull it out and look at it in regular light. If you go to the butcher, the meat should be fresh.
  • Marbling – Marbling refers to the amount of fat in your meat. Fat helps the meat maintain its flavor and melt in your mouth like butter. Try to pick a steak with a well-marbled eye in the middle and a large muscle on top.

Tomahawk Steak Nutrition Facts

A 3-oz (85 g) cooked Tomahawk steak contains about 199 calories, 10.8 grams fat, and 23.8 grams protein. However, keep in mind that the steak’s calorie count and nutritional information will vary depending on the size you choose. As with all other beef steaks, there are no carbohydrates unless you add them during cooking.

NutritionPortion size: 3 oz = 85 g
Total Fat10.8 g
Protein23.8 g
Nutrition facts based on cooked 3-oz tomahawk steak

The above data comes from USDA FoodData Central and is specifically for broiled tomahawk steak from the small end (ribs 10-12)

How much is a Tomahawk Steak? 

Typically, the average price per pound of tomahawk ranges from $20 to $60, slightly more in the higher-priced butcher stores. It means that purchasing a single, high-quality tomahawk steak costs $75 to $150. In the case of top-quality beef and a specialized butcher, the price can easily exceed $200 per cut.

We point out that the price you will pay for Tomahawk Steak depends on the quality of the beef and the butcher or vendor. It is undoubtedly one of the most expensive steaks on the market.

For example, a roughly 40 oz tomahawk can cost up to twice as much as a 20 oz bone-in ribeye. At first glance, this looks fair; however, remember that the bone can weigh as much as 10-15 oz. This means that, in theory, we are paying mainly for the bone and the appearance of the cut.

Why is Tomahawk Steak so Expensive?

The most significant reason why tomahawk steak is so expensive is that it’s actually a ribeye. Another reason is undoubtedly the extraordinary presentation of the piece, especially cooked. The price is also influenced by factors such as the high popularity of this cut and problems with availability in stores or butchers.

Is a Tomahawk Steak Worth It?

It all depends completely on individual preferences. The uniqueness of tomahawk steak lies mainly in the unique shape of this cut, which looks like a tomahawk axe. The look and presentation of a well-prepared tomahawk steak is something stunning. It’s fun to buy one tomahawk for a special occasion and enjoy the whole experience of that moment.

And as for general public opinion, you must know that there is no consensus among steak lovers on this discussion. From a financial point of view, it is simply a waste of money in the steak world. Especially when you subtract the weight of the bones from the weight of the whole tomahawk and then compare the weight of the meat itself with the price for a regular ribeye of the same size.

The strongest argument against tomahawk steak is that the bone strongly affects the weight of the steak. We usually price the cut in pounds, then compare the displayed price in the store with other cuts of steak, such as boneless Ribeye. It turns out that we pay tens of percent more just for the bone alone.

On the other hand, we’ll hear claims about how the bone helps maximize the flavor of the steak, but the truth is that most of us probably won’t feel any difference. (We recommend an interesting test addressing this topic, link to the full article)

The only sensible argument for tomahawk steak in this discussion is that it looks phenomenal. We also eat with our eyes, so seeing such a piece of steak on a plate can be a truly unique experience. Even the biggest opponent of tomahawk steak will concede the point. 

For many, it is just a simple bone-in ribeye promoted to raise the price and prestige of the cut itself. Looking for more arguments? We recommend reading the two stormy discussions from the links below.

Final thoughts on Tomahawk Steak. It is definitely not a scam. However, the actual price in relation to what you get makes you have to decide for yourself if this is the steak for you.

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow, the founder of Steak Revolution, is a true steak enthusiast. His primary goal is to help others perfect their steak-cooking skills.