Like Julia Child says, “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”

Tomahawk Steak

The mighty Angus Tomahawk takes the ribeye steak to the next level. This thick 850g cut of juicy goodness brings a new meaning to the word “wow”. It’s a steak lover’s dream. Tomahawk steak gets its name from the single-handed axe used by many people indigenous to North America. Keeping approximately 20cm of rib bone attached to the ribeye, butchers have created a not-so-little slice of steak heaven. The tastiest, meatiest cuts are often right next to the bone, and this is no exception.

The Tomahawk is the perfect cut to throw on the barbeque (or braai, or grill). It’s tender, it’s rich and naturally juicy. This steak is cut from the fore-rib of the animal and has a large amount of inter-muscular fat, which creates that fantastic marbling effect you want to see in a steak. You want fat rather than muscle, as fat adds juice and flavour to the meat as it melts. This makes your steak more tender.

How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak

Because they are quite thick, Tomahawks take a little longer than usual to cook, but boy is it worth it! Despite its size, it can be easy to over-cook if you’re not careful. If you like your steak so overcooked that it should be served in an urn (blasphemy!) – your cook just got a whole lot easier but if you prefer to grab a hunk of meat as the cow walks past the coals, a little bit of skill is involved.

The problem with cooking a larger piece of meat is two-fold. First, you can’t use the traditional method of searing a steak; the centre will stay cold and far too rare. Second, if you try to cook it a little bit longer to get the centre warm and juicy, you will end up overcooking it. Fear not! We are here to give you all the tips and tricks you will need to nail the perfect Tomahawk steak and seriously up your street cred. It looks awe-inspiring when you pull it off!

The best way to make sure your Tomahawk steak is cooked to perfection is by using the indirect heat method. This method of barbequing is best for slow-cooking ribs or thick cuts like pork shoulders. It’s a gentler way to cook instead of throwing your meat directly over the heat and going off to fetch a beer. We are also going to “reverse sear” the steak. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it seems.

Reverse Searing

Reverse searing a Tomahawk steak is precisely what it sounds like. This cooking method brings your meat up to the required temperature slowly and evenly. Cook your steak over low heat, only sealing it at the end with a quick burst directly over your heat source. Traditionally, we are taught that you first sear your meat over a hot flame to seal in all the juices. 

Sorry to burst your bubble – this has been proven to be an old wife’s tale. Searing your meat at the end of the cook leads to better browning and more tender meat. It’s a fool-proof way to get the inside of your meat perfectly cooked without burning or overcooking the outside. On the other hand, searing does improve the flavour by catalyzing the Maillard browning reactions, a series of chemical reactions that rapidly take place when proteins and sugars are heated to around 300°F or so, improving the flavour and texture of the dish. But in almost all cases, it’s better to sear the food after it’s roasted, not at the start. Let’s break it down step by step.

Tomahawk Steak Seasoning & Preparation

First, make sure your meat is seasoned. You can marinate it overnight, or you can (generously) flavour your meat with any combination of herbs and spices you like. Salt, pepper, herbs, or even better, the very popular Biltong Chief Braai Spices. Remember, wait until just before you put your Tomahawk on the barbeque to season; otherwise, all those delicious juices will be drawn out of the meat.

Cooking Tomahawk Steak on a Barbeque

Get your coals or wood nice and hot, then mentally divide your barbeque in half. One half will be your “hot side”, where you will put all the coals, the other half will be your “cool” side where there will be no coals at all. Put your Tomahawk on the “cool” side of the barbeque and turn it every 5 or 6 minutes to ensure an even cook. Don’t worry if it doesn’t have that lovely char yet – that comes later.

How to Know when a Tomahawk Steak is Cooked

After 15 minutes or so, check the temperature of your meat with a meat thermometer. Once it reaches around 40 degrees Celsius, it’s almost medium-rare. Now it’s time to get that fantastic brown crust going. Make sure your coals are really hot, as now you want a lot of heat, and quickly. Put your Tomahawk directly over the coals for more or less a minute on each side. If you don’t have that perfect char yet, give it another 30 seconds. Take it off the heat, and voila! Perfect Tomahawk steak every time.

How to Cook Tomahawk Steak without a BBQ

Suppose you aren’t lucky enough to have a barbeque. In that case, there is another way to enjoy a good Angus Tomahawk steak. Good news, the basic process is the same. Heat up your oven to around 120 degrees Celsius. Season your Tomahawk liberally and put it in the oven until it reaches – you guessed it – approximately 40 degrees Celsius. Take a strong cast iron pan and make sure it’s nice and hot. Add some butter and your braai spices and put your steak directly onto the heat. It will sear up beautifully with a minute or two on each side.

The scent of a Tomahawk steak cooking on the grill, that first bite of hot, tender, juicy meat can be a magical experience for a true meat-lover. A chimichurri or mazavaroo hot sauce is a great accompaniment to the perfect Angus Tomahawk steak. Up your game with a bottle of AA Badenhorst Family Red Wine and you have a meal Fred Flintstone would envy.

Until we meat again!