A tomahawk steak is both impressive in size and absolutely delectable when cooked right. As an avid grilling enthusiast, you might already have tried a few methods to cook this culinary marvel, or you might be looking for answers before you jump in.
I’ve grilled quite a few tomahawks, but each time I seem to approach it with a bit of trepidation. No one wants to ruin such an expensive and marvelous steak by cooking it improperly. But what is the best way? Well, I’m going to propose that method is to reverse sear the tomahawk steak.
If you haven’t experienced the Reverse Sear method yet, you’re in for a treat. This method is known to bring out the best in a thick-cut steak, achieving a perfect edge-to-edge medium-rare with an enticingly seared crust. So, if you’re willing to give this a try, keep reading for all the tips on how to reverse sear a tomahawk steak on the grill.
What is a Tomahawk Steak?
A Tomahawk steak is a large, bone-in ribeye steak, named for its distinctive shape that resembles a tomahawk axe. It is sometimes also referred to as a “bone-in ribeye” or “cowboy steak.”
The steak includes the rib bone, which is usually Frenched (trimmed of meat and fat), leaving a long bone handle that enhances the presentation. The bone also contributes to the flavor of the steak during cooking.
The Tomahawk steak is known for its rich marbling, which enhances both the flavor and tenderness of the steak. It’s typically quite thick – often 2 inches or more – making it perfect for techniques like the reverse sear that are designed to cook thicker cuts of meat evenly.
Because of its size, dramatic presentation, and incredible flavor, a Tomahawk steak is often the centerpiece of a special meal, cookout, or any occasion when you want to impress.
What is Reverse Searing?
The traditional method for searing is when the steak is cooked on high heat first to develop a crust, then moved to lower heat to finish cooking. Reverse searing is, as the name suggests, the exact opposite.
You start by cooking the steak on low heat until it’s almost at your desired level of doneness, then crank up the heat to sear and create that appetizing, caramelized crust.
Why Use Reverse Sear on a Tomahawk Steak?
Reverse searing is an excellent way to cook a tomahawk steak for several reasons:
- Even Cooking: This technique is perfect for thick cuts like the tomahawk, as the slow and low cooking process ensures the meat is evenly cooked from edge to edge. It allows the heat to penetrate the meat slowly, reducing the risk of overcooked edges and an undercooked center.
- Juiciness: By slowly bringing the steak up to temperature, reverse searing helps retain the steak’s natural juices. In traditional high-heat searing, the juices can get forced out, leading to a drier steak. However, by gently heating the steak initially, the muscle fibers don’t contract as quickly, keeping the juices locked in.
- Perfect Sear: Once the steak has slowly reached the desired internal temperature, it’s then seared at high heat. This rapid searing creates the Maillard reaction, a chemical process responsible for the appealing brown crust on the steak and the complex flavors it provides.
- Resting Time: With traditional methods, you need to rest the steak after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute, avoiding them spilling out when you cut into it. With reverse searing, you rest the steak before the final high heat sear. This means you can serve the steak hot off the grill after searing, as it has already rested.
- Control: Lastly, reverse searing gives you excellent control over the cooking process. By monitoring the temperature during the slow-cook phase, you can ensure your steak reaches the perfect level of doneness for your preference. This methodical approach reduces the risk of overcooking and undercooking, which can be a problem with high-heat methods.
Overall, the reverse sear method might require a bit more time and attention, but the reward is a perfectly cooked, juicy, flavorful tomahawk steak that’s sure to impress at any cookout.
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I chose this grill based on quality, performance, and features. It’s pretty much got it all (large cooking area, plenty of BTU, high-quality cooking grates, and it’s priced well. If you’re feeling fancy, you can upgrade it to add more burners, smart grilling technology and grill lighting.
Grilling Temperature for Reverse Searing
When it comes to reverse searing a steak on the grill, maintaining accurate temperatures is crucial. The process involves two stages: slow cooking the steak and then searing it.
The aim here is to cook the steak gently and evenly. For this, you need to set your grill to a lower temperature, ideally around 225-250°F (107-121°C). This ensures that the steak cooks through without the outside getting overcooked.
Once your steak is almost at the desired internal temperature (more on this below), you want to crank the heat up to around 500°F (260°C) to sear it. This is what gives your steak that rich, caramelized crust that is both visually appealing and full of flavor.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Tomahawk steak – I large steak will feed 4 people.
- Steak rub – You can use a store bought rub or try making this one.
Equipment You’ll Need
- Grill – I use a Weber Genesis E325 for most of my grilling, though I also have a Z Grills Smoker/Grill combo that I sometimes use. You can use whatever grill you have, whether it’s gas or charcoal.
- Propane or Charcoal – Depending on your setup.
- Grill Tools – I swear by this set of sturdy grill tools from Cuisinart that includes everything you need for grilling, like tongs, a flipper, a digital temperature fork, silicone basting brush, and more.
- Meat thermometer – Many smokers have a thermometer built in, but if you don’t have one you’ll want to get an instant-read thermometer like this awesome Thermapen.
How to Reverse Sear a Tomahawk Steak
Step One: Season your steak
Use a liberal amount of salt and pepper to season your tomahawk steak. For the best flavor, do this about an hour before cooking so the seasoning has time to penetrate the meat.
Step Two: Setting up the Grill
Before you begin, preheat your grill to 225-250°F (107-121°C). You will want to set up a two-zone grilling system:
- Indirect Heat Zone: This zone is for slow cooking your steak. If you’re using a gas grill, leave one set of burners on low and turn the others off. For a charcoal grill, pile the charcoal on one side of the grill to create a hot zone and a cooler zone.
- Direct Heat Zone: This zone is for searing the steak. On a gas grill, this will be the burners you left off, which you’ll turn on high when it’s time to sear. On a charcoal grill, this is the side with the hot coals.
Step Three: Slow cook
Place your steak on the cooler side of the grill, close the lid, and let it cook. For a steak that’s around 2 inches thick, this will take approximately 45 minutes, but this can vary depending on your grill and the size of the steak. See our meat temperature guide for suggested temps.
The best way to monitor the progress is with a meat probe that you can insert into the middle of the steak. If you have a remote temperature probe, like my favorite Thermoworks Smoke X, you can basically set it and forget it. The alarm will tell you when it’s getting close to temp.
If you don’t have a probe, use an instant read meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. For medium-rare, aim for an internal temperature of around 110°F (43°C). Remember that the final sear is what will take the steak up to it’s final temp of 130-140°F (for medium rare).
Step Four: Rest
Once your steak has reached the desired internal temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak.
Step Five: Sear
While your steak is resting, increase the grill temperature to 500°F (260°C) and let it sit at that temperature while the steak is resting, so the grates can get extremely hot. That’s what’s going to give your steak those perfect grill marks.
When you’re ready, place the steaks on the grill, over direct heat. Wait about 45 seconds, then use grill tongs to rotate the meat at a 45-degree angle to create a diagonal cross-hatch or a 90-degree angle to make a square crosshatch. It’s best to set the meat down on another part of the grill where the grates are freshly hot.
After another 45 seconds, flip the meat and repeat the process on the other side.
It won’t take long over this high of heat to get a good sear on your steak. You don’t want to overdo it and go past your desired internal temperature, so be sure to time your flips.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you reverse sear a tomahawk steak?
The exact cooking time for reverse searing a tomahawk steak will vary based on the size and thickness of the steak and the exact temp of your grill, but with your grill set to 225-250°F, it will take about 45 minutes to reach 110°F. Then it will take 10 minutes to rest the steak. And another 5 or so minutes to sear it.
What temperature do you reverse sear a tomahawk steak?
There are two temperatures you’ll want to be aware of for reverse searing a tomahawk steak. First you’ll cook it low and slow over 225°F, then you’ll turn the grill up to 500°F for the final sear.
Is reverse sear better for a tomahawk steak?
The great thing about using the reverse sear method for a Tomahawk steak is that you don’t have to do a long final resting at the end of cooking, which often means you’re serving the steak at a reduced temperature. When you reverse sear it, there’s no need to rest it at the end, so you can serve it pipping hot right off the grill.
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How to Reverse Sear a Tomahawk Steak on the Grill
- 1 large tomahawk steak
- 1-2 tablespoons steak rub
- Season the tomahawk steak with steak rub or beef dry rub. Insert a meat probe, if using.
- Preheat your grill to 225-250°F (107-121°C). You will want to set up a two-zone grilling system, one for indirect heat and one for direct heat.
- Place your steak on the cooler side of the grill, close the lid, and let it cook. For a steak that’s around 2 inches thick, this will take approximately 45 minutes. For medium-rare, aim for an internal temperature of around 110°F (43°C).
- Remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Increase the grill temperature to 500°F (260°C) and let it sit at that temperature while the steak is resting, so the grates get extremely hot.
- Place the steaks on the grill, over direct heat. Wait about 45 seconds, then use grill tongs to rotate the meat at a 45-degree angle to create a diagonal cross-hatch or a 90-degree angle to make a square crosshatch. It’s best to set the meat down on another part of the grill where the grates are freshly hot.
- After another 45 seconds, flip the meat and repeat the process on the other side.
- Serve immediately.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and grill enthusiast who has spent years perfecting her culinary skills, with a particular focus on grilling techniques and flavor combinations. Her fascination with the grill, smoke, and the mouthwatering results they produce has led her on an exciting journey to discover the best methods for grilling delicious and unforgettable meals.