What is a tomahawk steak?
If you imagine a caveman holding a steak with a bone sticking out of it, you’re probably picturing a tomahawk steak. Taken from the fore-rib of the cow, this generous cut of meat has the bone left in, so it looks like a tomahawk when laid flat on the counter. The long bone has all the extra meat and fat cut from around it (a process called ‘French trimming’) to give a more striking appearance.
At 2 inches thick, and weighing in at around 1.2 kg, the tomahawk is a larger steak, and perfect for sharing. It is also one of the more richly-flavoured cuts of beef, thanks to a large quantity of intramuscular fat. This creates a beautifully-marbled piece of steak with a deep, buttery flavour.
What is a reverse sear?
Reverse searing is a method of cooking thick or awkwardly-shaped steaks to ensure that they are evenly-cooked and still have that deliciously charred crust. If you’ve ever pan-seared a steak, you’ll know that it can be a bit of a balancing act. If the temperature is too low, your crust will be virtually non-existent, but turn it up too high and your steak could be raw in the middle. With a 2-inch steak like the tomahawk, your task becomes almost impossible, and a different cooking method is required.
There are two parts to a reverse sear. The first involves slowly and evenly increasing the heat to around 225°F, slowly cooking the meat all the way through until it is almost done. The steak is then rested for a few minutes before being seared at a very high heat to finish the cooking and create that all-important crust. This technique can be used outdoors, on the grill, or in the kitchen using an oven and a hot cast-iron pan.
Should all steaks be reverse-seared?
Reverse searing is best used on thicker steaks - a king cut ribeye or king cut T-bone, for example, or steaks whose shape makes them difficult to cook, like a filet mignon. Anything less than 1.5 inches in thickness is not really suited to reverse searing, and should be cooked using a regular pan-sear.
One type of steak that is particularly delicious reverse-seared is a New York strip steak. Find out how to make it with this mouthwatering recipe for reverse-seared New York strip steak.
Why should you reverse sear your tomahawk steak?
Still not convinced about reverse-searing? Here are just some of the reasons why reverse-searing is the best way to cook your tomahawk steak.
Getting that perfectly-browned, crispy crust relies on a process called the Maillard Reaction. This occurs when the proteins and sugars in the meat come into contact with the extreme heat of the pan, creating an intensely flavoured layer of golden-brown crispiness.
Before the Maillard reaction can take place, the moisture from the surface of the steak needs to evaporate, and the temperature of the steak itself should be around 300°F (150°C). With a regular sear, the raw steak is placed into the pan, and some of the heat is used in evaporating surface water and raising the internal temperature of the steak.
With a reverse sear, however, the steak has already been heated by the time it hits the pan, and much of the water has evaporated too. This means that almost all of the heat from the pan can be concentrated into creating the ultimate sear.
More even cooking
The gradual increase in temperature during the first stage of the reverse sear means that the heat is evenly-distributed throughout the meat. Because of this, everything cooks at the same rate, and you don’t have to suffer tough, grey edges to be sure that the middle is properly cooked.
More tender meat
Meat contains enzymes called cathepsins, which cause proteins to break down over time, tenderising the meat. During refrigeration, they work extremely slowly, but become much more active when exposed to temperatures of around 122°F (50°C). They stop working again once the meat reaches a certain temperature, and so have little effect on steaks that are cooked only in the intense temperature of a cast iron pan. But because reverse-seared steaks spend longer at that sweet spot temperature of 122°F, the cathepsins are able to break down more proteins in the meat, resulting in a more tender, juicy steak.
How to cook a tomahawk steak
If you want juicy, tender meat that’s cooked to perfection and sealed with the ultimate crispy crust, we’ve got all the lowdown on how to cook a tomahawk steak.