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why is tomahawk steak so expensive

Why Is Tomahawk Steak So Expensive?

Tomahawk Steak is so expensive because it’s a very high quality, tender, juicy and large cut of Prime beef taken from the rib section of the cow. The tomahawk steak is essentially a Ribeye beef steak cut with at least five inches of rib bone left intact. Its extra-long, french trimmed bone makes the steak appear like a Native American Tomahawk Axe which is what the steak is named after. It can also be referred to as a “tomahawk chop,” “bone-in ribeye,” and “cote du boeuf.”

“Frenching” means trimming the steak bone and fat until it looks like a handle. It’s the same culinary technique that shapes a rack of lamb. This extra bit of work also adds to the steaks cost. The large rib bone gives the steak its fantastic signature flavor and unique look. Tomahawk Steak is highly marbled, extremely tender and very flavorful meat. Its typically prepared very simply with a generous amount of salt and some pepper.

Tomahawk Steaks are primarily cut from the longissimus (Latin for “longest one”) dorsi, or loin, of the cow. The area consists of two muscles outside of the steer’s rib cage which run along both sides of the spine. It’s also the main muscle used in other Prime cuts of beef like the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. Since these muscles aren’t used by the cow very often, they stay soft and tender.

When properly cooked, the meats intramuscular fat combines with elements released from the large bone to give a Tomahawk Steak its sweet, rich flavor with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Tomahawk Steaks are so expensive because they’re one of the best cuts of beef money can buy.

why is tomahawk steak so expensive infographic chart 1.0

Tomahawk Steak Is A Primal Cut

Right now beef is an overall very expensive meat to buy no matter the cut. And Tomahawk Steaks are a Prime cut of beef that’s tender, juicy, flavorful and large.

The main reason Tomahawk Steak is so expensive is that it’s cut from the forequarter rib section of the cow which is where Ribeye steaks come from. Tomahawk Steaks are basically just a big Bone-In Ribeye steak with an extra long bone “French”trimmed to look like a handle.

Beef cut from the rib area of a cow is super tender because of all the marbled fat spread throughout the meat. This are of the cow doesn’t get much exercise during its life so it stays very soft and tender. Marbling equals tenderness and lots of flavor.

Rib meat is not as muscular as other parts of the cow which makes a savory, juicy and very tender steak.

Generally, the more tender, juicy and marbled a cut of steak, the more costly it will be.

Tomahawk Steak Takes Time To Butcher

A Tomahawk Steak is essentially the same as a Bone-In Ribeye. It becomes a Tomahawk when it’s French trimmed. This means the meat on the bone is cut and scraped off leaving about 5 inches of clean bone.

French trimming the meat makes the bone look like a handle and the steak look like an axe head. This takes time and skill which adds to the cost of the steak.

Once a Ribeye is “Frenched”, it becomes a Tomahawk Steak. Some people also refer to it as a “Cote De Boeuf” or a “Cowboy Steak”. Although the Cowboy Steak is a Ribeye with a shorter bone than the Tomahawk which makes it less dramatic to look at. And less expensive.

Bone-In Steak tastes different than a steak with no bone because bones release lots of flavor when cooked properly. The longer the bone the more potential flavor can be transferred into the meat. So all that time French trimming the meat isn’t just about looks, it’s also about creating a rich and flavorful steak.

The longer the bone the more time it takes to thoroughly clean. A lot of preparation time is the second reason why Tomahawk Steak is so expensive.

Tomahawk Steaks Are Large & Heavy

Beef is priced by weight, and Tomahawk Steaks are heavy. This is another reason why they’re typically cost a lot more than other cuts of beef.

Tomahawk Steaks are usually between 1 to 2 inches thick and at least a foot long with the 5 inch bone. They typically weigh about 3 to 4 pounds, which is a very large portion of steak. There are 16 ounces in a pound, so a Tomahawk Steak is usually between 48 to 64 ounces total. But that’s including the weight of the bone which can weigh around a pound. So the average Tomahawk minus the bone provides around 2 to 3 pounds of beef.

To put this into perspective, a serving size of steak is around 3 ounces. So the average Tomahawk is a whopping 10.5 to 16 servings of beef in a single steak. And it’s all Prime Ribeye beef.

The size of an average Tomahawk Steak is a big reason why they’re so expensive.

Tomahawk Steaks Are Popular

The main reasons why a Tomahawk Steak is so expensive are the quality, prep time and size of the steak. They’re a very large, Prime cut of beef that takes a lot of time to properly butcher in order to turn a Ribeye into a Tomahawk.

But they’re also a very popular steak you’ll see on Billboards, Instagram, Menus, Commercials and in Magazines. They’re a very impressive looking steak that’s also extremely high quality which increases demand.

Each cow can only produce about 14 Tomahawks which is one steak per rib bone. But a lot of that meat is used to make other cuts like regular Ribeye Steaks. On average, a cow may only end up producing about 2-4 Tomahawks. So in addition to being very popular steaks, they’re also scarce.

A high demand and scarcity are two more reasons why Tomahawk Steaks are so expensive.

why is Tomahawk Steak so expensive infographic 2.0

How To Choose A Tomahawk Steak

Not all Tomahawk Steaks are created equal. Whether you buy your meat at a butcher or grocery store, it’s important to examine the beef before you buy it. Unfortunately, Tomahawks are a large, premium cut of beef that you won’t always find on display. So if you don’t see one on the rack ask the butcher.

If your butcher has to cut a Tomahawk just for you, make sure to ask for one that’s cut from the loin end of the rib. That’s the most tender area.

Here are a few tips on what to look for when buying a Tomahawk Steak:

Tomahawk Steak Should Be Red

Check the color of the steak before you buy it. If you see any gray or brown on the meat, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone bad. But it’s not the best sign of freshness. Beef will turn slightly grey because it’s been exposed to air not because it’s rotten.

If a steak’s been on the shelf for a day or two it could start to turn a little grey. I’m a little picky with my meat and usually don’t buy beef when this starts to happen. The freshest Tomahawk Steaks will be bright red.

Keep in mind that a Tomahawk Steak is usually around 1 to 2 inches thick. Thicker steaks can start to grey a little on the outside but still be very fresh on the inside.

Check the date on the package, it will give you some idea as to the freshness of the beef.

Inspect The Fat

Some fat on a steak is good and some is bad. What you want to look for is a nice marbling because it adds flavor and tenderness to the meat. And much of the fat cooks out of the meat anyway so it ends up being a tender, juicy and lean cut of beef.

Fat around the outside edge of the meat is OK because you can easily cut it away before or after you cook.

Most Tomahawks will also have an area or two of larger fat inside the steak. As long as it can be cut away cleanly it doesn’t bother me. Fat actually adds a lot of flavor when you pan cook a steak.

Read The Label

Beef is labeled to tell you how the cow was raised and what it was fed. This has a big impact on the quality of the meat so you should always read the label. It’s a good indicator of the quality of the steak.

Here are a few of the most common phrases you’ll find on a steak label and what they mean:

  • Dry-Aged: Premium grades of beef like tomahawk steaks are sometimes dry-aged. This means the meat has been aged under controlled conditions to improve its flavor and tenderness. Dry aging intensifies and concentrates the meats flavor by removing excess moisture. You usually won’t find dry-aged steaks at the grocery store but they’re sold at some butchers and specialty stores. Dry-Aged beef is expensive.
  • Grass-Fed: Grass-fed cattle is much better than grain fed. It generally tastes better and is more tender. But the USDA only requires the beef to eat 50% grass in order to be considered grass fed. The higher percentage grass a cow eats, the better the meat will be. Look for high percentage grass-fed beef.
  • Pasture-Raised: This means that the cattle lived in a pasture or meadow and grazed free. But it doesn’t mean that they only ate grass. Some pasture-raised cattle are also fed some grain. Generally pasture raised beef tastes better and is more tender.
  • Organic: The USDA organic label means the cattle weren’t exposed to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. They typically graze in a pasture year-round and the only grain they eat is hormone and antibiotic-free. Organic meat is the most strictly regulated and demanding which also makes it the most expensive. But the quality of meat is very high.

If you’re buying steaks from a butcher, let him know what type of beef you want in addition to the cut.

Ordering Tomahawk Steak At A Restaurant

When you order steak at a restaurant, especially at a high end steak house, ask about the quality of steak they serve. In many cases it will be listed right on the menu. If they serve high quality meat, they’ll usually advertise it. When they don’t specifically say what grade or quality meat it is, that means it’s usually regular grain fed beef which is the cheapest.

In some steak houses you can choose your own steak off a rack. This is a great option to have because you can look for nice marbling, color and size. But in most cases when they let you choose its because all the steaks on the rack are very high quality.

Usually when you can pick your own steak off a rack the price will be on it.

I like my Tomahawk Steak with marbling and large chunks of fat that are easy to spot. Usually there’s a layer on the outside and one strip inside. This makes it easy for me to cut off the fat.

Make sure you tell the waiter how you want your meat cooked. Tomahawk steaks are great when grilled to about medium-rare with a char on the outside.

Cooking Tomahawk Steak At Home

Tomahawk Steak is very expensive so you want to get the most out of it when cooking at home. And it isn’t easy to do since they tend to be thick at around 1 to 2 inches each.

Because a tomahawk steak has a large 5 inch rib bone, it’s best to take advantage of all that flavor by searing them in a cast iron skillet. And you should prepare them simply with pepper and a generous amount of salt on each side.

Get the pan as hot as you can on a stove top or grill. Then place the seasoned meat into the skillet. It should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Let it sit for about 2-4 minutes and then turn it over. Once the other side is seared, turn the meat on its edge. Rotate the meat on its edge searing as much as you can.

Tomahawk Steaks have their own fat so you don’t need to add any into the pan. But I like to use a little butter or olive oil anyway.

Once the steak is seared on all sides ad a nice crust has formed, move it into an oven or the cool side of the grill and let it slow cook on medium heat. Searing cooks the outside of the meat and locks in juices but it doesn’t cook the inside very well. That’s what slow cooking is for.

Let the meat stay on medium-low heat until it reaches the desired doneness.

Reverse Searing Tomahawk Steak

Another great way to cook Tomahawk Steak at home is with a reverse sear.

With a reverse sear, you slow cook the inside first and then sear the meat at the end, right before serving.

Season the meat first with pepper and a generous amount of salt, and then place it in an oven or grill on medium-low heat. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the inside. When it’s reached your desired level of doneness, remove it from the heat and place it in a cast iron skillet or a high heat part of the grill.

You have to get the grill or skillet hot before you move the meat from lower heat to high. As soon as the beef hits high heat it should sizzle and start to sear. This creates a really nice crust on the outside of the steak as the fat melts and caramelizes.

Make sure to sear both sides of the steak and the edges.

You can sear the meat without any fat in the pan because it has its own. But I like to add some butter or olive oil for taste. I’m also a fan of garlic and a little soy with my steak.

If you use butter in the pan, baste the top of the steak as you sear it. Tomahawk Steak is very expensive so you want as much flavor and tenderness as you can get.

Alternatives To Tomahawk Steak

Tomahawk Steak is very expensive because of its high quality, prep time, popularity and size. But it’s essentially just a French trimmed Ribeye cut from the rib section of the cow. There are other cuts of beef from the same general area that are really good, tender, juicy and a bit cheaper.

If you’re on a budget but still want a tender and juicy steak like a Tomahawk, here are some alternatives:

  • Ribeye Steak: Ribeye’s are the same basic steak as a Tomahawk without the French trimming.
  • T-Bone Steak: A T-Bone is cut from the same rib section of the cow as a Tomahawk but it also comes with a filet.
  • Porterhouse: A Porterhouse is basically a larger version of a T-Bone except it has a larger filet. Its also cut from the rib section of beef.
  • NY Strip: The NY Strip is also cut from the rib section. It makes up one side of a T-Bone and Porterhouse.
  • Sirloin: Sirloins come from the top of the cows back. Same general area but higher up. It’s a little less tender but still very flavorful. And a lot cheaper.
  • Rump: Rump Steak is cut from the back of the cow. It’s a tougher cut that still tastes good but is a lot cheaper than a Tomahawk.

Tomahawk Steaks are a premium cut which is reflected in the price. But you can get a great tasting steak for less money if they’re too expensive.

Are Tomahawk Steaks Worth It?

Yes, if you want a premium steak that’s flavorful, tender and juicy with a dramatic appearance, then a Tomahawk Steak is definitely worth the money. While they are quite expensive, they’re also one of the best steaks money can buy.

Tomahawk Steaks are very large, which increases the cost because beef is priced by weight. And, you’ll also pay more if it’s been dry-aged. But they’re considered one of the best steaks you can buy because of how flavorful and tender they are. Whether or not they’re worth the money is ultimately up to you, but it’s hard to argue with their quality.

If you love a tender and juicy steak, then splurging on a Tomahawk would probably be worth the price at least once for the experience. Because of that huge 5 inch bone they have a taste and appeal that’s hard to match with other steak cuts.

FAQs About Tomahawk Steak

Here are a few of the FAQs we get about Tomahawk Steak.

Is Tomahawk Steak Better Than Ribeye?

A Tomahawk is basically the same as a None-In Ribeye other than the 5 inch inch bone. They have the same basic flavor, marbling and tenderness. But when properly cooked the Tomahawk can have a stronger beef flavor because of the bone. But it’s all in how the meat is prepared.

Most of the Ribeyes Steaks I’ve eaten have tasted the same as a Tomahawk. So if you compare flavor and tenderness, they’re about the same.

The great thing about a Tomahawk Steak is the presentation. There’s a reason why you seen them in magazines, cookbook covers, advertising, etc. They’re a very impressive steak to look at. So in terms of presentation, a Tomahawk is better than a Ribeye.

Are Tomahawk Steaks better than Ribeye’s? I’d have to give the edge to the Tomahawk just because of presentation. Even though the flavor and tenderness are about the same, its a really cool looking steak.

Why Is Wagyu Tomahawk Steak So Expensive?

Wagyu Tomahawk Steak is so expensive because Wagyu beef is a high-quality, luxury meat. The cattle that produce Wagyu beef are specially bred for superior marbling and typically yield a much higher percentage of intramuscular fat than other breeds. Wagyu shouldn’t contain antibiotics or pesticides and the cows are almost entirely grass fed.

Wagyu’s high level of marbling results in a more tender, juicy and flavorful steak. A Tomahawk Steak is already an expensive cut, but when you add the benefits of a Wagyu cow it adds also adds to the price.

Wagyu cattle are more expensive to raise and care for. And they’re rare. Both factors add to the cost of the beef.

A Wagyu Tomahawk is a premium cut of steak taken from an extremely high quality cow.

What’s The Difference Between Tomahawk & Cowboy Steak?

A Tomahawk and Cowboy Steak are essentially the exact same steak except the Cowboy has a shorter bone. The Tomahawk has a 5 inch bone which looks like the handle of a Native American Tomahawk Axe. If you take a Tomahawk Steak and cut the bone down a few inches shorter it becomes a Cowboy Steak.

How Many People Will A Tomahawk Steak Feed?

An average size Tomahawk Steak contains around 2 to 3 pounds of meat. That’s 48 to 64 ounces. A serving of steak is 3 ounces, so an average Tomahawk is 10.5 to 16 servings of Prime Ribeye beef. In my family that’s enough for 4 people because I usually serve steak with a salad and some vegetables or a potato. But I’ve seen people eat one all by themselves.

The size of an average Tomahawk Steak is a big reason why they’re so expensive. What other food you serve with the steak will help determine how many people it will feed. But for most families it’s usually more than 1.

What Cut Is A Tomahawk Steak?

Tomahawk Steaks are a type of Ribeye Steak with at least 5 inches of rib bone left intact. They’re cut from the longissimus (Latin for “longest one”) dorsi, or loin, of the cow. The area consists of two muscles outside of the steer’s rib cage which run along both sides of the spine. It’s also the main muscle used in other Prime cuts of beef like the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. Since these muscles aren’t used by the cow very often, they stay soft and tender.

Why Are They Called Tomahawk Steaks?

They’re called Tomahawk Steak because their long 5 inch bone and big steak cut looks like a Native American Tomahawk Axe. They’re cut from the rib section of a cow. The long bone that extends from the shoulder all the way to the ribcage is left intact and French trimmed t be clean of fat and meat.

Tomahawk steaks are usually between 1-2 inches thick and can be grilled or pan-fried.

What’s The Point Of Tomahawk Steak?

Tomahawk Steaks are basically just a Ribeye with an intact 5 inch French trimmed bone. The point of French trimming and exposing the bone is presentation. The steak is named Tomahawk because the long exposed bone make it look like a Native American Tomahawk Axe.

There’s a reason why a Tomahawk Steak is featured on so many Instagram pics, magazine covers, articles, menus, advertising, commercials etc. It’s very impressive to look at and makes an impression. And that’s the point. Trimming the steak this way adds a little bit of flavor because of the bone but the real point is about presentation.

Because of the way a Tomahawk Steak looks, its a popular cut which makes it more expensive.

How Many Tomahawk Steaks Per Cow?

A cow has 14 ribs so there are potentially 14 Tomahawk Steaks per cow. But Ribeye and Cowboy steaks are also cut from the same area of rib meat. So in reality, a cow usually produces just 1-4 Tomahawk Steaks each.

How Much Is A Tomahawk Steak?

Tomahawk Steak ranges in price based on quality and size. You can buy a 40 ounce steak for around $90-$100 but premium beef like organic and Wagyu can cost over $200. And that’s the price of the meat at a grocery store or butcher. Expect to pay a lot more when ordering one at a steak house. especially if it’s been dry aged. It’s not uncommon to see Tomahawk Steaks at a restaurant selling for over $400-$500+ per steak.

The price for Tomahawk Steak at Costco is about $80 per 40 oz steak. That’s about $35 per pound.

How Much Should A Tomahawk Steak Cost?

At the moment, a Tomahawk Steak should cost around $80-$85 per 40 oz steak. That’s around $35 per pound for a basic steak. If you want premium organic meat, grass fed or Wagyu, expect to pay a lot more. Some premium cuts of Tomahawk sell for over $200 per 40 oz steak.

When ordering at a restaurant the average price is $150+ for a 40 oz Tomahawk. Expect to pay a lot more if it’s dry aged or premium beef. It’s not uncommon to see Tomahawk Steaks at a restaurant selling for over $400-$500+ per steak.

Can One Person Eat A Tomahawk Steak?

An average size Tomahawk Steak contains around 2 to 3 pounds of meat. That’s 48 to 64 ounces. A serving of steak is 3 ounces. So the average Tomahawk is 10.5 to 16 servings of Prime Ribeye beef. In my family that’s enough for 4 people because I usually serve steak with a salad and some vegetables or a potato. But I’ve seen one person eat a whole Tomahawk by themselves. It all depends on the person and what else they’re eating with the meat.

Summary: Why Is Tomahawk Steak So Expensive?

Tomahawk Steak is so expensive because it’s a very high quality, tender, juicy and large cut of Prime beef taken from the rib section of the cow. The tomahawk steak is essentially a Ribeye beef steak cut with at least five inches of rib bone left intact. Its extra-long, french trimmed bone makes the steak appear like a Native American Tomahawk Axe which is what the steak is named after. It can also be referred to as a “tomahawk chop,” “bone-in ribeye,” and “cote du boeuf.”

“Frenching” means trimming the steak bone and fat until it looks like a handle. It’s the same culinary technique that shapes a rack of lamb. This extra bit of work also adds to the steaks cost. The large rib bone gives the steak its fantastic signature flavor and unique look. Tomahawk Steak is highly marbled, extremely tender and very flavorful meat. Its typically prepared very simply with a generous amount of salt and some pepper.

Tomahawk Steaks are primarily cut from the longissimus (Latin for “longest one”) dorsi, or loin, of the cow. The area consists of two muscles outside of the steer’s rib cage which run along both sides of the spine. It’s also the main muscle used in other Prime cuts of beef like the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. Since these muscles aren’t used by the cow very often, they stay soft and tender.

When properly cooked, the meats intramuscular fat combines with elements released from the large bone to give a Tomahawk Steak its sweet, rich flavor with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Tomahawk Steaks are so expensive because they’re one of the best cuts of beef money can buy.

If you have any questions about Tomahawk Steak, email any time.

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