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There comes a time in life when the weather is perfect, friends are cracking open beers, and the steak grill is warming up.
This, of course, is the dream day of dream days. That perfect moment in time when the opportunity to char some delicious slabs of meat on your too rarely used grill. Of course there are plenty of burgers and hotdogs waiting to be cooked up and served to the hungry masses of impatient mouths, but that is only the beginning.
Of course the real king here is the venerable steak. Everything else is merely an appetizer that pales in comparison to main course. Long time veterans of backyard barbecues know that gorging on burgers is a mistake they will come to regret once the star of the show starts to sizzle.
So, once the stars finally do align and you’re able to pull the grill out, how do you go about cooking a mouth-watering steak?
Opportunities (Excuses) for a BBQ
Well, first you need to set the stage in order to make a barbecue happen.
Honestly, just about any old excuse will do, but there are occasions where it is just that tiny bit more acceptable have a barbecue than in the middle of a blizzard.
First, the weather needs to cooperate. Ambient temperatures will have an effect on cooking times so your best bet for consistency and expediency is to grill during the spring or summer. Fortunately there are more than a few holidays during this time, and you do not wish to wait for the holidays, a normal weekend will do.
The Easter holidays are a fine time to shake the dust off the grill and fill that bad boy up some coal. You can think of it as an unofficial New Year’s ceremony to mark the start of another season of morsel filled grilling. Compared to the full heat of summer, the fresh breeze of spring will keep you cool and instill a sense of hunger into the stomachs of your neighbors.
By the time Memorial Day rolls around, you might find yourself embroiled in a cold war of sorts as the other neighborhood grill daddies awaken from their winter torpor. Everyone has their own personal recipes and each grill master is fueled by a sense of domineering pride that demands their domains be protected.
Breaking character for a moment, the entire unspoken rivalry thing is a bit silly. On the other hand it provides more excuses to grill so take a moment to embrace the charade and immerse yourself in the crackling fires of your imaginary coals. Because very soon that promised time will come to pass once more.
Our forefathers probably did not intend for the 4th of July to become synonymous with the art of grilling, but it is what it is. In backyards all across America, thousands, possibly millions of fires will be lit alongside the tens of millions of beer cans being cracked open. If you own a grill in the US of A, Independence Day is probably going to be the penultimate test of your culinary might.
You’ll have other friends who will attempt to persuade you to come over to their homes during this festive occasion.
Do not be fooled. Unless you are the designated grill master within your group of friends, you will never be able to touch the grill of your competitor. You may be able to stand close enough to feel the heat of the roaring flames, but that is all.
In your hand you might hold your beverage of choice, but your free digits will never know the feel of the spatula being so avariciously grasped by your victorious rival. Neither will the soot covered battle standard known as the apron come to adorn your comparatively pristine t-shirt.
So, how do you convince your friends and family to come over to your backyard instead? Or failing that, manage to temporarily take over as the grill daddy?
Buying a few cases of beer will generally do the trick, but it is so much more satisfying when you are handed grill master rights by right of conquest.
In short, you need a real sucker punch of a recipe. You need to learn how to cook a mouth watering steak.
What is a Tomahawk Steak?
The tomahawk is a steak cut of beef ribeye still attached to five or more inches of rib bone. As you can imagine, the name comes from the cut’s resemblance to a single-handed axe with the bone being the handle and the meat being the blade.
Also known as the bone-in ribeye or the cowboy steak, these steaks are praised around the world for their delightful presentation and wholesome flavor. Usually weighing in at over two pounds, these steaks aren’t on the small side either, but like any other cut, cowboy steaks vary in size and price. Some cuts you can buy for as low as $30.00 or as high as $230.00 for premium steaks.
How to Choose the Perfect Cut of Meat
Now that you’ve got an idea for what to cook as the star of the barbecue, you need to figure out how to obtain a prime cut of meat.
Your best bet is to go to your local butcher in order to get exactly what you want, but it’s possible that your local grocer might stock this cut. Whatever you end up deciding though, there’s a few notes you need to take when picking out a steak.
- Thickness of 2-2.5 inches: The thicker the meat, the longer the cook. Since this cut of steak is bone-in, you will have to cook the steak for an additional length of time depending on how bloody you want it.
- Make sure the steak is well marbled: Getting one thing straight, fat is taste. Being a ribeye, the steak should be well marbled. If you want perfection though, make sure the outer meat of the steak is well covered in fat so you can get the best flavor.
- Fresh meat is good, frozen is okay too: Properly treated beef that has been frozen quickly and vacuum sealed beforehand has almost no difference in taste or texture to fresh beef.
- Bone size sort of matters: For a tomahawk, a long rib bone is part of the presentation that makes it so fascinating. The caveat is that if the rib is too long, it will not fit on your grill. Take a measurement of your grill’s surface area before purchasing your meat, but generally a 10 or 12 inch bone should fit most backyard grills.
Now that you have the perfect cut, it’s time to get your hands on that meat and season that sucker!
Fireman’s Axe Steak Recipe
Wait a moment on cracking that beer open. The most important aspect of grilling any kind of protein is that it takes both time and preparation to do right. Unlike burgers and dogs that can take a bit of a beating, proteins like steak, pork, chicken, and fish take a little bit of finesse to ensure they do not come out dry and tasting like dehydrated mystery meat.
Due to the thickness of the steaks, the technique that will be used to cook them will be the reverse sear method. Unlike smaller steaks and the normal searing method, the idea here is to cook the meat using indirect heat before applying direct heat a few minutes before the meat is cooked through.
I made plenty plenty of mistakes during my early grilling days. Everything from not seasoning a steak properly, burning the everliving heck out of my meat, not waiting for my coals to turn gray, and even dousing fire with lighter fluid mid cook. Everything about this recipe requires time and patience to get right. For anyone that is new to grilling, I know that ever foreboding temptation to open the lid and flip the meat is there, but do not do it.
Once prep is complete and the steaks are ready to be placed on top of warmed coals, relax, set your timer, and grab your drink of choice because there is an easy way to make doubly sure your steak is perfect.
Chill out and forget about it.
Seriously, the exciting part is getting that crispy sear on your steaks. Just sit back and relax. Play some cards or whatever else to take your mind off the grill until the timer goes off. Make sure to keep a thermometer handy though, a ThermoPro digital meat thermometer is what I use to check my steaks.
Charcoal: My go-to type of grill, it imparts a distinctive smoky flavor to your meat.
Wood Chip: Different woods add a different type of flavor. Maple and mesquite pair well with traditional steak flavors.
Gas: This type of grill does not give any additional taste to the meat, but it heats up faster.
Preparation Time: 1 Hour
Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
- 2 2-inch thick bone-in ribeye steaks with the bone cut from 10 to 12 inches
- 4 teaspoons of rock salt (Enough to coat both sides and edges of each steak)
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (Enough to dust both sides and edges of each steak)
- 4 teaspoons of butter
- 1. Season the steaks at least 40 minutes before cooking. You can also season your steaks overnight, but no longer than eight hours. Coat both sides evenly with salt as well as the sides. Use both hands to really press the salt into the steaks, but not hard enough to flatten it. (Save the pepper for later, all adding the pepper now is going to do is burn it during the sear.)
- 2. Cover the steaks with plastic wrap and leave it on top of the counter so it can come down to room temperature.
- 3. During this time, set up one half the grill for direct heat and the other half for indirect heat. You can do this on a charcoal grill by piling up a full pyramid of charcoal as you normally would. From there, wait for the coals to burn down so that the mound is covered by gray ashes. Next, fill one half of the grill with tightly packed fresh charcoal three coals deep. While the coals begin to catch fire, put the grate back on the grill and brush it until it is clean.
- 4. Once the newly added coals have caught fire and are colored gray, bring out your steaks and unwrap them. Add a teaspoon of butter on the side that will be facing away from the fire.
- 5. Place the steaks butter side up on the indirect heat side of the grill with the bone side facing direct heat. Close the lid and let the meat cook for 8 to 10 minutes before flipping the meat, adding another teaspoon of butter over the steaks, and closing the lid for another 10 minutes. (9 Minutes each side for rare, 10 minutes for medium rare, 11 minutes for medium)
- 6. Open the lid and check the temperature by using a thermometer by probing the thickest portion of the meat. (I recommend using a ThermoPro Meat Thermometer.)
- 7. Once the internal temperature reaches your desired value, get ready to sear the steaks. (110°F for rare, 115°F for medium rare, 125°F for medium.)
- 8. Flip the steak and place the meat directly over the hot coals. Flip every minute until you have a good sear on the steaks by checking if they’ve formed a brown crust. This will take about 4 to 6 minutes.
- 9. Move the steaks off the heat and onto a platter and let them rest for ten minutes.
- 10. Crack on the black pepper over both sides of the steaks, carve the meat from the bone, and serve.
- 11. Alternatively you can be a complete barbarian and eat the meat directly from the bone like a champ.
Time to Dig in!
Now sit back and watch as the steaks you have worked so hard to cook are devoured by the ravenous flock of hungering maws. Now you can sit back, crack open that beer, and chow down with the knowledge that you are the undisputed king of the grill.