The main difference between the ribeye and tomahawk steak is that the tomahawk is tender and has a more buttery texture while the ribeye is slightly tougher and has a more robust beef flavor. The ribeye is cheaper and easier to cook too. Personally, I am a fan of the classic ribeye.
I have always been a steak girl but it is only after I went to culinary school that I learned about all the different types, how they were unique to one another, and how to cook each kind of steak in a special way.
In this post, I will explain the differences between tomahawk vs. ribeye and show you how to prepare each steak too!
Before I move on to the differences, I just want to talk about what the tomahawk, and ribeye steak actually is.
The ribeye steak – also known as a Scotch fillet – is taken from the rib section or primal rib, which is one of the nine primal cuts of beef. A ribeye can either be a boneless or bone in ribeye steak.
A tomahawk steak is technically a bone in ribeye steak. It is taken from the sixth and twelfth rib. Unlike with a rib eye steak, a tomahawk steak always has the rib bone intact.
A tomahawk steak is taken from a ribeye steak. So, in a way, you would be right to describe it as a tomahawk ribeye steak.
Here are some of the ways that you can differentiate tomahawk steak and ribeye from one another:
Even if a ribeye steak has a bone in it, it is still easily distinguishable from a tomahawk steak.
This is because, with tomahawk steaks, the steak is butchered so that at least 5 inches of the bone is protruding from the meat. While this bone can be up to 20 inches long, it is usually cut down so that it is less than 10 inches.
It is this bone that gives tomahawk steaks their hatchet-like appearance which is also how they get their distinctive name. They are sometimes known as the tomahawk chop too.
By comparison, a bone in ribeye has a very short bone – it doesn’t protrude from the steak. This kind of steak is also sometimes referred to as a rib steak or a cowboy steak.
So, in case you wondering:
Is cowboy ribeye the same as tomahawk?
The answer is no as the bones are two different lengths.
The texture of the ribeye depends on where it was taken from the rib area. For instance, if the ribeye is about 3 to 4 inches wide and has small portions of muscle attached to it, then it comes from a section close to the chuck end.
This has a loose grain and there is typically a bit more fat to this section.
If the ribeye is about 6 to 7 inches wide and if there is a crescent shaped cap muscle at the top, then this steak comes from the center area or near the loin end of the rib section. This has a smoother texture and a very fine grain texture.
Then, there is the lip which is a slightly triangular shaped portion of the ribeye. This is taken from just under the ribs.
The muscles where tomahawk ribeye steaks are taken from are very rarely used by the cow. Due to this, this area is incredibly tender. This section is also quite a bit fattier.
As tomahawk steaks boast quite a bit of marbling, these steaks have quite an intense flavor – but in a good way! Most people would describe it as having a rich, buttery flavor.
The ribeye is actually quite rich in flavor. It has a strong, notable beef flavor to it. Now, the bone in rib steak or the cowboy steak has an even more noticeable flavor due to the presence of the bone.
The one thing that you will have likely noticed is that there is a significant price difference with tomahawk steak vs. ribeye. The ribeye is a lot more affordable than the tomahawk steak.
Why is a tomahawk more expensive than a ribeye?
Well, this is for two reasons. First, the tomahawk steak is taken from the area with the most delicate meat. As such, it has that tender, melt in your mouth feel to it – something that people are willing to pay a lot of money for!
And, if you go for the Angus beef or the prime beef, the price is going to automatically climb higher.
The next reason is that it takes a bit more effort to get a tomahawk steak.
First, the steak has to be cut out from the rib section. After this, the butcher has to trim the bone in a method known as Frenching. This is where all the fat and muscle are removed from the bone, giving it a nice, clean look.
All of this takes time, effort, and expertise. Hence the higher price tag.
When it comes to cooking the ease of tomahawk steak vs. ribeye, the boneless ribeye steaks win hands down.
While bone adds flavor, it also makes it more complicated to cook the meat. Due to this, it is tricky to cook tomahawk steak evenly. You have to be very careful that the meat on the outer area and those close to the bone are cooking at a similar rate.
Boneless ribeye steaks cook a lot more evenly and work well for those who don’t have a great deal of cooking steaks. Of course, if you are cooking a rib steak, then things do get a little bit more complicated.
One of the biggest questions you may have with this tomahawk steak vs. ribeye debate is whether or not tomahawk steaks are better than ribeye steaks.
Well, I would say that it is all down to preference. If you definitely enjoy and appreciate the taste and texture that the tomahawk steaks bring to the table and you can afford the pretty penny that they cost, then go right ahead!
However, ribeye steaks taste pretty great too! So, if it isn’t a special occasion or you are feeding many people at once, I would say to feel free to skimp and go with the ribeye.
Here is a quick guide to cooking ribeye steaks – this works well for the bone in and boneless ribeye cut.
Several hours before you cook the steak, pat dry with a paper towel and liberally season with kosher salt and pepper.
Place in the refrigerator, uncovered.
Take out about an hour before cooking.
Add the oil to a cast iron skillet or heavy based frying pan and heat over high heat. When the oil is shimmering, turn down to medium heat and add the butter.
Once the butter starts sizzling, add the steak and the garlic.
Cook for two minutes and then flip the steak over.
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature – when it hits 125 F, close to medium rare, take off the heat.
Or, cook to the desired doneness.
Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Here is how to cook tomahawk steaks:
Take the steak out of the refrigerator about an hour before cooking.
Pat dry with a paper towel. Liberally season with kosher salt and pepper on both sides.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
When the oil begins to smoke, place the steak in the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on one side and then flip over. Cook for another 2 minutes.
Transfer the steak to the oven. Cook until the internal temperature measures 120 F or until it reaches the desired doneness.
Take the steak out and rest for 5 minutes.
Serve with compound butter.
There you go – the next time you need to pick one steak over the other, you know exactly how to compare them. So, whether you are shopping for yourself or dining at a steakhouse, you are all set!