A few years ago, I visited Las Vegas for Restaurant Week. During this event, diners can make reservations at some of the town’s top restaurants with a fixed plate price that benefits the local Three Square Food Bank. I lucked out and booked a reservation at Carnevino (closed in 2018), where Chef Zach Allen created the most delicious and mouth-watering double-cut tomahawk pork chop.
The meat was brined in cider and salt, then grilled to perfection; the fat became crispy, the center of the pork ribeye turned a blush pink and the bone, oh Lord, was charred and beautiful. Big flakes of sea salt and cracked black pepper coated the presentation. After I finished that incredible meal, I knew I wanted to figure out how to make this dish for my friends and family. Today I’m sharing my recipe with you.
Whether you’re at home or the campground, grilling food is a way of life to most. From firewood to charcoal, lump wood to gas, everyone finds their preferred method. Equally important is finding a cut of meat that is delicious and eye-catching for your family or friends. You don’t have to look far for inspiration: social media and food magazines overflow with images of grilled, smoked, sous vide and broiled tomahawk steaks. This summer, during an RV trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, I kept seeing butcher cases packed with tomahawk cuts, resulting in consumers taking a chance and learning how to grill this newer cut.
What is A Tomahawk Steak?
For years now, the tomahawk — also known as “Thor’s steak,” “Fred Flintstone’s Steak” or “the ax” — has been prepared at some of the best steak houses and fine dining restaurants across the nation. When trimmed properly, both beef and pork cuts display the eye-catching long-rib bone, with its lollypop-shaped ribeye. That oversized bone is unique and demands attention; honestly, it’s one beautiful presentation when cooked correctly and allowed to be the focus of the plate.
So how does the tomahawk get its distinctive shape? The meatpacker or butcher takes the ribeye and leaves the rib bone attached, then the bone is cut down to a length of five to seven inches. They “French” the rib bone, which means all the meat attached to the rib is removed so that long bone is exposed. The fat surrounding the ribeye is trimmed, then presented to you that way at your grocery store, butcher shop or online meat seller.
The Tomahawk Steak Options
When searching out the best choice for a tomahawk, you have plenty of options. The traditional selection is the beef tomahawk steak. Next in popularity is the pork tomahawk, followed by the bison and the rich-in-flavor venison tomahawk.
A word of warning: the bison tomahawk ribeye usually weighs in between 14 to 20 ounces, and the bone weight puts it at about two to two-and-a-half pounds. You can easily feed three adults with one of these steaks. The venison tomahawk will be much smaller and leaner; it’s a good idea to wrap it in bacon to add some fat and protection from the fire. The pork tomahawk is my go-to for this recipe. It’s a less expensive cut than beef, you can fit more on the grill because the size is smaller and when dry brined, seasoned and smoked the flavor is delicious.
How to Cook a Tomahawk
Equipment needed for cooking this long-handled steak is simple: a fire, a grill and a lot of space. I grill my pork tomahawks on a Weber 22-inch kettle and I can fit six steaks perfectly on the grill. If you have something smaller, you will need to grill them in batches. If you don’t have a grill, that’s not a problem; find yourself a heavy-duty cast iron rectangular griddle. Lodge Cast Iron Cookware has the Pro-Grid Reversible Grill/Griddle Pan that’s 20 inches long and 10 inches wide and will fit four pork tomahawk steaks.
A word of caution, you do not want to crowd the chops on the grill; I leave about 2 inches of open space around the steak. That way, the smoke will perfume the meats’ surface and the fire’s heat will wrap the cut so that the fat melts, giving the steak a great sear.
Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em
You can add a bit of smoke to your grilling with hardwood chunks or wood chips. Smoke adds a beautiful color, perfume and flavor to your meat. Applewood, pecan, mesquite oak and cherry are my picks for pork. Today, there are many wood chip boxes that can be filled and placed over or near the flames.
If you don’t have the box, here is an easy way to make a wood chip foil packet: Tear off a piece of heavy-duty foil, 20-24 inches long, and fold that piece in half. Place a handful of soaked wood chips in the center of the foil, then wrap all four sides of the foil over the wood chips. Make sure the packet is sealed, then take a sharp paring knife and make four to six small 1-inch slits in the foil packet. This will let the smoke out when the wood ships smolder. Place that packet on the coals or grill grates about 5 minutes before you place your cut of meat on the grill.
Got a smoker? Smoking a pork tomahawk is very easy and can add so much flavor to your finished product. Keep your smoker temperature very low, around 225 degrees, place your dry or wet-brined pork tomahawk on the smoking grates and allow it to smoke for 45 minutes. While the pork is in the smoker, set up your charcoal or gas grill and get that fire good and hot; somewhere between 400 and 500 degrees as mentioned before. Transfer the smoked pork to the grill and sear away, turning every one to two minutes. Once the meat’s internal temperature reaches 150 degrees, remove from the fire and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Photo credit: Kathleen Dunbar
Grilled Pork Tomahawk Steak with Broccolini
2- 1 pound pork tomahawks steaks
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons red chili flake
1 teaspoon ground dried sage
24 hours before grilling place pork steaks on a baking tray, sprinkle seasoning rub over each tomahawk about a teaspoon per side. Place in the fridge, uncovered for 24 hours.
Prep your BBQ grill for a two-zone heat method here, or indirect. Fill a chimney starter with coals, light them and let them get nice and hot. They’re ready when they ash over and turn grey.
While your charcoal is heating, take your pork steak out of the fridge and allow to get the chill off (30 minutes). Pat dry with paper towels and lightly reason each side with your seasoning mix. Remember, they have been seasoned once before; this is just for added flavor.
Once the coals are ready, turn them out on one side of your grill, leaving the other side empty. If you are going to use wood chunks or a wood chip pack, now is the time to add it. Place the grill grate over the coals and place your pork tomahawk on the cool side of the grill. Cover with the lid and allow it to cook at 300-325 degrees. After 30 minutes, open the lid and place the pork over on the hot grill side to sear it. One to two minutes a side until an internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer registers 145-150 degrees. Remove the pork and place on a clean sheet pan to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.
12 ounces broccolini, ends trimmed
2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon red chili flake
½ teaspoon ground dried sage
Heat grill to medium heat.
In a small bowl mix the seasoning ingredients well and set aside.
Lay broccolini out on a sheet pan, drizzle the olive oil over it and toss to coat. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the broccolini.
Grill broccolini for 4-6 minutes, turning once, until tender and slightly charred on the edges.
Kate Dunbar has always had a passion for food. Growing up in a farming family, she took the statement “love your farmer” to heart. Now a published cookbook author, Kate has a mission is to show how delicious and simple outdoor cooking can be. Spending time at the campground started with her grandparents and now continues with her family as they travel all over the United States in search of food, fun and the joy of the open road.