Cowboy Steak Guide: What is it & How to best prepare
What Is a Cowboy Steak?
Cowboys are known as rugged, hearty and more concerned with substance than appearances. A cowboy steak is similar — this bone-in ribeye is two-plus inches thick, weighs over 2.5 pounds and features a short length of exposed bone that’s been cleaned of meat and fat in a process called “Frenching.” It’s a close cousin to the American Wagyu Tomahawk, which differs only in its longer handle of bone.
WHERE DOES THE COWBOY STEAK COME FROM?
Cowboy steaks are cut from the rib primal, the same origin as prime rib roasts. Located between the loin and chuck primals, the rib primal runs the length of ribs 6 through 12 along the animal’s back. Three major muscles make up the Cowboy steak:
- Longissimus dorsi, aka large center eye
- Complexus, a smaller side muscle that may not always be present, depending on where the steak is cut
- Spinalis dorsi, aka the cap of ribeye or deckle
Note that the cap is universally known as the single most flavorful and tender cut — which means a cowboy steak delivers an exceptional dining experience.
WHY CHOOSE A COWBOY STEAK FOR YOUR SPECIAL OCCASION?
A cowboy steak is meant to be shared. You may have guessed that from its impressive size. Superior marbling sets American Wagyu beef apart from the herd with superior tenderness and rich, robust flavor. Many say a bone-in steak tastes better than a boneless cut, but that’s a matter of personal preference. The bone insulates the meat close to it from heat, leaving it with especially mouthwatering tenderness. We love a cowboy steak for special occasions because its reliably juicy, tender and flavorful, and because it looks as gorgeous as it tastes.
HOW TO COOK AN IMPRESSIVE COWBOY STEAK
The main idea is to slowly bring this thick-cut steak to your desired temperature at lower heat, then quickly sear the outside for ultimate juicy flavor. Sous vide also works if you have the equipment.
Indoors: Reverse Sear Method
- Heat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season the steak liberally with kosher salt and place it on a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet and place the whole thing into the oven.
- After about 30 minutes, check the steak’s temperature with a meat thermometer. While any thermometer will work, we recommend a fast-read digital option. Insert the probe halfway through the steak in the largest section of the ribeye, away from the bone. A medium rare to medium finish for the cowboy will yield the best texture and flavor. Every oven is different, so the time to get your cowboy steak to temp will vary. In general, this step takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
- Medium rare internal target temp: 120° F
- Medium internal target temp: 130° F
- When the steak reaches ideal temperature, remove it from the oven, place it on a cutting board and tent it loosely with foil. Allow it to rest at least 15 minutes or up to 45 minutes. Resting allows juices to be redistributed through the meat and continues the cooking process.
- When you’re ready to serve the steak, turn on the broiler of your oven. Place the steak underneath the hot broiler — then stay close! This will happen fast, and you don’t want to burn this steak. The broiler will crisp and brown the steak’s outer layer. When it looks good to you, flip the Cowboy and repeat on the other side.
Remove the steak from the oven and serve immediately.
Outdoors: The Two-Zone Grill Method
- Set up two zones in your grill: a hot side with all the charcoal and a cool side.
- Season the steak liberally with kosher salt and place it on the cool side of the grill.
- To cook the steak evenly, flip it every five minutes and rotate it around the cool zone with each flip to minimize any cool or hot spots in your grill. After about 20 minutes, check the steak’s temperature with a meat thermometer, using the same guidelines as in the Reverse Sear Method above. In general, this step takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
- When the Cowboy steak reaches your ideal temperature, remove it from the grill, place it on a cutting board, tent it loosely with foil and allow it to rest at least 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to serve the steak, place the Cowboy on the hot side of the grill, which should be set to maximum heat. Sear for one to two minutes, then flip. As soon as the steak has a nice brown crust, remove it from the grill.
- Take your steak to the table and serve immediately.
HOW TO SLICE AND SERVE A COWBOY STEAK
You’re likely sharing your cowboy steak with friends or family. Wow, your dinner party audience by slicing it at the table.
- Using a sharp knife, separate the meat from the bone.
- Always slice against the grain of the meat — perpendicular to the natural direction of the muscle fibers — for the most tender bite.
- Remove the tender outer cap section and slice into thick pieces so everyone gets a taste of this prized delicacy. Then slice the center eye and dust all the pieces with flakey sea salt for a final flourish.