What Is A Cowboy Cut Steak?

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Anyone who dines out often is sure to have sampled the large, flashy bone-in ribeye known as a cowboy cut steak. It’s a cut that’s both exceedingly tender and flavorful when cooked properly. This rib section cut suits all types of cooking methods and comes out perfect whether grilled, roasted, pan-seared, broiled, or sous vide. However, what exactly is a cowboy-cut steak, and where does it come from? Many people are familiar with the name but don’t know the specifics of this cut of beef. Here, we’ll be exploring everything from where cowboy cut steaks come from to how they are cut and even the best ways to cook them to perfection. 

Why Is It Called A Cowboy Cut Steak?

While the exact origins of the name remain hazy, it is largely accepted that a cowboy cut steak derives its name from the large size of the steak, which at the same time takes more careful preparation than a tomahawk. As a massive, rugged cut, it’s envisioned as exactly what every cowboy wants, needs to be satiated, and deserves after a long day on the range. The Frenching performed grants an aspect of care fitting of an appreciated hard worker. 

Cowboy Cut Steak Characteristics

Get ready to be wowed by the rich flavor and unparalleled tenderness of the cowboy cut steak. This classic cut is characterized by its large bone-in ribeye that may or may not arrive Frenched and is sure to impress any steak lover.

Alternate NamesBone-In Ribeye, Chef’s Steak, Frenched Bone-In Ribeye, Long-bone Ribeye, Bone-in Delmonico, Ribeye On The Bone
CutUpper Third Rib Primal Cut Granting Steak Composed Of Complexus, Longissimus Dorsi (Ribeye) & Rib Crown
Size14 – 18 Inches Long With Under 5 Inch Protruding Bone Length
Thickness2 – 3 Inches
Shape1.2 – 4 Pounds
Fat Content17 – 24%
Marbling: High Degree Of Marbling With Balanced Well Distributed Interspersed Flecks Of Fat
  • Flavor: 5/5
  • Tenderness: 4.5/5
  • Affordability: 3.5/5

The bone-in ribeye cut for either a cowboy steak or tomahawk is extracted from the rib primal situated in the middle of the cattle’s back. As a result, the muscles aren’t used as much, but there’s still a healthy degree of fat, making it soft and flavorful. Cowboy cut steak consists of the longissimus dorsi, which is also known as the eye of the ribeye. It makes up the majority of the meat and sits encased in layers of fat before being cut that imbues rich flavor and superbly balanced marbling.

The bottom section of a cowboy cut steak, also known as the rib crown, is composed of the ribeye cap, which is the spinalis muscle. This section is considered the most tender and juicy part of the cut. Often, but not always, the complexus muscle can also be found at the top of a bone-in ribeye. While still delicious, this section is slightly less tender than the rest of the cut. The combination of these different sections creates a unique flavor and texture profile that’s rich and butter with greater complexity and depth of flavor than other beef.

How To Cut A Cowboy Cut Steak

  1. Firstly, look for a rib section that has a large enough rib bone to create the signature “handle” look of a cowboy cut steak.
  2. Lay the rib primal out before you.
  3. Use a sharp, flexible boning knife to make a steady cut parallel to the rib bones while following their contour as closely as possible.
  4. Carefully use the tip of your knife to slice away any silver skin and a good layer of excess fat but ensure that you don’t cut too much of the meat itself away. Next, finish removing the ribeye cap (spinalis muscle) by severing the connecting muscle and fat before trimming off any remaining excess fat and sinew.
  5. Move onto the complexus muscle atop the bone if it’s present by using a sharp boning knife to make an incision at its base and then sliding carefully along the tissue. Reserve for making tasty [].
  6. With the complexus muscle removed, you’ve got a clean bone-in ribeye, otherwise known as a cowboy cut steak.
  7. Repeat for the rest of the rib primals and then slice into 2 to 3-inch steaks depending on your preference.

How To Cook A Cowboy Cut Steak

Always start your cowboy cut steak (and all steaks, for that matter) at room temperature, and we strongly recommend overnight pre-salting and refrigeration. With the exception of the reverse sear, which reaches its correct internal temperature after being finished off at high heat, the same safe internal temperatures are to be adhered to:

  • Rare: 120 – 125°F 
  • Medium-Rare: 130 – 135°F 
  • Medium: 140 – 145°F 
  • Medium-Well: 150 – 155°F 
  • Well-Done: 160 – 165°F 

Now, follow the relevant instructions below for each cooking method to taste bone-in ribeye in the way it’s best served. 

Reverse Searing A Cowboy Steam (Oven/Gas Grill/Barbecue & Stovetop)

Reverse searing a cowboy cut steak is largely seen to be the best way to cook this meaty cut. The only downside is that you lose the bright pink center no matter which degree of doneness you cook your steak to. Other than this caveat, the flavor, texture, and succulency are second-to-none.

  1. Season your steak and allow it to refrigerate, and then return to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Preheat your oven to 275°F. 
  3. Once heated, place the steaks on a wire rack in the oven and cook until the following internal temperatures are reached, relevant to the doneness preferred: 
  • Rare: 105°F, 10 – 12 Minutes
  • Medium-Rare: 115°F, 12- 14 Minutes
  • Medium: 125°F, 14 – 16 Minutes
  • Medium-Well: 135°F, 16 – 18 Minutes
  • Well Done: 145°F, 18 – 20 Minutes
  1. Just before they’re done, heat a skillet or heavy-bottomed pan coated with oil to just before smoking point.
  2. At roughly one minute before removing from the oven, brush the steaks lightly with neutral-flavored cooking oil. Otherwise, opt for butter. 
  3. Transfer the steaks to the skillet and sear for 30 to 45 seconds per side.
  4. Remove and serve immediately. There’s no need to leave a reverse-seared steak to rest. 

Grilling A Cowboy Cut Steak

While it’s best to start with a pre-seasoned steak (returned to room temperature), that’s been seasoned and resting for a period of 40 minutes to overnight in the fridge, one can season half an hour before grilling instead. Please note a reverse sear is still recommended for a gas grill, but this process details regular roasting and searing. For a reverse sear, start the steak at 325 – 350°F and finish it off on a fiery-hot grill instead.

  1. Oil your grill and preheat as high as it goes. 
  2. If needed, season your steak otherwise, rub it with a coating of oil or butter.
  3. Place the steaks onto the grill and wait one minute before turning 90 degrees so that even griddle marks form. 
  4. After a minute in the new position, flip each steak and cook for a minute before rotating again and cooking for the final minute at this high heat. 
  5. Lower the heat to medium or around 325-350°F, cover, and cook for any of the following durations depending on your preferences:
  • Rare: 2 – 3 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium-Rare: 3 – 4 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium: 4 – 5 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium-Well: 5 – 6 Minutes Per Side
  • Well Done: 6 – 7 Minutes Per Side
  1. While cooking, cover the exposed bone with foil to prevent it from turning brown as soon as you notice it becoming roasted (remove a minute before done).
  2. Once done, remove and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 


A broiler is guaranteed to produce some of the juiciest steaks around when following the guidance below. If you opt to sear or reverse sear, shorten the duration of cooking for about a minute or a few seconds more per side. 

  1. Begin with a pre-seasoned cowboy steak or season 40 minutes beforehand.
  2. Preheat your broiler to high (approximately 500 – 550°F)
  3. Set the steak out on a broiler pan or wire rack and insert on the uppermost rack closest to the element.
  4. Cook for any of the following periods based on your preferences:
  • Rare: 4 – 5 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium-Rare: 5 – 6 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium: 6 – 7 Minutes Per Side
  • Medium-Well: 7 – 8 Minutes Per Side
  • Well Done: 8 – 9 Minutes Per Side
  1. Remove and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Pan Fry

Get ready to sizzle up some serious flavor with our pan fry method for cowboy cut steak. From rare to well done, we’re showing you how to master the art of the perfect pan fry. 

  1. Heat a cast iron skillet (don’t miss our overview of the best spatula for cast iron) or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan over high heat. 
  2. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of a high-smoking point oil (canola, grapeseed, avocado, peanut) to the pan. 
  3. Allow to fry for any of the following preference-dependent durations while infrequently basting with oil and fat from the pan:
  • Rare: 2 – 3 Minutes Per Side, 120 – 125°F
  • Medium-Rare: 3 – 4 Minutes Per Side, 130 – 135°F
  • Medium: 4 – 5 Minutes Per Side, 140 – 145°F
  • Medium-Well: 5 – 6 Minutes Per Side, 150 – 155°F 
  • Well Done: 6 – 7 Minutes Per Side, 160 – 165°F
  1. Transfer to a plate or rack and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving. 


Smoked cowboy cut steak is a delicacy that all steak lovers have to try at least once. It may just become a lavish new favorite. Here’s how to smoke bone-in ribeye to perfection. 

  1. Begin with a pre-seasoned/pre-marinated steak or season and set aside to reach room temperature.
  2. Let your smoker reach a temperature of between 225 – 250°F.
  3. Lay the steaks onto the smoker grates.
  4. Do your utmost to ensure a steady smoke throughout the process while following any of the following smoking times:
  • Rare: 1 Hours
  • Medium-Rare: 1 1/4 Hours
  • Medium: 1 1/2 Hours
  • Medium-Well: 2 Hours
  • Well-Done: 2 1/2 Hours
  1. Remove from the smoker and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

Different wood chips impart unique subtle flavors. Mesquite is about the boldest with a deep earthy taste. Oak is milder and sweet and accentuates the natural flavor of the meat well. Pecan chips are nutty and sweeter, which adds a twist than those fond of the taste of glazes will love. Apple wood chips are a great all-arounder that adds sweetness and mild but pronounced smokiness. Cherry wood chips are fruity and imbue an off-sweet undertone that serves as a wonderful contrast to the buttery richness of a steak. Be sure to try out different variations mindfully to find your own personal favorite. 


Sous vide cooking is a great way to achieve a consistent, perfectly cooked cowboy cut steak. What makes sous vide steak different is that the meat develops a wonderful buttery richness that almost adds a sweet quality. Here are the instructions for perfect sous vide bone-in ribeye.

  1. Season your steak liberally and seal it in a vacuum-sealed bag.
  2. Heat your water bath to any of the desired temperatures based on the doneness you prefer:
  • Rare: 130°F
  • Medium-Rare: 135°F
  • Medium: 140°F
  • Medium-Well: 145°F
  • Well-Done: 150°F

Please Note – Those who enjoy their steak well under medium but a touch over medium-rare most-often find 137°F to be the sweet-spot, so give it a try.

  1. Sous-vide for three hours.
  2. Preheat a skillet or heavy-bottomed pan and coat it with a thin layer of oil.
  3. Once piping hot, sear each side of each steak for 1 1/2 minutes while basting with either butter or oil halfway through cooking.
  4. Transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

10 Tips For Cooking A Perfect Cowboy Cut Steak

Are you ready to elevate your steaks to a gourmet dining experience? Our top ten tips for cooking the perfect cowboy steak have you covered with all the tricks needed to wow your guests and palate.

Start With A Room-Temperature Steak

Take the steak out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to ensure even cooking throughout.

Season Generously

Opt for a good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season both sides of the steak. Many advise salting thick steaks like a bone-in ribeye liberally and then allowing the seasoning to penetrate overnight while standing on a baking sheet upon a wire rack in the refrigerator overnight. The longer, the better, with a maximum duration of 24 hours. 

Use Oil With A High Smoking Point

Use a high smoke point oil, like avocado, peanut, canola or grapeseed oil, to coat the steak before cooking.

Heat The Pan Or Grill Thoroughly

Make sure the pan or grill is hot before adding the steak. This will give you a nice crust.

Don’t Move The Steak Around

Once the steak is on the pan or grill, resist the urge to move it around. Let it cook undisturbed for at least 2-3 minutes on each side.

Flip Once Only

Only flip the steak once during each part of the cooking process, as this will ensure a nice, even crust on both sides as long as you haven’t shifted the steak around frequently. This means sear one side, then flip, cook, then flip, cook the remaining side finish. 

Use A Meat Thermometer

Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. You’re aiming for an internal temperature of 125 – 130°F for rare, 130 – 135°F for medium rare, 140 – 145°F for medium, 150 – 155°F for medium-well, and 160°F and above for well-done. Always insert into the thickest part of the steak, and always far from the bone. 

Let It Rest

Once the steak is cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan or grill and let it rest for at least 5 – 10 minutes before slicing. Ten is always better than five. Otherwise, you’ll lose all its juices leaving your steak dryer and filled with less flavor than it should while creating a mess on your plate at the same time. 

Always Slice Against The Grain

When slicing the steak, make sure to cut against the grain to ensure a tender bite. When one slices against the grain, muscle fibers are cut into short segments, which grants tenderness while allowing the steak to retain more of its juices better as well. Otherwise, the unbroken muscle fibers left intact by slicing with the grain make the meat chewy, tough, and far less succulent.

Experiment With Butter, Marinades, Rubs, Some Acid & Add Char

Finish the steak off with a pat of butter for added richness and flavor. Marinades work well with cowboy cut steak, so be sure to try out new red wine reductions and other exciting flavors. A little lemon or a dash of balsamic vinegar is just what some people need to balance and finish off their steak perfectly. Dry rubs add depth to any steak, and a little char is always needed just don’t burn it.

Cowboy Cut Steak Buying Tips

Meat quality makes a massive difference when preparing steak. There’s a night and day difference in taste and tenderness between a cheap cowboy cut steak with virtually no marbling at all and a vivid bright red cowboy steak with an abundance of speckles of fat evenly dispersed. 

Cowboy Cut Steak – Frequently Asked Questions

Are you still wondering anything about the super succulent cowboy cut steak? We’ve got the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this highly sought-after cut of beef coming up.

Is A Cowboy Cut Steak A Good Cut?

A cowboy cut steak is a truly exceptional cut of beef. It boasts an abundance of marbling which results in a succulent, flavorful and tender steak no matter which method of cooking is employed. Despite being more affordable than ribeye and filet mignon, a cowboy cut steak is still a gourmet piece of meat but one that doesn’t break the break. It’s a little pricier than sirloin but also far better eating.

What Can I Substitute For A Cowboy Cut Steak?

The Tomahawk steak comes from the same rib region as the cowboy cut and looks very similar to its smaller counterpart. A cowboy cut steak and a tomahawk are essentially the same pieces of meat. It’s the top substitute but as the second-best alternative, go for a ribeye or a bone-in prime rib roast for a very similar flavor profile and texture, just at the cost of longer cooking time.

What Is The Difference Between A Cowboy Cut Steak And A Tomahawk?

The bone-in ribeye cut becomes referred to as a tomahawk instead when the bone measures more than five inches. A tomahawk which features as its key characteristic the rib bone extending far past the meat, doesn’t just serve as a striking centerpiece to any plate. It also imparts a rich, meaty flavor.

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