What is a Cowboy Cut Steak?

Medium Rare Cowboy Steak On Wooden Cutting Board

Have you ever heard of a cowboy steak? Like you, I, too, had no idea what a cowboy steak was.

While grocery shopping, I noticed there was a cut of beef labeled cowboy cut steak in the display case. I found myself stuck in the meat aisle for 20 minutes trying to google what a cowboy steak cut was.

After coming up short, I headed home and did more research. After finally finding an answer, I drove back to the store, picked up a cowboy steak, fired up my natural gas grill, and grilled it to perfection.

What Is A Cowboy Cut Steak?

The term cowboy steak is not easy to define. The truth is you probably won’t find a clear definition in one search. 

For example, some people call cowboy steak a bone-in ribeye asserting that it is a Tomahawk steak. Some people also assert it is any one of the steaks fabricated from the short loin primal such as the T-bone or porterhouse steak.

There are also those steak enthusiasts who assert that a thick steak that’s grilled over wood or charcoal or a Frenched ribeye, also known as the Tomahawk steak, is a cowboy steak.

Nevertheless, the most popular theory is that a cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye steak that can be Frenched or non-Frenched. All of these definitions of a cowboy steak can be confusing. Luckily, I am here to help you, so you don’t have to sift through tones of web pages to find out what a cowboy steak is.

Restaurants are prone to naming dishes whatever they desire. This is how they make dishes look appealing to customers to increase their business.

Initially, on my search for the definition of cowboy steak, I found several news media outlets and restaurants referring to cowboy steak as several different cuts of beef. Some restaurants use cowboy steaks to refer to Top sirloin, while others use it to refer to a porterhouse steak.

What Cut Of Steak Is A Cowboy Steak?

The term cowboy steak seems to be purely descriptive. However, since the name has caught on in the BBQ and steak world, we’ve been able to clean that definition up. In essence, a cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye steak.

Yes, bone-in-ribeye usually refer to a tomahawk steak with a frenched bone. However, the cowboy steak refers to a ribeye steak with a short, Frenched bone. Tomahawk steaks have a Frenched bone that is a least 5 inches in length.

Regardless of the bone’s length, it has no impact on how the cowboy steak tastes. In most cases, the bone is not wrapped with foil to preserve its color for aesthetic purposes.

What Is The Difference Between A Ribeye And A Cowboy Ribeye

Some people do not believe there is a difference between ribeye steak and cowboy steak. However, the rib eye steak is carved from the beef rib primal of the steer.

Typically rib roasts are almost always boneless. In contrast, the cowboy is a ribeye steak, but it still has the bone attached.

Is Cowboy Steak A Good Cut Of Steak

Since cowboy steaks are thick steaks, they are a delicious cut of beef. In addition to this, cowboy steaks are known for their tenderness and flavor profile.

Their flavor particularly shines through when they are grilled. However, you can broil cowboy steaks in the oven and still yield a delicious steak.

How To Cook A Cowboy Steak

It doesn’t matter whether you are cooking Tomahawk steak, ribeye, or ranch steak; the best way to cook a thick-cut steak is to reverse sear it. In short, reverse searing is creating a double-zoned fire. 

First, the steak is allowed to slowly come up to the internal temperature by cooking it in the indirect zone. Next, the steak is seared in the direct zone until it reaches your desired internal temperature. Finally, you can reverse sear your cowboy steak in the oven and finish it in a hot cast-iron skillet, or you can fire up your natural gas grill as I did.

Many people do not know how to season a steak. You can use your favorite BBQ seasoning to season your steak or season it with salt and pepper.

I find that drying the steak works best. Dry brining causes the steaks muscle fibers to break down. Salt consists of electrically charged sodium and chloride ions.

As the cowboy steak steaks, the salt will pull moisture out of the steak. Salt is soluble, so it will dissolve in the liquid.

The ions will cause the steaks proteins to break down and loosen their muscle fibers. Therefore, the moisture the salt pulled out of the cowboy steak will be reabsorbed back into the cowboy steak.

To dry brine your cowboy steak, season both sides of the cowboy steak with salt and place it onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Place the cowboy steak into the fridge overnight. If you don’t have time, you can also let the steak dry brine for 40 minutes to an hour.

You must let the surface of the steak dry. Wet steaks and hot kamado grills or skillets do not mix. If you place a wet skillet onto a hot grill or skillet, the steak will not have a uniform crust.

Next, you will need to set up your portable pellet grill. To reverse sear your cowboy steak, you will need to create a two-zoned fire. One side of the grill will be generating indirect heat, while the other will be producing direct heat.

You will need a charcoal chimney, fire starter or lighter, charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, and a lighter to start the grill.

If you have used your grill previously, you will need to clean any ash that settled at the bottom of the grill.

Fill your chimney starter with briquettes or lump charcoal. Add your preferred firestarter to the charcoal chimney. Light the starter and wait for the charcoals to glaze over. It will take about 15-20 minutes for the coal to ash over.

Carefully arrange the charcoal on one side of the bottom of the grill once it has ashed over. This will create your two-zoned fire.

Place your grills cooking grates over the coals and cover the grill. After some time, use a grill brush to get rid of any residual food on the surface of the cooking grates. Switch both the intake and exhaust vents to the open position.

After the grills grates are cleaned, allow it to come up to 225°F. Place the cowboy steak onto the indirect heat side of the grill.

You can use a smoker thermometer or an infrared thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the cowboy steak.

If you desire a medium-rare cowboy steak, do not let the temperature rise above 115°F-120°F. Once the temperature is within this range, move it to the direct heat side of the grill. Grill the cowboy steak for 2 minutes, then turn it over and cook it for an additional 2 minutes until it has a temperature between 130°F and 135°F.

Be careful while you are grilling your cowboy steak. As it cooks, the fat will hit the hot coals and cause flare-ups.

Although it’s hard to resist cutting into the cooked cowboy steak, you must let the steak rest. Yes, there will be some moisture lost once you carve the steak.

However, it will be drastically less than if you were to carve the steak as soon as it came off the grill. Your entire butcher block will be covered in the steak’s juices if you cut it right away.

Resting the steak could also cause the crust to become soggy. Covering the entire steak will cause the steak to sweat and soften the crust. However, this is why you tint or partially cover the steak instead of covering the steak tightly with foil.

Remove the cowboy steak and let it rest for 5-10 minutes on a butcher block. In addition to this, you must also consider carryover coking when resting a steak. Essentially, once the steak is removed from the grill, it will not stop cooking. As the cowboy steak rests, it will continue to cook, hence the name carryover cooking.

Because of carryover cooking, you should remove the cowboy steak about 5 degrees before it hits your desired temperature. For example, if you want a medium-rare cowboy steak, remove it from the grill when it is at 125°F. The cowboy steak will rise to 130°F as it rests.

If you do not remove the steak from the grill, your medium-rare steak will quickly turn into a medium-well steak. After your cowboy steak rests, cut it against the grain before serving.

Final Thoughts

Although cowboy steaks are hard to define, I hope I’ve made your job a little easier. Essentially cowboy steak is a bone-in ribeye steak. Although some people will call cowboy steak a glorified ribeye steak, you should try it for yourself and make your own decision.

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