Uncover the art of reverse-searing and unlock the secrets to achieving a juicy and flavorful cowboy steak. Learn the step-by-step process to create a perfectly seared steak recipe that’s tender with incredible flavor. Get ready to impress your taste buds with this ultimate grilling technique.

Steak in cast iron on grill being held by tongs with edge sears.

In this recipe:

There’s something about a cowboy steak that makes a statement. It’s hard not to, with a huge piece of medium-rare beef taking up the whole plate. But the heft and size of this cut of steak aren’t made for a quick sear. To cook it evenly requires a master’s skill and attention for an even cook from edge to edge and the perfect sear on the crust.

Raw cowboy ribeye steak to show short french bone protruding and marbling.
This beautiful cowboy ribeye is from Flannery Beef out of California, USA.

The Cut: What is a Cowboy Steak?

A cowboy steak is nothing more than a thick-cut bone-in ribeye steak with a little more of the bone left sticking out. The rib bone is trimmed to extend past the steak and Frenched, where the bone has been cleaned by a well-trained butcher to extend an inch or two from the cut of beef.

Cut from the rib primal, it has the rich beefy flavor and generous marbling that makes the ribeye one of the most popular cuts of beef. Because this cut is a showstopper, it’s often cut on the thicker side, around 2 to 3 inches, making it a great cut for the reverse sear method on either a traditional grill or smoker or after a sous vide water bath. Because of its size, one cowboy ribeye steak can usually feed two to three people.

Occasionally you can find these at your local grocery store or butcher shop. Otherwise, you can order them directly from our favorite places to buy meat online. These are perfect for special occasions, date nights, or when you really want to WOW a fellow steak lover. It’s also a good choice for when you want a prime rib but are only feeding a few people.

Cowboy steak VS Tomahawk steak

Just like a tomahawk steak is a bone in ribeye with the long frenched bone left on and cleaned for a dramatic look, the cowboy cut ribeye is the same steak with a smaller bone for an impressive presentation. The main difference is that the tomahawk has a much longer bone or that looks like the handle of a tomahawk, hence the name. This cut is a great option when you want the big, bold appeal of a huge steak without the cost of the extra weight from the full rib bone.

Ingredients for this recipe.

Ingredients

Because of the natural marbling in this cut, we keep it very simple with the flavors added. 

  • Cowboy cut steak 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Unsalted butter
  • Garlic 
  • Rosemary 
  • Herb Compound butter 
  • Flakey salt 
  • Black pepper 

How to Grill a Cowboy Steak

Prep steak

To start, remove the steak from the package and pat it dry with paper towels. Season it liberally with salt on all sides and set it on a wire rack above a baking sheet. Place it in the fridge and let it dry brine for at least 8 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, let the cowboy ribeye sit out at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

Prep the grill 

Set up your grill for 2-zone cooking, building a hot side and a cool side. Preheat your gas grill by igniting all of the burners and then cleaning and oiling the grill grates. Then, turn off two of the four burners or one of the three burners, depending on how many burners your grill has.

Add woodchips to smoke on a gas grill, and close the grill lid allowing the grill to preheat to 225 -250 degrees F. Not sure which are the best wood chips for smoking steak? Hickory is our choice, but we’ve got a great smoking wood pairing guide to some other flavor suggestions.

Smoke the steak

We’re reverse searing this thick cut. That’s where the steak is slowly cooked to bring the internal temperature of the meat up and then finished with a fast hot sear in seasoned cast iron for the best edge-to-edge crust, juicy medium-rare center, and maximum flavor.

Place the steak on the cooler side of the grill, with the bone facing towards the hot side. Close the lid and allow the steak to smoke until the internal temperature of the beef reaches 110 to 115 degrees F. This will depend on the thickness of your steak, from 30 to 45 minutes for a 24 to 38-ounce steak. 

Use a meat thermometer for the best results for your desired perfect doneness. Make sure to insert it to the thickest part of the meat and ensure that the probe isn’t touching the bone. If you like your steak a little more done, cook it to 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit before searing.

Sear the steak

Once the steak has cooked, it’s time to get the perfect sear. Preheat a large cast iron pan on the hot side of the grill. Add the butter and swirl to coat. Carefully place the steak in the hot skillet and let it sear for two to three minutes.

Using long tongs, flip the steak to sear the other side. Add the garlic and rosemary to the pan and start spooning the melted butter over the steak.

Once both sides have seared, use the tongs to carefully pick the steak up and sear the thick edge, rotating as needed to get all of the edges.

Rest and Serve

Carefully transfer the perfectly seared steak to a cutting board. Place a dollop of compound butter over the thick steak and tent it with foil. Due to the thickness of this steak, you’ll want to let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

To serve, cut the steak from the bone and then slice it into thick strips against the grain, about 1/2″ thick. For beautiful plating, nestle the meat back along the edge of the bone, pour the reserved juices over top, and season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper. Double down on this rugged cowboy cut and serve it with a ramekin of cowboy butter if you’re feeling cheeky.

Tongs holding up the steak to show the phenomenal crust.

girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

For a charcoal grill:

Set up your charcoal grill for a two-zone fire by building a hot side and a cool side with the coals stacked to one side. Add a wood chunk or smoking wood chips to the charcoal to add a deeper flavor. Then cook as instructed in the recipe card.

We love Cowboy Lump Charcoal when grilling a perfect steak.

For a pellet smoker:

Because most pellet grills don’t have the option for indirect heat, you’ll simply have to heat your smoker in two steps for this recipe. Start by prepping your smoker for 225-250F, as shown in the recipe card, and smoke the steak. We love Jack Daniel’s charcoal pellets for our Traeger grill. For added smoky flavor, we place two large wood chunks in the hot back corner on the grill grates.

Then when you’re ready to sear the steak, remove it from the grill and bump the pellet grill to its sear setting. Preheat your cast iron skillet and sear as directed.

What to serve with

This hearty steakhouse classic deserves side dishes that don’t shrink in comparison to it. We love a classic smoked baked potato, rich, indulgent smoked mac and cheese, and our favorite creamed spinach recipe when we’re keeping it low-carb. It also makes a great surf and turf option paired with butter-poached lobster tails or grilled king crab legs.

If you want to make this steak recipe for a special occasion or fancy date night, top it with smoky crab imperial or a smooth blue cheese sauce.

Wine pairing:

The rich beefy flavor of the steak demands a bold wine. We paired this with a full-bodied red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon; however, a Zinfandel or Syrah are also great choices.

Steak carved from bone and sliced into strips, served in skillet with garlic cloves, salt and pepper sprinkled over top.

Leftovers and Reheating

To store, wrap any leftovers in aluminum foil or place in an airtight container. Make sure to wrap all the juices with the steak too, for added flavor. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

To reheat, only reheat individual portions to not dry out the steak. Reheat wrapped in foil in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through.

We love to use leftover steak chopped up in perfectly scrambled eggs, breakfast hash, chopped for added protein in a breakfast burrito, or atop a cold salad with our tangy keto thousand island dressing on hot summer days.

Close up of the sliced meat garnished with salt and pepper.

FAQs

Do I have to let my steak come to room temperature before cooking?

No, you don’t have to. But, letting a thick cut of meat like the Cowboy Ribeye come to room temperature before cooking helps with more even cooking.

Do I need to let the cowboy steak rest before serving?

Yes, due to the thickness of these bone-in steaks, it’s crucial to let them rest for about 10 to 15 minutes after cooking. Add a dollop of compound butter on top for added flavor. This allows the juices to redistribute and ensures a more tender and flavorful eating experience.

How long should I cook a cowboy steak?

Cooking time can vary depending on the thickness of the steak and your desired doneness. As a general guide, estimate about 15-20 minutes of total cooking time per inch of thickness.

What is the ideal internal temperature for a cowboy steak?

Because the cowboy steak is a ribeye, we prefer ours medium-rare. For a perfect medium-rare cowboy steak, aim for an internal temperature of around 125-130°F. The internal temperature of the steak will continue to rise 5 degrees while it rests. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.

How should I carve a cowboy steak?

After the steak has rested, start by carving the bone from the steak then slicing it into 1/2″ strips against the grain. You can remove the ribeye cap and slice that separately from the eye for the best texture, but we prefer the presentation of the steak sliced as a whole.

More Savory Steak Recipes

Cowboy Ribeye Steak

5 from 16 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 3
Cowboy steak held up by tongs to show the crust.
Indulge in the juicy tenderness of a reverse-seared cowboy steak. Slowly cooked to perfection, this flavorful cut of beef will satisfy even the most discerning meat lovers. With a beautifully seared crust and a perfectly pink center, this steak is a true culinary masterpiece.

Ingredients  

For the cowboy ribeye

  • 24 oz Cowboy cut steak
  • 1 tbsp Kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted butter
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 2 Rosemary sprigs

Instructions 

PREP STEAK

  • Remove the steak from the pacakge and pat dry.
  • Season libaryally on all sides with kosher salt.
  • Set it on a wire rack above a baking sheet. Place it in the fridge and let it dry brine for at least 8 hours.
  • Before cooking cook, let the steak sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

PREP THE GRILL

  • Preheat your gas grill by igniting all of the burners and then cleaning and oiling the grill grates. Then, turn off two of the four burners or one of the three burners, depending on how many burners your grill has.
  • Add woodchips in a smoker box or foil packet if using, and close the grill lid allowing the grill to preheat to 225 -250 degrees F.

SMOKE THE STEAK

  • Place the steak on the cooler side of the grill, with the bone facing towards the hot side.
  • Close the lid and allow the steak to smoke until the internal temperature of the beef reaches 110 to 115 degrees F. This will depend on the thickness of your steak, from 30 to 45 minutes for a 24 to 38-ounce steak.

SEAR THE STEAK

  • Preheat a large cast iron pan on the hot side of the grill.
  • Add the butter and swirl to coat.
  • Carefully place the steak in the hot skillet and let it sear for two to three minutes.
  • Using long tongs, flip the steak to sear the other side. Add the garlic and rosemary to the pan and start spooning the melted butter over the steak.
  • Once both sides have seared, use the tongs to carefully pick the steak up and sear the thick edge, rotating as needed to get all of the edges.

REST

  • Carefully transfer the perfectly seared steak to a cutting board.
  • Place the compound butter over the steak and tent it with foil.
  • Allow the steak to rest for 10-15 minutes.

SERVE

  • To serve, cut the steak from the bone and then slice it into thick strips against the grain, about 1/2″ thick.
  • For beautiful plating, nestle the meat back along the edge of the bone, pour the reserved juices over top, and season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Notes

FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL:
  • Set up your charcoal grill for a two-zone fire by building a hot side and a cool side with the coals stacked to one side. Then cook the cowboy steak as directed above.
  • Add a wood chunk or smoking wood chips to the charcoal to add a deeper flavor. We love Cowboy Lump Charcoal when grilling a perfect steak.
FOR A PELLET SMOKER:
  • Because most pellet grills don’t have the option for indirect heat, you’ll simply have to heat your smoker in two steps for this recipe. Start by prepping your smoker for 225-250F, as shown in the recipe card, and smoke the steak.
  • Then when you’re ready to sear the steak, remove it from the grill and bump the pellet grill to its sear setting. Preheat your cast iron skillet and sear as directed.
  • We love Jack Daniel’s charcoal pellets for our Traeger grill. For added smoky flavor, we place two large wood chunks in the hot back corner on the grill grates.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 552kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 46g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 161mg | Sodium: 2892mg | Potassium: 622mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.03g | Vitamin A: 304IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Kita Roberts

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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5 from 16 votes (16 ratings without comment)

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