A tomahawk chop is nothing more than a backstrap steak with a rib for a handle—but you don’t need to tell that to your friends or significant other. Just let them go on thinking you’re a gourmet wild game chef and that you put some extra special effort into the meal you made for them. They’ll feel good, you’ll feel good, and dinner will taste good.
This neat cut is actually quite a bit easier to prepare than it might appear. You do need to saw across the rib cage like we did for the French cut rib roast, but that can be accomplished with almost any handsaw or skillsaw in your garage. Pick a line about a third of the way down from the spine and cut cleanly across the ribs.
Next, pick the segment of the backstrap that you want to include in your steaks. Backstraps are thickest near the center, or toward the rear of the ribcage. Choose the number of tomahawk steaks you want to cook, count out that number of ribs, and trace up the both sides of that rib panel just like you would with the French cut I demonstrated. Continue your cut following the contour of the rib until you reach the spine. A stout but flexible blade will make this much easier.
Now you need to remove the backstrap from the spine like you normally would, following down the spinous processes (the bone fins that stick up vertically). Cut barely down the tops of the ribs but no further. You can score the fascia around the rib joints and then break them free from the spine with your hands. Cut away all remaining connective tissue and pull free your rib-loin combo.
Next you’ll want to clean up your ribs for that pretty bone-white appearance on the plate. Start by scoring the membrane along the insides of each rib lightly with your knife blade. You should then be able to tear away the thin covering. Continue trimming and pulling away fascia, fat, and the meat in between the ribs but make sure to leave enough meat to leave them connected to the backstrap.
When your bones are glistening white, you can cut out your individual tomahawk steaks. Remember to follow our principles for properly cutting a steak and make your cuts with one clean, downward stroke. Also make sure your steaks are approximately the same width so they cook evenly. Clean up any remaining silverskin and you’re ready to cook!
We have a large number of venison steak recipes on the MeatEater website and you should choose a dish that highlights the cool rib bones you left attached to this cut to maximize the presentation. The special someone you’re cooking for will notice the extra effort.