If you’re wanting to grill up some steaks this summer, it’s one heck of a rabbit hole. Leaving beside the debate on how cooked your steak needs to be, there are so many types. Two types, prime rib and ribeye, sound similar, but they’re actually quite different.
Let’s look at the two of them and see how they compare and contrast. We’ll also talk about price and how to cook the steak.
Where is it on the Cow?
The reason why they have similar names isn’t any trickery; both are indeed from the rib of the cow. However, the part of the rib they’re cut from is where the difference is.
The prime rib is made up of big sections. It’s known for being quite large, with the bones intact.
Meanwhile, the ribeye part comes from the area of the rib that’s most tender. It’s located in the middle of the 6th and 12th rib. A ribeye steak can come with the bone either in, or out, which affects how best to cook it. The area where butchers cut the ribeye is known as the Spinalis Dorsi. It’s a delicate area that’s also referred to as the ribeye cap. Most cuts of prime rib will not include the ribeye cap, and if you end up finding one, it could cost you a little more.
How They Are Cooked
Every chef has their own way of cooking steaks, but in general, there are two common methods: One more common for the prime rib, and one for the rib eye.
First, the prime rib. This is usually slow cooked, meaning it takes longer and uses a lower temperature. The ribeye on the other hand, is most commonly seared (or “reverse sear”) which uses high heat. Both steaks are usually best cooked to medium rare or medium.
Let’s explain in more detail.
You cook the prime rib at a lower temperature. Usually around 200F for around five hours. Cooking it at a lower temperature gives it the best texture possible, and minimizes the risk of overcooking. As with any steak, dry rubs or seasonings are welcomed and can be used according to your preference.
You should reverse sear the steak in order to get the best results. Preheat the oven to 275F. Then, put it in the oven with a meat thermometer. Heat up a skillet to the highest temperature possible when the steak is approaching the 90-95F range. Once it reaches that, get the meat out of the oven and onto the grill. Use some butter in the pan as well to help achieve that outer “crust” we all love. It won’t take long on each side (30 seconds to 4 minutes depending on the size of the cut), so proceed carefully and keep testing with the thermometer to get it off at the right level of doneness.
With any cut of meat, practice makes perfect. You’re not going to get it right the first time. However, with time, you’ll end up cooking one killer steak. When it comes to cooking, never give up. Mix up the spices or sauces, and see which one is the best for you.
How Does it Taste?
Unless you’re a steak connoisseur, you probably won’t notice a difference in the flavor of these two cuts assuming both are cooked to the same level of doneness.
What you will notice is a difference in the texture. The rib eye, with more fat or marbling, will be softer and more buttery. You’ll probably find it more “juicy” for the same reasons. The prime rib you’ll experience as more beefy and more “fleshy” for lack of a better word. It will be slightly less soft and more textural.
In both you’ll taste the saltiness of your seasoning. You’ll taste some moisture in both. Depending on how your own palette perceives these variables, you may find a preference for one cut over the other.
What About Price?
Because the prime rib is a bigger cut of meat, it tends to cost more, but you get more too. The price of a prime rib can depend on what grade you get as well. Prime-grade can go for more than Choice-grade. Choice has a lower fat marbling count, which it’s not as flavorful. Dry-aging the steak can add a few bucks to the price.
A pound of ribeye is typically going to cost more than prime rib. As mentioned, the rib eye being smooth and buttery makes it ever more popular. The price of a ribeye can also depend on if you want it with the bone or without. The cost of boneless can be more due to the added labor of cutting the meat from the bone. A cut with the ribeye cap can cost more, too.
Ultimately, you have to go to the butcher and compare the prices. If you want more for less, the prime rib is usually the one to go with. Meanwhile, the ribeye is quality over quantity.
In general, the cost per of a prime rib cut is going to be around $10, while a ribeye may go for around $15. As mentioned, prices can fluctuate depending on several different factors.
Which to Pick?
Obviously, that’s up to you. Both are good cuts. Both taste great, have a nice texture, and will keep you satisfied. However, if you’re looking for a nice steak and something you want to cook fast, pick a ribeye. If you want something butterier and something that melts in the mouth, pick the ribeye.
Meanwhile, if you want something slower cooked and something that has more to it, all while having a good flavor, the prime rib is the way to go.
Of course, if you’re super hungry, just eat both.
The fattier rib eye vs the richer, heartier prime rib. The slower cooking vs the faster. But the tastier vs the less tasty? That part’s up to you.
It’s natural that you may have been a little confused with what the prime rib is and how it compares to the ribeye. We hope that this post has clarified what the two are, and we hope you feel as hungry as we do right now. Find a good steakhouse, or a reliable butcher, and get yourself a good piece of meat.