There are countless cuts of meat and different types of steak, but two of the most popular are undoubtedly the prime rib and ribeye.
Problem is, as both names sound fairly similar to each other, people often can’t tell the difference between prime rib and ribeye.
The downside to there being so many different cuts of meat in beef is that it’s often hard to differentiate them all.
You can’t just order a regular steak – you need to specify what type of steak you want.
The cut you ask for will determine its price, its taste, its texture, and its cooking process.
So, it’s important to understand what type of steak you’re asking for.
If you’re wondering “what’s the difference between prime rib and ribeye?”, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s everything you need to know about prime rib vs ribeye!
What Is Prime Rib?
As the name suggests, prime rib is a cut of meat from the primal rib area of a cow, located just after the shoulder section.
Prime rib is arguably the most popular cut of meat for roasting beef, thanks to its juicy texture and flavorsome taste.
It is most commonly cut with the bone included, as this adds to the juiciness of the meat.
Also known as ribeye roast or standing rib roast, this section is made up of seven ribs, making the prime rib one of the heaviest cuts of meat at over 20 pounds.
Despite this, it is commonly cut and sold in sections depending on what texture and taste people want.
Prime rib cuts come with a fat cap to keep the meat moist and heavy marbling. Here are the sections of prime rib:
You can buy the loin end of prime rib, which consists of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth ribs. This cut is also known as the first cut.
The loin end is arguably the most popular cut of the prime rib, as it features less fat and is therefore more juicy and tender.
Also known as the blade end, the chuck end refers to ribs 6 through 9.
This end of the prime rib is popularly bought for roast dinners, as it’s filled with more fat and connective tissue, and therefore is very juicy.
What Is Ribeye?
Ribeye is one of the most popular types of steak that comes from the primal rib cut.
Also known as beauty steaks, ribeye steaks are juicy and flavorful with the right amount of fat to provide a slightly tough, yet highly satisfying, bite.
These cuts can be bought either with or without the bone.
The exact section of the primal rib that the ribeye comes from is between the sixth and twelfth rib of a cow.
It features three muscles – Longissimus Dorsi, Complexus, and Spinalis.
So, when you buy a ribeye steak, you are also buying the three muscles that make up the steak.
Longissimus Dorsi is the actual “eye” of the ribeye, which is the circular-shaped cut in the middle of the steak.
Complexus is a small muscle attached to Longissimus Dorsi, and Spinalis is another muscle only separated by a layer of fat.
What’s The Difference Between Prime Rib And Ribeye?
So, we’ve established what prime rib is and what ribeye is, but what’s the difference between them?
Both prime rib and ribeye come from the same cut of meat – the primal rib.
Remember when we said the prime rib is actually over 20 pounds of ribs?
Yup, the ribeye is actually a steak cut from the prime rib section.
While the prime rib is a large section of beef that is typically cooked with the bones still inside the meat, ribeye is cut from the most tender part of the prime rib (between the 6th and 12th ribs).
The reason why the ribeye section is so tender is because of the high amount of marbling, which is the connective tissue responsible for making the steak juicy and tender.
So, we’ve established the difference in cut between prime rib and ribeye, but let’s take a look at their other differences.
Both the prime rib and ribeye are full of flavor, which is part of the reason why the terms are often used interchangeably.
Some will argue that ribeye cuts are far more flavorful than prime rib cuts, but it mostly comes down to personal preference and how the meat is cooked.
In reality, both prime rib and ribeye are beefy and full of flavor.
However, others will argue that prime rib cuts are more flavorful than ribeye steaks because prime rib cuts come with bones.
The inclusion of bones helps to contribute to the rich flavor, along with the marbling and extra fat.
Ribeye is actually slightly milder than prime rib cuts for this reason, but it’s still very similar in taste and tenderness thanks to the inclusion of marbling, which makes it melt in the mouth when cooked properly.
The key difference between prime rib and ribeye is that while prime rib is classified as a roast, ribeye is classified as a steak.
As a result of this, the cooking methods for both cuts of meat are very different, resulting in different textures.
Prime ribs need to be roasted at lower temperatures with a long cooking time for the best results.
They can be cooked in a similar way to brisket, for example, because there needs to be enough time for the connective tissue to properly break down for a juicy texture.
Ribeye steaks, however, can be cooked within a matter of minutes.
These are thin cuts of meat that are seared on a frying pan or cast iron pan (or a grill), cooking either side for several minutes depending on how you take your steak.
Inevitably, the size of a prime rib cut means that you can expect to pay more money for a large cut compared to a smaller ribeye.
This is especially true if you buy a large cut of prime rib with the bones included.
However, if you look at the cost difference between prime rib and ribeye per pound, then you’ll actually find that ribeye costs more than prime rib!
This is because ribeye is a desirable cut of meat, even though spending more money on prime rib will leave you with more meat all together.
The main reason why ribeye costs more than primal rib cuts is because ribeye is in a higher demand.
It’s arguably one of the most popular forms of steak in the world, so butcher stores make use of the high demand by keeping the prices slightly higher.
When you go to a steakhouse, you’ll probably find that prime rib is cheaper than ribeye steak on the menu.
This actually doesn’t have anything to do with the desirability, however.
It’s because it’s easier and cheaper to cook the whole prime rib and cut off slices when an order comes, compared to cooking individual steaks per order.
How To Cook Prime Rib Vs Ribeye
There are two main ways to cook prime rib – in the oven or in the smoker.
While the oven method works just fine, smoking a prime rib allows you to experiment with different wood flavors, which can further enhance the meaty flavors of the meat.
- Before anything, remove the prime rib from the refrigerator and allow it to meet room temperature for at least 3 hours before cooking. Loosely wrap it in butcher paper after sprinkling the top with salt.
- Unless your butcher has done this for you, cut away the bones and tie them back onto the meat with string. This will help with carving.
- Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, or the highest your oven will go. Once preheated, lower to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
- Pat the meat dry and season with salt, pepper, and your chosen seasoning mix.
- Cook the roast with the fat at the top.
- Use a thermometer to test the internal temperature and prod with a fork when it hits the stall period at 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lower the temperature to 325 degree Fahrenheit at the end of roasting.
The cooking time will depend on the size of the cut and your preference.
The rule of thumb is to cook for 11-12 minutes per pound for rare prime rib, and 13-15 per pound for medium rare, and so on.
The smoking method is fairly similar to the oven method, except for the best results, you need to cook the meat at a lower temperature and for longer.
- Preheat the smoker to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Follow the first step of the oven method, pat down the meat, and season.
- The rule of thumb is to cook the meat for 45 minutes per pound.
- Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
- When the internal temperature hits 135 degrees Fahrenheit, remove and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
The best way to cook ribeye is by grilling or frying it. Fortunately, ribeye is far easier and quicker to cook than prime rib!
So, either fry it on a cast iron skillet/frying pan with oil and your chosen seasoning, or cook it on the grill in an oven.
Just make sure not to over or undercook it depending on how you prefer to eat your steak.
So, there you have it! While ribeye is a cut from the prime rib, both cuts are actually quite different to each other.
To put it simply, ribeye is a steak, while prime rib is a bigger cut used for roasting.