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Prime Rib vs Ribeye: 3 Key Differences (& How To Cook Best)

Prime rib vs ribeye - what's the difference?

You've come to the right place.

We explain the major differences in taste, cooking style, and for feasting. 

And you'll learn how to cook these amazing cuts of beef better.

Let's break it down.

Prime Rib vs Ribeye

What Cut of Meat is Prime Rib?

What Cut of Meat is Prime Rib?

Prime rib is considered to be the traditional roast beef that many of us have enjoyed for Sunday family dinner. Prime rib is a beef that is cut from the rib eye muscle that is located up high on the back of the animal.

The cut includes the sixth to the twelfth ribs of the cow, right between the short loin and chuck section of the animal. This rib eye muscle isn’t exercised as much as other areas of the cow and therefore is one of the most tenderest portions of meat from the animal.

What Cut of Meat is Ribeye?

The ribeye roast is cut from the primal rib of the animal, which is found underneath the front section of the backbone.

The meat can be cut into both a roast and individual ribeye steaks – both offer a rich and tasty cut of meat that has just the right amount of fat marbling throughout.

What Cut of Meat is Ribeye?

What Does Prime Rib Taste Like?

When you eat prime rib, you can’t mistake the taste – the meat is rich and tender, juicy and full of intense beef flavor without being overwhelming.

Not all prime rib is cooked with the bone in but keeping the bone in while cooking adds more moisture and flavor.

The meat roasts gently and evenly around the bones, giving prime rib the beautiful beefy taste that it’s known for.

Prime rib is at its best when cooked to a medium-rare. When cooked to more than medium, the meat starts to lose its tenderness.

What Does Ribeye Taste Like?

Ribeye, whether cut as a roast or into steaks, is one of the most tender parts of the cow. Because it comes from the upper rib cage, this area of the animal isn’t used for weight-bearing or much movement.

The less a muscle is used, the more tender the meat will be. It’s also the marbling of fat in the ribeye that gives it a buttery and rich taste. When cooked, the fat in the meat renders down and melts so that it bastes the ribeye from the inside.

This enhances the juiciness and tenderness of the meat.

What Cut of Meat is Used for Prime Rib?

Cut from the beef rib, prime rib is cut from the choicest part of the rib. Not only is it the most tender part of the cow, it also has excellent fat marbling which adds even more flavor and moisture to the meat.

The amount of marbling in the muscle of the rib eye is one of the most important considerations when it comes to grading meat – the more marbling there is the higher the grade of the cut.

What is Prime Rib vs Ribeye?

Often called a standing rib roast, prime rib comes from the same part of the cow as the ribeye – the primal rib area. One of the biggest differences when it comes to prime rib vs ribeye roast is the cost, which is based on the cut of the meat.

Both prime rib and ribeye can be cut in various ways. Prime rib can refer to the whole rib roast which you can then carve into individual portions. Prime rib is typically purchased with the bone in, although you can also order with the bone removed.

What is Prime Rib vs Ribeye

Ribeye can also be bought with the bone in or out. The boneless cuts for both prime rib and ribeye are more expensive than those with the bone in. As a rule, prime rib will give you a bigger cut of meat that contains the ribeye area of the animal as well.

The ribeye will give you the best cut of meat but in a smaller size cut.

For both cuts of meat, keep in mind that cooking with the bone in will keep the meat more tender and juicier. 

Prime Rib vs Ribeye, Which is Better for the Holidays?

Debating whether to serve prime rib vs ribeye roast for the holidays? Because of the full and rich flavor of a prime rib, and the expense, prime rib is often reserved for special occasions and holidays.

When buying a prime rib, because of the cost, you’ll want to be sure you buy enough for each person to eat while still staying within your budget.

But how much prime rib per person is the right amount?

As a rule, when buying a prime rib roast, you’ll need to factor in one pound of bone in meat for each person.

What Taste Better - Prime Rib vs Ribeye?

The taste of prime rib vs ribeye roasts is quite similar, although there are a couple of differences. The prime rib roast has fat that is marbled both around and inside the roast.

If the cut is taken from the larger end of the cow, the ends of the roast can be tougher. If the prime rib roast is cut from the smaller end of the animal, the meat is more tender and leaner.

The ribeye roast is usually cut from the smaller end of the rib and so is always marbled and tender.

What Taste Better - Prime Rib vs Ribeye?

Prime Rib vs Ribeye, What Tastes Better?

Prime Rib vs Ribeye, What Tastes Better?

When is comes to steak, prime rib vs ribeye, it’s the ribeye steak that’s going to give you the most flavor and punch for your effort and cost.

Ribeye steaks are moist and tasty when grilled and barbecued, making them the perfect choice for cooking at home.  If you’re dining out and in the mood for steak, ordering the ribeye steak ensures that you’re getting the most flavorful of steaks on the menu. 

The robust flavor of the ribeye is a favorite for steak aficionados around the world. 

Many fine steak restaurants will have a version of both boneless and bone in ribeye – keeping the bone in ensures even more juice on your plate.

How to Cook a Ribeye Roast

Once you’ve decided to impress your guests there’s the question of how to cook a ribeye roast whether its bone in or bone removed. The two best ways to cook a ribeye are by roasting in the oven or by grilling.

Cooking Ribeye Roast in the Oven

The ribeye is one of the best cuts of meat for roasting in the oven.

By slow cooking at a lower oven temperature the beef keeps more its moisture content than when cooked in a hotter oven.

Here’s the best way to roast your ribeye:

Cooking Ribeye Roast in the Oven
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Make an herb rub for the ribeye. Mix together 1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary, sage, and thyme. Add a ½ teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Combine all into 1 tablespoon of oil – the oil will help the mixture bind so it’s easier to rub. Double the amount for larger cuts of ribeye roast.
  • Cover the ribeye roast with the herb rub, coating well.
  • Place the roast into a large roasting pan. Lay it down with the flat side up – place a meat thermometer into the middle where the roast is thickest.
  • Roast the ribeye for about 25 minutes for each pound in weight. For a 5-pound roast this means about two hours of roasting time.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature of the meat and remove the roast from the oven accordingly: 140°F is rare, 160°F is medium, and 170°F is well done.
  • Remove the ribeye from the oven and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. During this time the meat will continue to cook. Resting also lets the juices settle into the meat so they don’t run out of the meat when cut.

Cooking Ribeye Roast on the Grill

Cooking Ribeye Roast on the Grill

Cooking a ribeye roast on the grill is just as tasty as roasting in the oven.

The trick to keeping the meat nice and tender is to first sear the meat at a high temperature and then cook at a lower heat.

This gives the meat a nice crispy crust while sealing in all the juices.

  • Let the roast rest at room temperature for about 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Rub the roast with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Or season with a dry rub of your choice, blending together your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Let the roast rest for another 15 minutes and then repeat with the oil and seasoning, adding a second layer for added flavor.
  • Heat the grill to a high heat.
  • Place the roast on the grill and sear on high for 2 to 3 minutes for each side.
  • Leave one burner on high and turn off other burners. Move the ribeye roast to the cooler area of the grill, making sure to lay the roast so the fat side of the meat is up.
  • Lower the lid and grill for 1 hour. Turn the roast, lower the lid again and roast for approximately another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Use a thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature. The temperature of the grill should remain at a constant 300°F – adjust as needed.
  • Time for grilling will depend on the size of the roast and the internal temperature of the grill. As a rule, grill for about 15 minutes for each pound. Use a meat thermometer to check the roast. Remember to remove the roast from the grill about 10 minutes before reaching the desired temperature so the meat can rest. 140°F rare, 160°F medium, or 170°F well done.
  • Transfer the ribeye to a board for cutting and cover loosely with aluminum foil – let sit for another 10 to 20 minutes before serving to let the juices settle throughout the meat.

How to Cook Boneless Prime Rib

When cooking a boneless prime rib, it’s much easier to calculate how many pounds you’re going to need to serve.

Just how much prime rib per person?

It’s better to have too much meat than not enough so plan on about 1 pound for each person:

 How to Cook Boneless Prime Rib
  • Bring the prime rib to room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet on high heat.
  • Pat the meat dry using paper towels. Season with sea salt and pepper.
  • Cook the roast in the skillet, turning so that each side is nicely seared and browned. This should take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the roast.
  • Lay the meat in the skillet so the fat side is up. Place the skillet into the preheated oven.
  • Turn down the oven temperature to 300°F and roast for 1 hour. Continue to roast until meat reached the doneness you’re looking for. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the roast to achieve 140°F for rare, 160°F for medium, or 170°F for well done.
  • For a 7-pound boneless prime rib roast you can expect the meat to cook for about 1 to 1 ½ hours.
  • When done, transfer the prime rib to a cutting board and loosely tent with aluminum foil to let the meat rest for about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

How to Cook a Bone In Ribeye Roast vs Prime Rib

Cooking prime rib vs ribeye is very similar.

As shown above, cooking a ribeye roast with the bone in can be done either in the oven or over a grill. 

When cooking a bone in prime rib roast, follow these steps:

  • 2 hours before cooking, rub the prime rib roast with a dry rub of your choice. This step is key to giving the roast a nice seared crust.
How to Cook a Bone In Ribeye Roast
  • Preheat oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • In a roasting pan, place the roast bone side down. The bones will act as a natural rack for roasting the meat.
  • Roast for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 120°F – this will be approximately 15 minutes for each pound of prime rib. Cook longer to desired meat doneness, remembering that the meat will continue to cook for about 10 minutes after removing from the oven.
  • When carving, cut the tied-up bones and cut crossways.

How to Buy Prime Rib at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores will usually carry both prime rib and ribeye, although prime rib can sometimes be harder to find. There are two reasons for this - typically the cost of prime rib is more expensive due to the richer marbling and flavor in a prime rib.

The other reason is that grocery stores sell more ribeye steaks that are precut than they do a prime rib. You may need to visit a local butcher where you live to get the perfect prime rib. 

Be clear about what you want if you order from a butcher or speciality store. If you request a prime rib, they may think you want only a Choice grade of prime rib.

While also a good cut of meat, if you’re going to go all out and splurge, it’s the Prime grade of prime rib that you’re looking for. Many specialty meat stores label prime rib as “beef bone-in rib roast” to designate it from a Choice grade of prime rib.

With this grade of prime rib, you’re getting just the perfect amount of fat marbling and pockets throughout the meat, making it tender and full of flavor.

Buying Tip

How to Buy Prime Rib at the Grocery Store

Here’s a tip when buying prime rib – to make carving at home easier, ask the butcher to carve along the bones to loosen them a bit.

Once loosened, the bones can be tied with butcher twine. This technique means that after cooking, the prime rib will still have all the juiciness and taste without the fastidious task of carving.

How Much Prime Rib Per Person?

When buying prime rib, it’s important to get the size of the meat right. You can plan on one rib for each person, which equals about one pound of bone in prime rib for each person you’re serving.

This may not sound like it will be enough meat, but don’t forget that you’ll also be serving side dishes with the meat, still keeping the prime rib as the highlight of the meal.

Got leftovers? No problem, there's a quick way to reheat steak for maximum tenderness

Getting Ready to Cook Prime Rib and Ribeye

Now that you know how to cook a ribeye roast and how to cook boneless prime rib, you’re ready to impress your family and guests.

There’s not a lot of difference between prime rib vs ribeyebut understanding the subtilties between each and how to cook them can make all the difference in cooking beef to perfection each and every time.

About the author 

Nate Lau

Nate is an aspiring chef, and father of two. He is always on the lookout to try new healthy recipes and kitchen gadgets. He has a passion for cooking delicious miso black cod and enjoys a nice sip of pinot on occasion.

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