Prime rib and ribeye sound similar, and yes, these excellent cuts both come from the same part of the cow, the rib. The rib counts for some of the most expensive cuts of meat as it is tender and is marbled throughout. The fat makes the meat juicy and tender in both cuts. However, they look, taste, and are prepared differently.  

In this article, we will be taking a look at what the differences are between the two, for example in the taste and texture and how to cook both for the perfect meal. 

The Differences Between Prime Rib and Ribeye Steak

Prime rib is a roasting joint that usually contains a lot of the rib bone. However, ribeye is taken from the meat in-between the 6th and 12th rib and it is very tender. Perhaps you are wondering why it is more tender than other parts of the cow. Well, the tenderness relates to the amount of work the muscle does. The muscle, longissimus dorsi, which makes up the ribeye isn’t used a lot, making it tender. Because of this, you will find that it is an expensive steak.

When you order prime rib in a restaurant, you will get a piece of meat cut from a roast. However, with ribeye, the steak has already been cut and trimmed. You are able to order the steak to be cooked to the level of doneness that you want. This can vary from blue rare to well done.

Prime Rib vs Rib Eye, Taste and Texture

Both cuts have a rich flavor, but this tends to be stronger in the prime rib because of the bones, fat, and tissue that you find in a roasting joint. The fat bastes the joint throughout the cooking time.

Ribeye steak is milder, but the marbling in this cut gives it a buttery taste and it melts in the mouth.

Prime rib is cooked at a low temperature for some time, while ribeye should be pan-seared quickly.

More About the Prime Rib

Prime rib is a large bone-in roasting joint. It is also known as beef rib roast or standing rib roast. The reason that it is often called standing rib roast is that the ribs are often stacked vertically to let the juices penetrate the whole rib. It has quite a lot of fat which renders down and makes the meat moist and tender. There’s little chance for the meat ending up dry.

However, be careful. Just because it has prime in the name doesn’t mean that it is USDA prime beef which is reared ethically. When you go out and purchase it, ask if it is USDA prime beef.

More About Ribeye

To be a ribeye steak the meat must be cut before it is cooked, and it mustn’t contain any bone. It is the most tender rib cap that you will find. 

The ribeye is also known as the Spinalis Dorsi and it’s a delicate meat. You probably won’t be able to find these steaks in the supermarket but hop along to your butcher and he may well have some in stock. However, be prepared to pay more for it as it is one of the most requested pieces of meat.

Cost

Because you are buying a prime rib roast, it will cost more than a few ribeye steaks. However, because ribeye is such a tender piece of meat you will probably be paying more for it pound-per-pound.

It may be difficult to purchase a full prime rib roast from the supermarket, so head over to your local butcher who is more likely to provide you with what you want.

When you go to a restaurant you will probably find that a ribeye steak will cost more than a slice of prime rib. You may wonder why, but it is easier for them to cook a prime rib and slice it rather than cook a ribeye to order. There is always the question of searing it to the doneness of what the customer wants, be it rare, medium-rare, or well done. 

How to Cook Prime Rib

There are a lot of differences between cooking prime rib and ribeye so let’s first take a look at prime rib. 

Prime rib doesn’t need a marinade, but you can put on a seasoning rub. An example of a rub would contain Dijon mustard, pepper, garlic, lemon zest, and a mixture of fresh herbs which can be chosen to suit your taste. It is best not to put the salt on until the last minute as you don’t want to overpower the flavor. You can rub this seasoning in up to 24 hours before cooking. If you do this, wrap the joint in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook. If you like garlic, you can make tiny slits in the roast and insert slices of garlic in them. It’s a delicious touch.

You don’t need to bring the joint up to room temperature as it doesn’t matter if the outside heats up faster than the inside. You’ll get a nice crisp bark on the outside and a pink center. 

You will need a roasting pan just a little bigger than the joint. You don’t want it to be cramped, as you may not getting even cooking. However, you also don’t want it too big as the juices will spread in the tin and evaporate. You will want the juices to firmly stay in the meat. If you have a boneless joint, it’s best to cook it on a roasting rack. However, if you have a bone in your joint that will work well as the rack.

There is more fat on one side of the joint and you will want to have this on the top so that the meat will baste itself. It doesn’t need water in the pan nor does it need to be covered. 

Now comes the good part. How do you cook your prime rib? Well, there are three ways. The first is on a high temperature, 450F for 30 minutes and then 325F for 13-15 minutes for each pound of meat. Secondly, you can cook it at a low temperature for 17 – 20 minutes per pound. The temperature should be 325F. Finally, you can cook it both hot and fast and low and slow. You will need to firstly cook on high to sear the meat, then turn down the oven after 30 minutes to finish.

Your roast won’t shrink much if you cook it long and slow, but you won’t get the crispy outside that a high temperature gives.

To work out if your meat has reached the right temperature you will need a meat probe. Put it in the middle of the roast, being careful to avoid the pan, the bone, and the fat. If you want it to be medium-rare, the temperature should be 130F – 140F. and medium should be 145F – 155F Remember that the temperature can rise 5F after you remove it from the oven.

You will need to leave the meat to rest for about 15 minutes so that the juices all return to the center. Then you can carve. The ends will be more well-done, while the center will be rarer. 

Prime rib doesn’t need much added, but it is good with pan drippings or horseradish sauce on the side.

How to Cook Ribeye

Fillet steak and other leaner steaks can be cooked rare, but ribeye is better off being cooked medium rare as it gives the fat in the meat time to render down and flavor the meat with its’ juices.

Unlike with prime rib, it is important to remove the steaks from the fridge at least half an hour before cooking. This makes sure that the steak is cooked the same throughout. Once the ribeye is ready for cooking, sprinkle a good amount of salt and pepper on each side. It is best to do this from a height as this ensures that it is evenly covered with the seasonings.

You will probably be cooking more than one steak so make sure that your pan is big enough. You don’t want the steaks too close as that will stop them from being cooked evenly. If you need to, use 2 pans and keep them at the same heat.

You should have an extremely hot pan for your ribeye steaks. Once the pan has reached temperature, cook the steaks on a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. You may need to cook them for a minute or so extra if they are thicker than normal. You should have a meat probe to check the temperature to see if it’s done. Your steak should be 148F for medium-rare and 158F for well-done. You will need to flip the steak halfway through the cooking process. This is a good time to add some butter, thyme, and garlic and baste for a minute. It gives an incredible taste. 

When the steaks are cooked, leave them to rest for about 5 minutes. They go well with fries and grilled mushrooms and perhaps a sauce.

Final Thoughts

It is not easy to say if prime rib is better than ribeye or vice versa. Although they both come from beef ribs, they are vastly different pieces of meat, both delicious in their own way. If you are keener to have a slice of roast beef, go for the slow-cooked prime rib. However, if you prefer a seared steak, the ribeye is for you.