If you are unsure of the differences between bone-in and boneless ribeye, and how they will affect your cooking, you have come to the right place.
Generally, bone-in and boneless ribeye taste pretty much the same. Is that all? The conversation surrounding the differences between bone-in vs boneless steak has sparked strong arguments among lovers of beef meat!
The first difference between the two types is implied in the name. Bone-in ribeye has a bone in it and boneless doesn’t. Other differences lie in the price, how each type impacts the cooking process, the overall texture of the steak, shape, seasoning, and final taste.
At a Glance: Bone-in vs Boneless Ribeye
Below are the main differences between bone-in and boneless ribeye.
|Characteristic||Bone-in Ribeye||Boneless Ribeye|
|Shape||Retains shape after cooking||May disintegrate|
|Ideal cooking method||Slow and low temp smoking||Grilling|
|Seasoning||Uneven seasoning penetration||Better seasoning penetration|
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Let’s unpack these differences in detail so we can shed some light on this matter and you can make your educated decision.
Table of Contents
What is Bone-in and Boneless Ribeye?
Like I mentioned previously, bone-in ribeye contains a piece of the rib bone. What differs is the size. The bone can either extend just beyond the tip of the ribeye muscle or be trimmed and much smaller. Also, bone-in meat has more muscle and connective tissue. This is especially true regarding the meat closer to the bone.
Boneless ribeye on the other hand is just that—boneless! This means it contains less connective tissue and muscle in general.
What’s the Price Difference?
In the meat world, boneless meat is generally more expensive than meat that contains bones. This applies to all types of meat be it pork, chicken, and ribeye.
The obvious reasoning behind this is boneless meat often means there’s more “steak” to consume. Also, for meat to be boneless, it may mean someone has to go through the process of removing bone from the meat. Have a look at this video to see how the deboning process is handled. Needless to say, we have to pay for this labor!
That’s why you’ll find boneless ribeye fetches a higher price tag than its bone-in counterpart.
How it Impacts the Cooking Process
Believe it or not, bone-in and boneless ribeye impact the cooking process differently. Experts have reason to believe bone-in ribeye makes the cooking process a little difficult.
And the reasoning behind this logic is based on insulation. Because of bone, meat close to the bone tends to cook much slower. This is because bones take longer to heat up given their tough nature. Using a smoker is the best way to cook bone-in ribeye steaks.
It follows that other parts of meat further away from the bone tend to cook much faster. The end result is unevenly cooked ribeye.
That’s something you don’t have to worry about when cooking boneless ribeye. Your steak will cook evenly since there’s no bone to interfere with temperature variations, insulation, and the overall cooking process.
[Related Post: How to Grill a Tomahawk Steak]
How About Texture?
Another key difference lies in the overall texture of your ribeye after cooking. Because of the insulation process and the presence (or lack thereof) of muscle and connective tissue, the texture of the meat is also affected. Boneless ribeye has less muscle, so better heat penetrates results in a less chewy texture. Because bone-in ribeye has more tissue, heat penetration is limited resulting in a chewy texture.
However, the final texture also depends on the level of meat doneness you’re after. If you’re cooking your ribeye to medium doneness, meat close to the bone ends up being much more tender, not to mention juicier. I know I speak for most meat lovers when I say that’s the epitome of well-cooked meat. But of course, palates differ!
If, however, you’re more of a medium-rare meat kind of person, you risk having a chewy texture closer to the bone compared to the rest of the meat.
You don’t have to worry about such scenarios with the boneless ribeye. If you want your boneless steak medium, that’s exactly what you’ll get; tender and juicy meat throughout. If you want it medium-rare, your entire boneless steak will be medium-rare. But bear in mind your cooking skills and the equipment you use will to a large extent contribute to the final texture of your ribeye. But that’s a conversation for another day.
What About the Shape?
The final shape of your ribeye will differ depending on whether you cook bone-in or boneless. However, the difference isn’t as apparent. The bone present in ribeye helps retain the shape of meat throughout the cooking process. So does the presence of muscle and tissue.
Boneless steak has less muscle and may end up disintegrating especially if you cook your meat for longer periods of time and at high temperatures.
When it comes down to it, the bottom line is the difference between the taste of bone-in and bone-less ribeye. After all, how your meat tastes is essentially why strong arguments between the two types are raised in the first place, right?
On one extreme, we have meat enthusiasts who swear by the divine taste of bone-in ribeye. This half believes bone makes your meat extra tasty. They’ll argue that flavors released from the bone infuse with the rest of the meat to create that distinct delicious meaty flavor we love so much.
Let me unpack this theory in depth. Bone contains a substance called the marrow. And marrow can either be red or yellow. Pro- bone lovers believe yellow marrow is extremely delicious and gives your meat a distinct butter flavor.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have grillers who argue that the bone-in ribeye has no impact on flavor AT ALL. So, whether you cook bone-in or boneless ribeye there’s no difference.
The argument here is that cow bones are not porous and are near impermeable. As a result, there is no way flavors from the bone are transferred to the rest of the meat. Also, it’s believed there’s a layer of collagen between bone and meat. This collagen consequently inhibits any flavors from sipping from the bone to the meat and vice versa.
Meat purists decided to put both bone-in and boneless ribeye to the test, weigh in on both arguments, and reach a verdict. They have since discovered that indeed bones aren’t porous. This is true of both animal and human bones. In fact, porous bones are undesirable and can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis or rickets.
As a result, because of the non-porous nature, the flavor can’t be transferred from the marrow to the steak. Therefore, the final conclusion is that boneless meat and bone-in meat are indistinguishable when discussing flavor.
Where bone-in ribeye lovers can win the argument of whether it tastes better than boneless is if they throw seasoning into the mix.
Bone doesn’t impact flavor. BUT boneless ribeye exposes more surfaces for easier seasoning penetration. As a result, seasoned boneless ribeye will end up more flavorful than bone-in!
Should You Smoke or Grill Bone-in and Boneless Ribeye?
You have all of the facts regarding the differences between the two types of ribeye. Now let’s discuss whether it’s best to smoke or grill bone-in or boneless ribeye for optimum results.
Based on the temperature variations mentioned earlier, and how each type impacts the cooking process, it’s clear it’s difficult to cook bone-in ribeye at high temperatures.
High temperatures will erode the bulk of the juices leaving your meat dry and chewy. As such, slow smoking is recommended for bone-in ribeye. Here temperatures are lower allowing for evenly cooked meat. Grilling bone-in meat at high temperatures isn’t advisable.
On the other hand, boneless meat takes less time to cook in general and is likely to result in even temperature distribution. This makes it perfect to use faster cooking methods like grilling. Heat can easily penetrate into the deeper layers of meat without any bone interference. Simply make sure you use lower temperatures instead of high to avoid drying out your meat.
Why Discuss Bone-in vs Boneless Ribeye?
The differences between bone-in and boneless ribeye are a topical issue among chefs, grill masters, and ordinary meat lovers because, in some parts, both are mentioned interchangeably. Some steak houses even refer to a ribeye with or without bone as rib steak! This often creates a lot of confusion among meat enthusiasts.
Also, the debate aims to ascertain whether bone indeed changes the flavor of the meat or not.
You may also be interested in finding out the differences between the ribeye and picanha in this article.
I’ve given you all the pointers you need to know if ever you happen to find yourself in the middle of a raging discussion between bone-in and boneless rib eye! To round up, bone-in ribeye has more muscle, is chewier, and ideal for smoking. Boneless ribeye has less tissue, is less chewy, and better suited for grilling.
As a takeaway, remember bone doesn’t affect the taste of your ribeye. However, boneless ribeye is easier to season than bone-in which can dramatically improve its final flavor.
But ultimately whether someone prefers bone-in or boneless ribeye will always be a matter of individual preference. No amount of arguing can sway one’s opinion!