prime rib vs ribeye

Prime Rib vs Ribeye (All Differences Explained)

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According to the name prime rib vs ribeye may sound the same cut of meat. But is prime rib the same as ribeye?Despite coming from the same area of the same animal, there’s very little else these two cuts of meat seem to have in common.

Prime rib and ribeye look and taste quite different. There’s also a considerable difference between ribeye and prime rib in texture as well as cost.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the major differences between these two cuts of meat. We’ll be drawing a comparison between the cut, taste, texture, cost and grade. By the end of this article, you’ll have enough information to know the difference between prime rib and ribeye.

What’s in the Cut?

While it’s true both pieces are cut from the rib of a cow, there are a few major differences in the way they’re cut. In fact, size is the most obvious difference between the two.

prime rib vs ribeye

Prime Rib
Prime rib is primarily a large cut of beef with a large bone. Ordinarily, prime rib is cut from the middle section of the rib area between the 7th and 11th ribs. This rib cut is covered with the most tender and marbled meat as well as a chunky layer of fat. Hence the term prime rib. It’s primarily purchased as a roast and cooked whole before being cut into smaller pieces.

Ribeye is often referred with different names like ribeye or rib eye and ribeye steaks. Ribeye cut is a much smaller steak which either has a small bone, or in some cases, no bone at all. The presence of the bone makes the difference between bone-in vs boneless ribeye. Ribeye is a smaller piece of steak cut from the area near the beef rib. A rib steak usually doesn’t have the muscle and fat that defines a prime rib. These portions of meat are pre-cut before being cooked.

How Texture Differs Between the Two Cuts

The real reason the texture of these two cuts is important is largely due to the way it’s prepared or cooked. The texture is also a key way to tell the difference between the two.

Prime Rib
For the most part, prime rib is made up of sections of ribeye, bones, muscle and fat. This fat layer makes for a softer, richer texture. Because the bone is still inside, prime ribs are definitely moister than the average ribeye. It’s this extra flavor and texture that make prime rib a popular choice for roasts. Prime rib can also be smoked – check out this video if you are keen to smoke a prime rib to perfection.


Ribeye is generally cut from a section of muscle that’s tough. The meat is much tougher than you’d find in a prime rib. This is also why this cut of meat is smaller and cooks faster at a medium to high temperature making it a popular choice for smoking or barbecuing.

Taste Features of Prime Rib and Ribeye

Perhaps the only other factor these two cuts have in common is that both are rated among the most flavorful and juiciest prime rib vs ribeyeof beef cuts. They also both have that distinct beef flavor which you associate with a good, tasty beef cut.

Prime Rib
The thick layer of fat found on a good cut of prime rib is the reason for its richer flavor. The bone left in during cooking provides that extra boost of beef richness. The extra layer of fat also adds a type of buttery flavor to this cut. This is the main reason why most people prefer to cook this cut as a roast, especially over holidays or as part of larger meals.

Ribeye has a milder taste because it’s removed from the rib before being prepared. This cut is also tougher and it’s often cooked with sauces or marinades to enhance the flavor. Here you’d find less flavor than a shank or picanha but generally more than a piece of tenderloin.

Are There Bones in Prime Rib or Ribeye?

When you’re looking at these two cuts of meat side by side, the easiest way to tell them apart aside from their size, is the presence of the bone.

Prime Rib
One large bone and perhaps a few ribs are characteristic of prime rib. This cut of meat can also be sold boneless. You can ask the butcher to cut the meat off the bone. Don’t forget though, removing the bone will affect the taste. It will also make the meat somewhat drier.

Ribeye is primarily sold with the rib bone removed. It can however still have the bone in. Obviously because of the smaller cut, the bone will be smaller. This won’t be a roasting bone as you’d find in the prime rib.

Prime Rib vs Ribeye: How Do the Costs Compare?

There are those people that believe cost is not important when it comes to a good piece of steak. It is interesting though to see how these two stacks up in terms of cost. The costs of each cut are also dependent on the grading which is noted later in this article.

Prime Rib
Why is prime rib so expensive? Due to its size, it is more expensive than a ribeye. Prime graded prime rib sells for approximately $17 per pound while choice grade averages around $13 per pound.

The challenge though is prime rib is not always as easily available as you might think. We recommend you visit a butcher directly for this type of cut. As a rule, supermarkets only carry the smaller pre-cut portions.

Ribeye is readily available in a wide range of restaurants and can be costly. Despite being smaller than prime rib, it’s time consuming to prepare the smaller ribeye. If you’re going to eat out, it’s recommended to enjoy these cuts at a steakhouse as they, in general, have a specialty menu.

Prime graded ribeye average $16 per pound while choice grade cuts average about $12. For select grade cuts you can expect to pay on average $8.00 per pound.

How Are These Cuts Graded?

When it comes to grading prime rib and ribeye, graders evaluate the cuts by the distribution of the marbling. The age of the contributing animal is also taken into consideration to determine the right type of quality.

Beef grading can be divided in to the following grades:
Prime Grade: This refers to the highest grade of meat you can get in terms of beef. These cuts contain the highest concentrations of marbling. These portions are also the most expensive and mostly sold to restaurants hotels and steakhouses.
Choice grade: About 50% of the beef sold in the U.S. falls in this category. Beef in this category has less marbling. Cuts in this category are less flavorful but are still good.
Select grade: Prime rib and ribeye in this category have the least amount of marbling. These portions of meat are still good and have enough marbling to be popular with consumers. These cuts are ideal for marinating and smoking.

Choosing the Right Cut

When it comes to a good piece of beef, choosing the right one is essential if you’re expecting to savor that unique beef flavor.

Prime Rib
Prime rib should have a bright color with milky white fat. The fat should also be even distributed and a medium to thick layer of fat around the ends is necessary. When it comes to prime rib, lean is not better. Here you want a chunky cut of meat.

When it comes to choosing ribeye, the secret is to look for marbling in the steak. A smaller section of fat should be on the top or around the edges of the steak. The cut should also not be too lean.

Which Cut is Your Favorite?

Steak, like beauty, is in the eye if the beholder, or in this case, your taste buds. Your personal favorite might also be determined by the type of dish you’re going to have.

Prime rib is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a larger cut of meat. The plus point here is the prime rib contains the ribeye as well. This cut is ideal for roasts and larger meals. Ribeye is equally popular because of its smaller size. This makes it an ideal meal option to enjoy at any time of the day!

A Final Word on Prime Rib vs Ribeye

There is no definitive answer when it comes to which is better – prime rib vs ribeye. Both cuts of meat are equally popular with steak lovers.

To sum it up, prime rib is a bigger cut, more suited to roasts and includes the ribeye. The ribeye is a smaller steak cut and doesn’t usually have the bigger roasting bone. Ribeye also has less marbling due to the smaller fat content. Knowing the essential differences between the two you’ll be able to choose the best option next time you’re visiting your favorite steakhouse!

Prime Rib vs Ribeye (All Differences Explained)