Prime Rib vs Ribeye: Is There Even A Difference?

Sharing is caring!

For those of us who love meat, we are spoilt for choice.

However, sometimes I feel we get confused by all the different names of the cuts.

Are we just calling the same thing two different names without realizing it?

On this edition of ‘meat vs meat’ I will be looking at Prime Rib vs Ribeye.

I can confirm these are two different cuts of meat.

They are two of the juiciest and most delicious cuts of beef that are welcome at my cookout anytime!

In this post, I will examine the differences in cooking methods, texture, and flavor between them.

ribeye roast vs prime rib

What is the Difference Between Prime Rib and Ribeye?

Prime rib and ribeye both come from the same primal cut of beef.

The prime rib has up to seven rib bones. A ribeye is one “rib” of the prime rib.

The ribeye is cut before being cooked individually whereas the prime rib is cooked as a whole.

Prime Rib vs. Ribeye

What is Prime Rib and Where Does it Come From?

Prime rib comes from the primal rib section of a cow.

Prime rib is one of the juiciest and most flavorful cut of beef and is often used as a roasting joint.

Standing rib roast or ribeye roast, as it is popularly called, is made up of seven ribs and roast its usually tied with string. However you don’t have to leave the string on the prime rib during cooking.

The top part is a big juicy piece of marbled meat, that is surrounded by a fat cap. this protects the meat when it is cooking and keeps it moist.

A full primal rib is over 20 pounds of meat. However, you can buy it in sections.

The Chuck End;
Is rib 6-9, and is also known as the blade end. This part has more fat and connective tissue, so it is more suitable for roasts.

The Loin End;
This consists of ribs 10-12 and is also called the first cut. It has more meat and less fat. This section is often more in demand as it is more tender and has a uniform looks to it.

Note: Although it has the word ‘prime’ in its name, a standing rib roast is not always USDA prime.

My favorite way to cook a prime rib? I like to smoke prime in rib in my pellet grill. It ensures I have the perfect temperature during the whole cook.

my piece of prime rib
My piece of prime rib

What is Ribeye and Where Does it Come From?

Ribeye also comes from the primal rib section of a cow. It is often cut from between the 6th rib and 12th rib of the prime rib.

The ribeye steak has three different muscles;

  • Complexus – This small muscle attached to the ‘eye’,
  • Longissimus Dorsi – The actual ‘eye’ of the ribeye. This is the center of the cut, a well-marbled, circular-shaped cut surrounded by fat
  • Spinalis – ’ This is a muscle separated from the eye by a layer of fat.

The actual ribeye is just the center muscle (Longissimus Dorsi)

Most people call it a ribeye but that would just be the middle muscle. When you order or buy a rib steak the bone will be removed and it will have all three muscles.

just finsihed grilling my rib eye steak
Our rib-eye steaks just coming off the grill

Is Prime Rib the Same as Ribeye?

Prime rib and ribeye come from the same primal cut. The rib eye is cut from the prime rib.

They are both served and cooked best differently

The prime rib is a large cut of beef that is cooked with the large rib bones left in it. This adds to its rich flavor and moisture.

The ribeye is cut from one of the most tender parts of the prime rib, usually between the 6th and 12th rib. This cut is usually well marbled with fat. Some people do like tenderizing it

A typical prime rib that is served in a restaurant is from the cooked rib roast. Whereas when you order a ribeye is has already been cut from the prime rib and grilled individually.

Enjoying learning about steak? See how ribeye compares to sirloin, especially in regards to the marbling and price.

Difference in Flavor

Many argue that the ribeye is not as flavorful as the prime rib.

However, coming from the beef rib both the ribeye and prime rib have a rich flavor.

But I have found that the prime ribs have a slightly stronger flavor due to bones and more connective tissue and marbling than the ribeye.

Ribeye is milder in taste than prime rib and tends to be more tender.

But the rib eye still has its fair share of marbling which means it has a wonderful buttery flavor that just melts in my mouth.

Is Ribeye a Good Alternative for Prime Rib?

Yes, ribeye is a good alternative for prime rib.

Especially if you not cooking for a group of people.

See more more prime ribs subsitutes here

Texture Difference Between Prime Rib and Ribeye

Ribeye is classified as a steak whereas prime rib is a roast.

That means that the cooking methods are different for each meaning you do get a different texture.

A ribeye is usually best seared in a cast iron pan or reserved seared (which is being the cook in the oven and then finishing in a hot pan)

Whereas the prime rib being a roast, it is best done low and slow.

Similar to brisket you need to give it time for the connective tissue to break down into juicy gelatine.

Cost of Prime Roast vs. Ribeye Steak

Since it is larger, it is the cost of a whole prime rib is more than just one rib eye steak.

However, if you look at it on a pound-per-pound basis; a ribeye steak will cost you more.

That is because it is a more desirable cut, plus there is less of it, meaning get more prime rib from a cow than rib eye.

For example, I have recently purchased rib eye and prime rib, and here is has the prices stack up;

Rib eye from Fossil Farms was $53 a pound

Prime Rib from Snake River was $47.50 a pound

I have noticed on the menu at steakhouses, prime rib is usually cheaper than a rib eye.

That is because it’s easier (and cheaper) to cook the whole rib than just portion it than it is to cook a steak for each incoming order.

Prime Rib Verses Ribeye: How I Cook Them

To cook these two cuts to their full potential you need to use different techniques.

I have put my favorite methods below

A ribeye steak is best cooked using the reserve sear method or sous vide or salt block.

Grilled Ribeye

  1. Crank up our oven to 250°F
  2. Place your ribeye in the oven and monitor the temperature. You want to get too 90°F.
  3. Once you see your steak within 10°F of 90°F heat your grill or cast iron skillet.
  4. Remove your steak from the oven once it hits 90°F and throw it in the skillet with a big tablespoon of butter and rosemary.
  5. Sear each side of the ribeye, and cook until you get a brown crust and a even medium rare inside.

I also like to sous vide my ribeye, but I am still working on that recipe, so just back in soon and I will have it up.

Smoked Ribeye

Smoking ribeye is a little more complex than grilling it.

There are several recipes here for smoking rib-eye, see them below

See the steps for smoking and searing ribeye here.

How to smoke ribeye on a Traeger

How Long To Smoke Prime Rib?

Prime rib is an expensive cut so you want to cook it correctly.

To ensure you know exactly how long to see the prime rib smoking calculator.

This will ensure you prime rib comes out perfectly each and every time.

Prime Rib in The Oven

I have three favorite ways to cook a prime rib roast. In the oven, on my grill, and in the smoker. I think they both work well.

  1. Preheat to 350°F
  2. Give your roast a rub with your favorite seasoning mix and place it in a pan
  3. Cook for 25 minutes per pound.
  4. Once the internal temperature hits 150°F (or 140°F for rare or 170°F for well done) remove it from the oven and let it rest.
  5. Once you have eaten it, you can make broth from the prime ribs bones. It is simple and full of flavor.

In the smoker:

Wrapping it Up: The Difference Between Prime Rib and Ribeye

The difference between a prime rib and ribeye, that is a prime rib is a roast and a ribeye is a steak cut from the prime rib (between rib 6th and 12th rib).

Whether you want to impress your mates at the cookout or order from your steakhouses, you can now be confident of the differences between ribeye and prime rib.

Which one is your fav? Mine is a ribeye!

Charlie 🙂

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

Hungry For More?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *