- Prime rib is a large cut of beef taken from the primal rib section of the cow and is cooked as a large roast.
- Ribeye is a smaller steak cut from the most marbled part of the prime rib and is cooked individually.
- Prime rib is usually cooked slowly at a low temperature to preserve its juiciness and tenderness.
- Ribeyes are often grilled or pan-seared at high heat to achieve a nice crust while keeping the inside tender and juicy.
- On a per-pound basis, boneless ribeyes are usually more expensive than prime rib.
They're two of my absolute favorite cuts of steak:
Prime rib, and ribeye.
But what's the difference between the two?
Here at Grill Frenzy, it's our mission to simplify the learning process of BBQ and grilling.
And so in this guide, let's look at some of the key differences between prime rib and ribeye.
Main Differences Between Prime Rib and Ribeye
Here are the main differences between a prime rib and a ribeye.
Prime rib is a large roast that is cut from the rib section of the cow, and has a bone-in rib cage.
A ribeye is a smaller cut that comes from the same rib section as prime rib. It does not have a bone-in rib cage, but it does have a thick layer of fat on top.
Prime rib has more marbling than a ribeye. This marbling—or fat that runs through the steak—makes the meat super tender and flavorful.
Ribeye has a good amount of marbling as well, but not as much as prime rib.
How It's Cooked
You typically cook prime rib low and slow, either in your oven, or on your smoker. This allows the fat in the prime rib to render slowly.
With a ribeye, you would usually cook it over high heat on a grill or cast iron skillet, or you could also reverse-sear it. This lets the fat render quickly while allowing for a more even cook.
Prime rib and ribeye are both premium cuts of steak, and they're priced that way as well.
I went on the Porter Road website and researched current pricing.
For an (average weight) 5 pound prime rib, you'll pay $159, which is about $32 per pound:
And for an (average weight) 1.55 pound boneless ribeye, you'll pay $69, which is about $44.50 per pound:
So while they're both very expensive pieces of meat, the boneless ribeye is more expensive.
What Is Prime Rib?
Prime rib comes from the primal rib section of the cow, usually from the 6th rib to the 12th rib. Prime rib is also called a rib roast.
Prime rib is known for being well-marbled, which means it has bits of fat running throughout the meat that renders down as it cooks. And it's this fat that makes the prime rib such a tender, flavorful cut.
The most common way to cook a prime rib is low and slow in your oven or smoker, with au jus (in its own juices), to prevent it from drying out.
One important note: even though it's in its name, prime rib does not refer to the USDA-designated "prime" beef. Prime rib can come in select, choice, or prime cuts.
What Is Ribeye?
Ribeye comes from the same part of the cow that the prime rib does—the primal rib section—but it's cut from a different part of the roast (usually the center) where there's great marbling.
Now, in order to be called a ribeye, the steak must be separated from the roast before it is cooked. And these cuts are sold as individual ribeyes.
The ribeye also contains the rib cap (Spinalis Dorsi), which is one of the most tender and flavorful pieces of meat on the entire cow.
You may hear a ribeye also be referred to as a Delmonico steak or a bone-in ribeye.
Flavor Differences Between Ribeye and Prime Rib
Since prime rib and ribeye both come from the rib section of the cow, they have a lot of similarities in taste (hint: they both taste really good).
But there are some differences you'll notice in flavor.
Since prime rib has more marbling and fat content than ribeye, it has a slightly richer and more complex flavor.
Another benefit that prime rib has is that since you're cooking it low and slow for several house, the fat will render during the cook process, which keeps the beef tender and juicy.
Ribeyes are usually reverse-seared, or cooked high and fast over a hot fire with just salt and pepper.
Texture Differences Between Prime Rib and Ribeye
The difference in texture between these two cuts of meat comes down to how they're cooked.
Again, you're going to cook your prime rib low and slow, either in an oven, or preferably on your smoker. This guarantees you a roast that comes out tender and juicy, assuming you cook it right.
The only downside to cooking prime rib slowly is that you won't get a really nice crust or sear, since you're cooking it at such a lower temperature.
With a ribeye, you have a lot more options when cooking it, which means different textures.
But you always want to sear your ribeye, regardless of how you're cooking it. And this sear will give the ribeye a really nice, charred exterior, that makes for a great texture.
Cost Differences Between Prime Rib and Ribeye
As we mentioned earlier, boneless ribeye tends to cost more than prime rib on a per-pound basis, based on researched we did on the Porter Road website.
There, a 1.55 pound boneless ribeye cost $69, or about $44.50 per pound. While a 5 pound prime rib cost $159, or about $32 per pound.
But what about other online butchers? We also checked Snake River Farms for comparison.
There, a 15 ounce boneless ribeye will set you back $85, or about $91 per pound:
While a 5 pound prime rib sells for $299, or $60 per pound:
Of course, prime rib comes with a significant amount of bone, which needs to be factored into the cost.
But overall, boneless ribeyes are considerably more expensive.
How To Cook Prime Rib and Ribeye
The biggest difference between prime rib and ribeye?
How you actually cook them.
Cooking Prime Rib
As I've mentioned several times, the best way to cook prime rib is low and slow, in your smoker or oven, for several hours.
Since the prime rib is such a thick cut of meat, you'll want to ensure as even cooking as possible, which is why slow-cooking it is so important.
First, you'll want to let your prime rib to come to room temperature. Then, prepare your rub. You could get as fancy or simple with a prime rib rub, but salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder is a good start.
To smoke your prime rib, set your smoker to 225F and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 125F, which should take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Be sure to use a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature throughout the cook.
After the prime rib has come to temperature, remove it from the smoker and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing into it.
As I said, there are a few different ways to cook ribeye, including smoking it, or doing a reverse-sear.
In my smoked ribeye recipe, I seasoned the ribeye with my steak seasoning, and then smoked the ribeye on my Traeger at 225F until it hit an internal temperature of 120F. Then I finished it off on my GrillGrates to achieve a nice crust.
The benefit of smoking a ribeye is that you can bring it up to temperature slowly and at your exact preference, while infusing it with smoky goodness. The downside is that it can take about an hour.
You can also grill or reverse-sear a ribeye.
In my grilled ribeye recipe, I grilled the ribeye over high heat until it hit an internal temperature of 100F and achieved a nice crust, and then transferred it to the cooler side of my grill where it could cook at a lower temperature until my desired doneness.
Bottom Line: Prime Rib vs. Ribeye
At the end of the day, both prime rib and ribeye are excellent choices for your next cook.
The ribeye is a smaller cut of meat that comes from the best part of the rib section, while prime rib is the larger cut that contains the ribeye area and other muscles and fat.