Ribeye steaks are cut from the fatty muscles surrounding the ribs of the cow, which give the steak nice marbling and a deeper flavor than leaner cuts like tenderloin or rump steaks.
Ribeye is one of the most popular and sought-after steaks, and for good reason. Ribeye is known for its taste, caused by a high level of marbling in the muscle from where ribeye steaks are cut. But where exactly on the cow do ribeye steaks come from that gives them such a great taste? In this article, we’ll look at exactly where ribeye comes from, what sets it apart from other steak cuts, and how ribeye compares to other similar cuts like prime ribs and sirloin steak.
Where On A Cow Does Ribeye Come From?
Ribeye steak comes from the rib primal, a large cut of meat from the top of the cow’s ribs that includes the rib bones.
Ribeye steaks can come from any ribs within the ribcage, but the ribs from nearer the front of the cow are fattier, giving a more flavorful steak, and the ribs nearer the rear of the cow are leaner, giving a less flavorful steak but with a better texture.
Why Is It Called Ribeye?
Ribeye is so named because it is cut from the center (eye) of the larger cut of ribs.
Ribeye is known by different names in different places.
Some other popular names for a ribeye steak include:
- Scotch Filet
- Spencer Steak
- Delmonico Steak (Named after Delmonico’s in New York)
- Market Steak
- Beauty Steak
Difference Between Ribs and Ribeye?
Ribeye steak is a single steak cut from a single rib of the cow, whereas beef ribs is a broader term referring to any cuts from the ribs.
Beef ribs include cuts such as beef rib primal, short ribs, and beef back ribs, as well as ribeye steaks.
Beef ribs come in many shapes and sizes, depending on how the butcher likes to cut them, but a ribeye is always the same. One single beef rib steak, either with or without the bone.
What is a Cowboy Ribeye?
In different parts of the world, Ribeye steaks are served with or without the bone left attached. Although there are some purported benefits to leaving the bone on, it’s mostly down to the personal preference of the chef in terms of aesthetics.
Some places typically serve ribeye with the bone removed. This is sometimes called a Scotch Filet or a Boneless Ribeye in the United States, but in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand this is simply the way Ribeye is served.
In the US, a “Cowboy Ribeye” refers to a bone-in Ribeye steak that has the rib bone still attached, similar to a Tomahawk steak.
Why is Ribeye so Expensive?
Ribeye isn’t the rarest meat from a cow, but it is one of the more expensive cuts due to the taste.
Ribeye is highly sought after because the area around the ribs is muscular, but also fatty, meaning the steaks have a nice marbling effect, making ribeye one of the best tasting meat cuts available.
What Is the Difference Between Ribeye and Sirloin?
Ribeye and sirloin come from adjacent parts of the cow, but they are quite different cuts.
Some of the differences between ribeye and sirloin include:
Ribeye is fattier than sirloin since it’s cut from the fatty area around the ribs. By comparison, sirloin is leaner and more tender.
Ribeye can be served with the bone in place, whereas sirloin is served as a steak only, with no bones.
Ribeye is more versatile than sirloin in the way it can be cooked. Meat from the ribs is fattier, which lends itself to roasting and barbecue, while sirloin is leaner which means it would dry out during roasting.
Read More: US Beef Quality Grades Explained
What Other Beef Cuts Come From the Ribs Except for Ribeye?
The ribs are perhaps the most plentiful area of the cow, and one of the most versatile areas when it comes to cuts of meat.
Different cultures and butchers have their own preferences for the best way to cut rib meat. Each cut has its own advantages and disadvantages.
- Short Ribs – Ribs cut into pieces, without the bone.
- Ribeye – Steak made from the meat between the rib bones.
- Plate Short Ribs – Ribs cut from the plate (lower abdomen) of the cow.
- Chuck Short Ribs – Ribs from the first few ribs (near the shoulder).
- Tomahawk – Ribeye with the long rib bone left in place.
- Prime Rib – A large section of between two and seven ribs worth of meat – usually used for roasting.
- Rib Roast – Another name for prime rib when used for roasting.
- Riblets – Whole ribs divided into small sections
- Back Ribs – The section of ribs adjacent to the cow’s spine
Is Ribeye The Same as Prime Rib?
Ribeye and prime rib are two completely different types of cut, and although they are cut from the same part of the cow they don’t have much in common at all.
When a butcher butchers a cow carcass, the ribs are first separated from the cow in one large chunk, bones and all. This is called the Rib Primal (not to be confused with the prime rib!)
From the primal rib, the butcher has to decide whether to cut a large section of the ribs together for roasting or cut individual steaks from between each rib bone.
Ribeye is a single steak cut from the meat between two ribs. Prime rib is a large section of the rib meat comprising all of the meat covering about six or seven ribs. Ribeye steaks are fried or grilled, whereas prime rib has to be roasted or slow-cooked because of its size.
To sum up, ribeye steak is a steak cut from the fatty muscles between the rib bones of a cow.
It’s a sought-after cut because the fat creates dense marbling, which gives ribeye a strong flavor but at the expense of the tender texture of less flavorful cuts like tenderloin.
Ribeye is sometimes served with the bone left in place. This is called a tomahawk or cowboy ribeye.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.