Prime Rib vs. Ribeye: What’s the Difference?

Last Update: November 15, 2023

If your idea of the perfect meal involves a steak seared to perfection, then fire up the grill—and keep reading. We’re serving up all there is to know about prime rib versus ribeye steak, as well as the best cooking tips and recipes to make the most of these two flavorful beef cuts.

What Is Prime Rib?

Here’s your primer on prime rib. Also known as a standing rib roast, this popular holiday cut comes from the same part of the cow as the ribeye: the rib section. A cow has 13 ribs per side, and butchers have a system of identifying each rib in ascending order from the front of the cow to the back [1].

  • Ribs 1 to 5: the chuck section
  • Ribs 6 to 12: the rib section
  • Rib 13: part of the loin

Ribs in the 6 to 12 group are sold as prime rib, but just because the word “prime” is in the name doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s USDA Prime, which is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s highest quality grade. The USDA Prime label indicates that the meat is heavily marbled with about 10 percent intramuscular fat (the white streaks that make every bite extra flavorful). The second highest beef grade is “Choice,” used for moderately marbled meat [2]. Be sure to check with your butcher before you buy!

What Is Ribeye?

You might know the ribeye by one of its many other names, such as beauty steak, Delmonico steak, Spencer steak, and scotch fillet. Whatever you call it, ribeye steak is the center (and arguably the best) portion of the rib steak. It’s typically highly marbled with fat, which is why this cut is so delicious. But the distinction between prime rib and ribeye is a matter of cooking: To be considered a ribeye, the steak must be cut before the roast is cooked.

Prime Rib Q&A

All your burning prime rib questions are about to get answered.

How many calories are in prime rib?

A 4-ounce serving has approximately 453 calories, and an 8-ounce portion clocks in at 900 calories.

What’s the prime rib cooking time per pound?

We’ll chat more about how to cook prime rib below, but the basic rule of thumb for cooking at a low temperature is 17 to 20 minutes per pound in an oven heated to 325°F.

How do I shop for prime rib?

At the meat counter you can go all in and opt for the entire prime rib, or choose between two options for a smaller cut: the first cut and the second cut. The first cut is made up of ribs 10 to 12, which are uniform and tender, and generally thought to be the best choice. The second cut is still a good option, but the cut includes ribs 6 to 9 and is closer to the chuck roast, which means it’ll include a few different muscles and therefore won’t be as uniform in size or appearance. But with more fatty pockets, it’s a bit more flavorful!

How much prime rib do I need per person?

A seven-rib roast can clock in at anywhere between 14 and 22 pounds, which is why butchers tend to divide it into two smaller roasts (see question above). No matter which option you choose, aim for about one pound per person [3].

Ribeye Q&A

Need to brush up on your ribeye knowledge? Read through our quick Q&A!

How many calories are in ribeye?

A 4-ounce serving has approximately 300 calories, and an 8-ounce portion has about 600 calories.

How much steak should I buy per person?

The answer to this question entirely depends on how you’re planning your meal. If the ribeye is the main event, then you’ll want to have about ½-pound per person (about 8 ounces each). But if you’re planning to slice it up and serve it alongside lots of side dishes and salads (maybe at a Paleo-friendly dinner party), then opt for smaller portions, like a quarter to half a pound per person.

What’s the difference between boneless ribeye vs bone-in ribeye?

The difference is exactly how it sounds. A bone-in ribeye still has the bone attached to the flesh, which is believed to help insulate the meat as it cooks and lock in extra flavor [4]. You can also save the bones and use them to make homemade beef broth.

How to Cook Prime Rib

Here are two ways to cook prime rib.

1. Low and slow

The first and most time-consuming option is cooking the prime rib at a low temperature for a long period of time. At 325°F, expect it to take about 17 to 20 minutes per pound. Low heat allows the meat to cook evenly and develop extra tenderness.

2. High and fast

If you opt for a 450°F oven and cook the meat for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325°F, you’ll need to cook the prime rib for an additional 13 to 15 minutes per pound. High heat sears the outside for a more flavorful crust.

And, a couple of extra cooking tips:

1. Plan ahead

Similar to prepping the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll want to plan ahead when cooking prime rib. Salt the meat on all sides, then refrigerate uncovered for at least one day (and up to three). The salt rub will season the meat and help dissolve some of the proteins, which means you’ll end up with a tender, buttery roast that’ll melt in your mouth. Exposing the meat to air will also help dry out the exterior to make for better browning.

2. Score the fat cap

Before adding a dry rub, score the thick fat cap in a cross-hatch pattern, cutting down to—but not into—the flesh. The fat’s job is to insulate the meat and crisp up when exposed to high heat, encouraging rendering for maximum flavor. Plus, the shallow cuts will help seasonings infuse every bite.

How to Cook Ribeye

When you’re dealing with a prime cut, it’s a good idea to know how to cook the best cuts of meat. A ribeye lends itself perfectly to pan-searing. Steaks should start off extra dry—so pat them well with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron pan, add a slick of cooking oil, then cook, flipping frequently, until the internal temperature reaches 135°F. Depending on the thickness, the ideal cook time for a ribeye steak might range anywhere between 6 to 12 minutes. When they’re cooked to your liking, let the steaks rest, tented with foil, for 10 minutes before carving.

Best Prime Rib Recipes

Get cooking with these prime rib recipes that’ll be your next dinner party star.

Coffee-Rubbed Prime Rib Roast

Blogger Tieghan Gerard of Half-Baked Harvest had us at coffee rub, but it gets even better when a knob of roasted garlic and gorgonzola butter melts over each piece.

Perfect Prime Rib

Add a Pinch blogger Robyn Stone keeps thing simple with an easy-as-pie recipe that makes liberal use of salt and pepper for a crust your guests will swoon over.

Easy Ribeye Recipes

With little more than salt and pepper, you’re well on your way to cooking your best ribeye yet.

Pan-Seared Ribeye

Date night in? Make this recipe your new go-to. Seared in a hot cast iron pan with a mix of herbs and spices, shallots, and butter, a ribeye steak is perfect served alongside your favorite veg or starch, like glazed carrots or mashed potatoes.

Ribeye With Cherry Steak Sauce

This impressive dinner is straight from Chef Sam Kass’s cookbook, Eat a Little Better. A former White House chef, he cooked for the first family and worked on the country’s nutrition policy programs. This steak recipe is characteristic of what you’ll find inside the book, because Kass is all about shifting the portion paradigm. “Eat less beef, but when you do, choose the beefiest, most luscious stuff you can find,” he says.

Steak Marinades and Rubs

Whether you end up with prime rib or ribeye, give ‘em the rub with these top products to really get things sizzling in the kitchen.

Thrive Market Organic Ground Pepper

Pepper and steak are basically best buds. Already ground for extra convenience, this pouch is ready to party.

Maldon Sea Salt Flakes

This finishing salt does wonders. After you slice the ribeye, sprinkle a few flakes over the top to really bring out the flavors.

Spiceology Mediterranean Greek Herb Blend

Go coastal with a bold herb blend of rosemary, garlic, onion, and oregano. It’s versatile enough to go on grilled veggies, too.

Primal Kitchen Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette & Marinade

Prep your steak Paleo-style. This sauce features Asian-inspired ingredients like ginger, sesame oil, and coconut aminos, a winning flavor combo for steak salads.

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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