I Spy: Where is the Ribeye on a Cow?

June 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

The ribeye comes from the rib primal, but there is so much more to its location!

I am often surprised by how much even the biggest steak lovers don’t know about their favorite fare. So I am now here to educate you!

In this post, I will outline where is the ribeye on a cow as well as many other top tips. Let us begin!

Where is the Ribeye on a cow

Which Part of the Cow Does the Ribeye Steak Come From?

First things first, where does ribeye come from? It comes from the rib primal, a rib portion that consists of ribs six through twelve. There are different steak cuts taken from this area.

Naturally, the ribeye steaks is one of the most well-known ones. It may be known as a beauty steak, Delmonico steak, or Scotch fillet. The meat on the ribeye steaks are juicy and tender. As they have a good fat content, they are also very flavorful as well.

It is more common to find a boneless ribeye, but it is possible to find this cut of meat with the bone in as well.

Now, a bone in ribeye is a steak that contains a piece of the rib bone. The bone may extend several inches out past the ribeye muscle, or it may be trimmed closer to the meat. It may be referred to as a rib steak in some circles. It is just as often called a cowboy steak or a Tomahawk steak, however.

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cooking ribeye

About the Ribeye Steak

One of the most important things to know about ribeye steaks is the muscle that it comes from. This particular cut is taken from the longissimus dorsi muscles. These are a pair of long and tender muscles that go down either side of the steer, outside the ribs, from the neck to the hip.

Now, what sets this rib section apart is that that this part of the cow – and the rib meat – doesn’t get much exercise. This matters because the level of tenderness of any cut is directly correlated to how much of a workout the section gets. As the meat isn’t used that much, ribeye steak ends up being quite tender. In fact, the only other steak cuts that may be more succulent is the tenderloin or filet mignon.

This area is quite fatty as well as this is where a lot of intramuscular fat in the form of marbling is deposited. This adds moisture and flavor to the ribeye steaks. These are all the reasons that this cut is favored more than other cuts such as the sirloin steak.

Bone in Ribeye vs. Boneless Ribeye Steak

Let’s take a look at the difference between rib steak and one without any rib bone in it.

A tomahawk steak or a cowboy ribeye may be considered a more flavorful option. This is because it gives it additional flavor. It isn’t a very popular ribeye cut, though, because a tomahawk or cowboy steak is trickier to cook.

This is because the meat next to the ribs cooks more slowly. As such, it can be difficult to get an evenly cooked ribeye steak this way.

Why is Ribeye Steak Called Ribeye?

This is probably something you have wondered about every now and then. After all, it is a pretty odd name.

Well, the reason behind this name is that the eye of beef refers to the best part of the cow. As this cut comes from one of the best sections of meat, it is known as the ribeye.

Prime Rib vs. Ribeye Steak

You have undoubtedly heard about prime rib – and considering their similar names, you are probably wondering what the similarities or differences are.

Well, the prime rib and ribeye come from the same part of the cow – the beef rib primal. Prime ribs are a larger cut of meat and contains far more of the rib bones as well. This portion is reserved for a rib roast.

Prime rib tends to have a more robust flavor. This is because there is a higher portion of beef here, along with a high fat content and plenty of connective tissue. The prime rib is slowly roasted while ribeyes are grilled over a high flame.

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How to Choose Great Ribeye Steaks?

If you are new to the world of ribeye, then here are the tips to follow to ensure that you choose top-notch steaks each and every time:

Grass Fed vs. Grain Fed Beef

Grass fed beef has gained a great deal of traction in the market recently but should you splurge on it? Well, this all depends on the flavor profile that you prefer.

If you prefer something mild and only slightly gamey, then opt for the grain fed meat. On the other hand, if you are on the lookout for a more complex profile, complete with nuttier undertones, then grain fed is the way to go.

Just make sure that the meat has been dry aged for the best taste.

ribeye cooked and sliced

Opt for USDA Prime Steak

If you really are looking for the best of the best, then USDA prime is as good as it is going to get. Next up, is Choice grade. What makes the Prime cut truly remarkable is the level of marbling on the meat. It is far greater than any other cuts.

This not only means more flavor, but also results in a juicier and more succulent cut. Of course, these steaks can get pretty pricey. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth it or not. Otherwise, the Choice cut should work just fine for you!

Bone In or Boneless?

I’ve already mentioned the pros and cons of these steaks but you may be still trying to figure out which one is the right option for you. Well, this all depends on what you value more – flavor or ease of cooking.

If it is the former, the opt for a Tomahawk steak or cowboy steak. Otherwise, stick with a traditional ribeye.

Tips for Cooking Ribeye Steaks

There is little use in splurging money on a good cut if you aren’t sure how to go about preparing it. Here are some of the top tips for you to follow:

Tip 1: Make sure that the steak is at room temperature before cooking. Let it sit out on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes before preparing it.

Tip 2: Use a cast iron skillet. This is the simplest method of preparing the meat and you don’t need any special skills for it.

Tip 3: Monitor the temperature carefully. Make sure that the pan is very hot before you place the steak on it. You should also use a vegetable oil with no flavor.

Tip 4: Cook the steak to medium or medium rare level of doneness. Don’t overcook it or you risk ruining the taste and the grain of the ribeye.

Tip 5: Avoid marinating the ribeye – just some salt and pepper in the early stages of the grilling process. Once the steak is nearly done, you can season with herbs and butter.

How to Use Ribeye?

I’m sure that people have found plenty of uses for ribeye, but at the end of the day, it should be the main dish. Thus, it should only be served with side dishes such as salad or potatoes. Anything else and you risk robbing this beautiful cut of its rightful glory.

So there you have it – not only are you aware that ribeye comes from the rib section, you are also clued into all the other tasty secrets!

The next time you are buying or cooking up this delicious fare, you can do so with the greatest level of confidence. Go on and give it a try!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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