Bone-In vs. Boneless Prime Rib: Which Is The Best?

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bone in vs boneless prime rib

Prime rib is a lump of tasty barbecue meat that can come boneless or with the bones still intact. Both bone-in and boneless prime rib have their advantages and disadvantages, so it can be hard to decide which is best for you.

How Do You Choose Between Bone-In vs. Boneless Prime Rib?

If you want a more natural way of cooking and want to extract every last drop of flavor, then choose bone-in prime rib. The flavor from the bones is irreplaceable, but it does take longer to cook. There are some hacks to impart similar flavor to your boneless prime rib while cutting down on your cook time. 

Prime Rib Flavor

People say that bone-in prime rib is usually more flavorful and tender than boneless ribs. Those who prefer bone-in prime rib say that the yellow marrow from the bones seeps through the meat, leaving you with a buttery taste. However, there are ways to maintain flavor when cooking boneless ribs. 

Tips From The Pros

  • Make sure the rib roast you choose has decent marbling to maintain juiciness. You should also select a boneless roast cut from closer to the chuck than the loin since the cut closer to the chuck has more fat. More fat leads to more flavor.
  • If you’re not buying a whole roast, ask the butcher to cut it. Since ribs 6 through 9 contain more fat, they might be more flavorful than a cut from the loin end.
  • If you’re comfortable cooking a bone-in roast, you’ll spend less time choosing the right one at the butcher’s counter at the grocery store. If you have time to select the right one, though, you can try a boneless roast without sacrificing flavor.
  • Some people argue that leaving the bones in doesn’t actually do anything for the meat since there’s collagen between the flesh and bones. This keeps anything from seeping into the meat. At the end of the day, whether you want to leave the bones in or take them out is a personal choice.
  • You should STEER clear (see what I did there;) of grass-fed beef since it will have a “grassy” flavor. Grain-fed beef, on the other hand, is more decadent and fattier. There are benefits to eating lean in other areas of cooking, but not when you’re cooking prime rib.

Are You Good With A Knife?

Boneless prime rib is easier to cut than bone-in, making it a good choice if you’re not a pro with the knife. 

bone in vs boneless prime rib

If you don’t want to trade flavor for ease of carving, ask the butcher at your local supermarket to remove the bones and tie them back on. Unless, of course, you don’t believe that the bones add something to the beef.

If you’re buying bone-in prime rib, plan on serving one pound per person or one rib for every two guests. For those buying boneless prime rib, go for half a pound per person. You should also cut half a pound per person if the prime rib isn’t going to be your main course (let’s be honest, it likely will be).

When To Serve Prime Rib

Prime rib is an excellent entree for any event. It’s particularly great for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, for example, but if you’re like me, you can eat it at any time you get the craving. 

Whether to serve bone-in or boneless prime rib depends on the occasion. If you’re preparing for a holiday party or other special occasion, it may be worth the extra hassle that bones come with to serve a bone-in prime rib. 

However, if you’re just cooking a small family dinner, the boneless prime rib may be a better choice due to its lower complexity. Since bone-in prime rib comes with extra cooking steps, it may be best to save it for celebratory meals.

Getting The Most From Your Prime Rib

While it’s up for debate whether or not leaving the bones in adds flavor, one thing is for sure: bones insulate your meat. 

bone in vs boneless prime rib

The meat around your bones will cook slower than the rest of your roast, making it more tender. It also retains moisture, making your meat juicier and more tender.

Because bones insulate the meat, you might want to consider a boneless prime rib if you’re cooking it rare or medium rare. That’s because the section around the bones will be too undercooked and chewy. If you plan on cooking it more, leaving the bones in can be beneficial. The meat around the bones will only be 5-10 degrees cooler than the rest of your roast, so it won’t be undercooked if you’re cooking it medium or medium well.

There are several reasons to avoid undercooked meat. In addition to it not having the right texture, it could make you sick. Foodborne bacteria like salmonella and E. coli in uncooked and undercooked meat can cause serious illnesses. 

If you like your meat rare or medium rare, you need to be careful with how your meat is prepared.

Prime Rib Recipe

Some recipes specifically ask you to use bone-in or boneless prime rib. To follow the recipe correctly, we recommend going with what the recipe says you need. After all, the chef who wrote the recipe knows best!

To cook prime rib, first, put it in your oven for 15 minutes at 500 degrees. Then, set your oven to 300° and cook your meat for 10-12 minutes per pound for a rare roast, 13-14 minutes per pound for medium rare, or 14-15 minutes per pound for medium well. 

You’ll need to use a meat thermometer to ensure that your roast reaches the correct internal temperature; 120° for rare, 130° for medium rare, 140° for medium, or 150° for medium well. 

Remember, though, that the CDC recommends cooking beef roasts to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a rest time of 3 minutes to avoid foodborne illnesses. 

Don’t cook it for longer than you think you’ll need to since the meat will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven. Instead, you may want to err on the side of caution and take it out a bit early.

For the best flavor, sprinkle a generous helping of salt on your prime rib at least 45 minutes before you cook it. In a best-case scenario, you’ll do this the night before and leave it out of your fridge overnight if you plan to do a long cook in the morning. I promise you it won’t go bad.

Final Thoughts

Prime rib is a barbecue classic, and it’s important to understand the differences between bone-in vs. boneless prime rib. One is not necessarily better than the other—they each have a time and place. 

Whether you’re serving a large crowd or just your small family, this guide will help you decide whether boneless or bone-in prime rib is best for your cooking occasion.

Darren Wayland Avatar


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