Prime rib is so much more than just ribs and is a result of master craftsmanship, from the farm all the way to the table. But ask the average consumer where the prime rib’s location is on a cow, and you might get sheepish, “the cow’s ribs.”
Let’s take a look at the prime rib’s location on a cow and why prime rib is just so finger-licking good.
Where Is The Prime Rib Location On A Cow?
Ribs from the 6-12 bracket are sold as prime ribs, 7 ribs in total, and can weigh up to 25lbs. From 1-5, these ribs are the chuck section, 6-12 the rib section, and the 13th is the loin.
A steer has 13 ribs on each side of its body, measuring from the breastbone all the way up its backbone. For cows meeting their maker, butchers give numbers in ascending order from the front to the back of the cow.
Difference In Cuts
For prime rib, the quality of flavor, as well as the price, boils down to the difference between the first and second cuts:
First Cut — Widely considered the better half and is the most expensive at the butcher shop. The first cut involves the 10th to the 12th rib and has more connective tissue from the intact ribeye muscle, making it that much more tender.
Second Cut — Less expensive than the first cut, involving the 6th to the 9th rib. The second cut, or large end, provides a juicy rib when roasted at the right temperature. The second cut contains more fatty tissue than the first for a more robust flavor.
Prime Vs. Other Grading’s
For beef to grade prime, it’s much rarer than you think, and we’re not talking about how you like it cooked. Starting off at the farm, each cow must be fed 10 lbs. of feed per day over the course of 180 days. Of those cows, less than 2% of them will be graded prime.
Prime is the highest grade beef can receive from the USDA. Prime indicates meat that is marbled with at least 10% intramuscular fat; those white streaks in the meat.
The 2nd highest grade with moderate marbling, choice cuts have considerably less intramuscular fat than their prime cousins.
Choice rib cuts are best for dry-heat cooking or smoking your meat. Braising or roasting a choice cut will help pronounce the meat’s succulent tenderness.
The 3rd highest grade but the lowest among the tier, select meats and ribs have a standardized quality and make for a leaner cut. While select cuts keep a lot of the tenderness, the juiciness is lost due to little to no marbling.
With such a small amount of marbling, your meat can dry out significantly if cooked hot and fast.
Most select cuts are better when marinated before cooking to give you a juicy rib that keeps its tenderness.
Bone-In Vs. Boneless Prime Rib
Buying prime rib with bone-in makes for a juicier, more flavorful meat that cooks tender and savory as the bone insulates while it cooks. This is also known as “standing” and can be prepared as a rib roast.
The bone also serves as a rack, which means carving your meat for plating becomes less tricky and time-consuming.
Boneless prime rib has the bones around the ribs and spine cut away. This is great for dry rub enthusiasts and cooks who take pride in their seasoning game.
You can put your seasonings between the meats in a more efficient, well-distributed way. Boneless prime rib can also be prepared as a ribeye steak.
Price Of Prime Rib
For prime rib, you have to be willing to get what you pay for: the highest quality for a higher price. Prime rib tends to cost 25% more than choice ribs and over 40% more than select.
When determining the price per pound, prime rib is all about the cut and where you’re buying it from.
Prime rib that’s boneless (or ribeye) will be the most expensive prime rib variety per pound. You’re getting more meat for the cut, while the butcher requires more preparation time.
Specialty stores and butchers that give the consumer the best cuts will generally be more expensive than other grocery stores.
Butchers often source their meats ethically from farms that don’t use steroids or antibiotics. Unlike superstores, butchers base their meats on quality and preparation. Chain grocery stores usually carry prime rib for 13-17 dollars a pound.
And, as always, if you’re dining in a restaurant and order prime rib, you’ll be paying well above market price.
How Much Prime Rib Should You Buy?
Half a pound per person is a rule of thumb when it comes to buying prime rib as part of a larger menu with many courses. If prime rib is the meal’s main course, consider a full pound per person.
Each rib should feed 2-3 guests, while a 4-bone, 8 lb. prime rib will feed between 8 and 10 people. The entire 7-bone roast will feed 12 or more, depending on the weight of the meat.
Take into account the different appetites at the table: any kids? Anyone with a hollow leg? Any vegetarians (yeah, right)? And as always, it’s better to have too much and use it for leftovers than too little.
Preparing Your Prime Rib
For prime rib, because it is such a large cut of meat, you should be using a generous amount of seasoning and let it sit overnight.
Place the meat in your fridge uncovered: this will allow your seasoning to penetrate the meat. Before you begin your roast, garlic lovers can make slits between the fibers and add fresh cloves.
The best results for prime rib come from low heat and slow cooking. Each pound requires 20-35 minutes to cook at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your preference.
For standing rib roasts, once the rib reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it can come out of the oven and rest for at least 30 minutes.
To go above and beyond, you can sear the top layer of your prime rib. Before serving, put your meat back in the oven at 550 degrees Fahrenheit for a max of 8 minutes. Searing meat is vital for building texture and compounding flavor.
Since it has already rested, you can cut the rib immediately after taking it out of the oven for the second time.
For smoking or grilling prime rib, among other recipes, you can find more info in our “how much prime rib per person” article.
Why Is Prime Rib Better Than Other Cuts Of The Cow?
Prime rib is better than other cuts of the cow because of its dense, flavorful marbling that pronounces the juicy, fatty richness of the meat. It’s also one of the most tender and presentable on special occasions due to the lack of small bones.
Are Prime Rib And Ribeye The Same?
Prime rib and ribeye are not the same, though they come from the same cut of beef. The difference lies in how they’re cooked. Prime ribs are roasted slowly under low heat and seared for a more tender texture, while ribeyes are grilled quickly over high heat making them charred.
Is Boneless Or Bone-In Prime Rib Better?
Bone-in prime rib is better than boneless rib as the bone insulates the meat’s flavor and accents those delicious juices. Bones can also be used for other things as well once you’re done cooking the prime rib with them.
Should You Salt Your Prime Rib Before Cooking?
Yes, you should salt your prime rib before cooking, as larger meats will need salting overnight to ensure the cut keeps most of its moisture and is thoroughly seasoned. This also helps to create a nice crust on the outside because the salt dries the surface and makes it easier to char.
I bet you’re feeling pretty hungry, huh? Now you know that prime rib is the thickest, most tender, and juicy cut of the 7 ribs draping the cow’s back.
You also now understand just how good it tastes and why it’s sought after by meatheads everywhere. No need to take our word for it; you can stop licking your lips and start planning your next great cookout.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!