Prime rib is loved by the world over and is the creme de la creme of high-quality beef cuts. But just how much does a standard prime rib go for? We’re here to unpack what prime rib price is and just what to expect from this exceptional cut.
What Is A Normal Prime Rib Price?
Prime rib can vary from $17 to almost $30 per pound and is one of the most expensive cuts of beef or any kind of meat you can buy. Prime rib tends to cost 25% more than choice ribs and over 40% more than select.
The First vs. The Second Cut
The first cut or the loin-end—ribs 10 to 12—has a single-eyed ribeye muscle with more connective tissue than other cuts of the steer. The result? A tender, juicy rib with less fat which is the most expensive section
The second cut or the chuck end—ribs 6-9—is the less desired prime rib cut among consumers but still makes for mouthwatering flavor. The closer to the chuck, the more muscle the cut has, which makes the prime rib fattier.
While the fatty tissue has a bigger punch of flavor, many consumers prefer the first cut for a more tender and complex taste. But, whether it’s the first or second cut, prime rib has the intense beef flavor that makes jaws drop (hopefully after finishing your bite).
For first-cut prime rib, because it is considered to be the best-tasting part of the cow, consumers are willing to pay more for quality. This special, sought-after taste is how many consumers choose to spend holidays and special occasions. Holidays are when people worry less about prime rib price.
Prime Rib Is Rare
While I’m more of a medium-rare kind of guy, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about here. Excellent, prime rib is hard to come by based on its “prime” rating and the cows themselves.
For each cow that’s sent to the slaughterhouse, only about 12% of the cow is used for higher-quality meats (i.e., prime rib, striploin, ribeye, top sirloin, etc.). That means that there is a small amount of product for a large consumer base.
For farmers, they will have to sell a much larger amount of less desirable, lower quality cuts to make up for just one cut of higher quality. Even then, there is a lot of labor that goes into raising steers that reach your dinner table.
Farmers need to house and feed their steers while later processing and butchering them; oftentimes, farmers don’t wear both hats, and they’re butchered by a professional. Everybody needs to get paid, and depending on the amount of labor and the cost of the cow, this will drive the price of prime rib up.
The “Prime” Grading System
Prime is the highest grade a cut of meat can receive from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and, therefore, the most expensive. Compared to choice or select, the prime grade makes sure you have the most consistent beef of the highest quality.
The USDA grades meats based on flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. Of all butchered cows, only 2% of them receive a prime rating. Prime is marbled with 10% intramuscular fat, and that marbling ensures you get a tasty, savory rib.
Now picture this: a little over 10% of all parts of the cow are used for high-quality meats, with only 2% of any cow on any farm receiving a prime rating. Now imagine the exclusivity of a prime rating based on the first cut; that’s only 3 ribs. The rarity of a prime rating and the use of high-quality meats adds to the high price tag.
Like any product that is rare but with a high consumer base, there are regular shortages of prime rib. Shortages regularly occur across the food industry, and there isn’t much that can be done to prevent them.
Shortages can be a result of farmers simply not having enough cows. Farmers don’t always have the same number of cows each year, and they could lose some cows to disease.
In other cases, some supply chains can’t fulfill their orders in time to ensure fresh prime rib makes its way to shelves.
Some cows produce rib cuts with a sub-par to poor quality and won’t achieve a prime grade, leaving the ribs to be sold as choice or select.
In the case of prime rib, regular spikes in price point to a shortage. During a shortage, you could possibly find prime rib from a local seller or butcher, although those prices will be even higher.
Shortages can also occur around special occasions and holidays, as many prosumer meat lovers choose prime rib over any other meat when celebrating.
How Much Prime Rib Should You Buy?
Half a pound per person is the general rule for buying prime rib as a smaller part of a larger menu with many courses. If prime rib is the main course, consider a full pound per person.
A 4-bone prime rib can feed from anywhere between 8 to 10 people, while the entire 7-bone roast feeds 12 or more. That said, you should always consider the weight and size over the number of ribs.
Take into account the different appetites at the table as well, like if you’re a family of carnivores, if your eyes are always bigger than your stomach, or if you need some scraps for the dog. As always, it’s better to have too much and use it for leftovers than too little.
To get the boldest flavor out of these unique cuts of beef, here are some tips for cooking prime ribs that will melt in your mouth.
Brining — Soaking your ribs in a saltwater solution before cooking helps them keep their moisture, as salt allows the muscle fibers to reabsorb fluids. You can also try experimenting with different seasonings and ingredients like carrots, celery, or onions.
Marinating — Provides moisture to the meat as it infuses flavor. Marinating also works as a tenderizer and usually contains some sort of acidic component, like vinegar.
Maintaining Temperature — Your prime rib should cook slowly on low heat, as high heat will more often than not dry them out. Invest in a temperature gauge to ensure you sit in the sweet spot.
Spritzing — A last-ditch effort, spritzing tends to make the ribs lose heat and smoke as the grill is opened. That said, spritzing your prime rib with the same beer you plan on serving adds a nice pop; spritz every 45 minutes or so.
Is The Prime Rib Price Worth It?
The long and the short of it is YES!
When sourced and cooked correctly, everyone from chefs to novices will tell you prime rib is a delicacy no matter the cost.
If you’re a new grill master, I’d recommend starting off with a lower-quality cut like a flank steak or tenderloin before moving on to the big guns. Be sure you’re confident in how you control temperature, flavor, and texture.
Prime rib is a tender, juicy beef that is marbled with fat throughout to ensure a memorable and superior taste.
Prime rib is a premium cut that is the most expensive beef variety on the market. This is all because of its powerful, high-quality taste and its rarity among food suppliers.
If you’re able to, I can’t stress enough that you should dish out the extra cash for a mouthwatering, knock-your-socks-off cut of beef.
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!