You can get several ribeye steaks from a single cow, and not all of them will be identical. In fact, since the muscle is so large, there are bound to be differences between the individual steaks. We’re here to talk about the ribeye end cut.
Ribeye End Cut
All ribeye steaks are taken from the rib primal, the same cut that’s used to make prime rib. When the steaks are cut from the ends of the primal instead of the center, they’re called the “end cuts.” These might not be as thick or well-marbled as the center-cut portions, but they should still have plenty of beef flavor.
About the Ribeye
Ribeye steaks are cut from the rib primal. As the name indicates, this is the rib portion of the animal, located in the middle. The meat is characterized by its tender texture and high fat content, which makes it rich and flavorful.
These cuts are typically sold boneless, but bone-in ribeyes are also available. They may be labeled as “tomahawk” or “cowboy” steaks, depending on the size of the bone.
Tomahawk steaks are so named because the bone portion is long, giving the cut the appearance of a tomahawk ax. With cowboy steaks, the bone is trimmed shorter.
It’s easier to fit cowboy steaks on the grill because the bone doesn’t take up as much room. However, the sizable bone of the tomahawk acts as a handle, giving you something to grip hold of with your grilling tongs.
Bone-in steaks have even more flavor and moisture than their boneless counterparts, but there are trade-offs. The meat takes longer to cook, for one thing. There’s also the fact that you’re paying for a portion of inedible bone, giving you less bang for your buck.
The ribeye is a popular cut with grilling enthusiasts. Its bold taste and meltingly tender texture combine to make it the king of the grill. As such, the per-pound price tends to be high, an issue that’s exacerbated by the large size of the cut.
What is a Ribeye End Cut?
By contrast, the end cut will probably cost less per pound than a center-cut ribeye. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s inferior.
Ribeye end cuts are taken from the ends of the longissimus dorsi muscle. By contrast, center-cut ribeyes come from the middle section of the same muscle.
Since the end cuts may be a little bit thinner and less uniform in thickness than the center-cut portions, they’re often priced lower. However, it’s important to note that the flavor and texture will be similar—enough so that you may not notice a difference.
There may be a bit less marbling in the end cuts, but the meat should still contain enough fat to make a nice juicy steak. Our advice would be to take special care to avoid overcooking the meat if you’ve purchased an end cut.
Breaking Down the Parts
The longissimus dorsi muscle, which makes up the bulk of the ribeye, runs along the length of the animal’s spine. This is the section that contains plenty of marbling, resulting in the ribeye’s unforgettable flavor.
Ribeyes also contain the spinalis muscle, sometimes called the “cap” of the ribeye. This is a thin muscle that’s found beneath the longissimus dorsi. It doesn’t have as much fat, but the tender texture contributes to the ribeye’s signature qualities.
The last part of the ribeye is the complexus, which is a small muscle situated between the longissimus dorsi and the spinalis. Not all ribeyes will contain this portion—it depends on where the cut was made.
What’s the Difference Between Ribeye and Prime Rib?
Many people assume that prime rib and ribeye are the same thing. They aren’t exactly wrong, but there is a distinction between the two.
Ribeye steaks and prime rib are both names for the meat that comes from the rib primal. The difference is that prime rib is sold whole and roasted, then carved into portions for serving. A ribeye steak is sliced into portions and sold raw.
Because slow-roasted meat has a softer texture than meat that’s cooked over an open fire, prime rib is more tender than ribeye. However, when you grill the individual steaks, you’re rewarded with the textural contrast of the crisp exterior and juicy center.
How To Grill a Ribeye End Cut
Grilling would be our first choice for an end cut. That’s the case with center-cut ribeyes as well. It’s the best way to bring out the qualities that make this steak such a perennial favorite.
If you’re cursed with inclement weather or craving a ribeye in subzero weather, it’s fine to pan-sear the steak instead. Use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, and make sure the pan is nice and hot before you add the steak.
Your first step will be to take the steaks out of the refrigerator and remove them from their packaging. Pat the meat dry using paper towels. If there’s too much moisture on the meat, they won’t sear properly.
Season the ribeyes with kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Since the ribeye has plenty of flavor on its own, there’s no need to go overboard with fancy seasonings.
Let the meat come to room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. This step is important because if the steaks are too cold when they hit the grill, they might not cook as evenly. It also allows the seasonings to permeate the meat.
Set the grill to medium-high (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Remember that the end cuts will cook through faster than center-cut ribeyes, so you’ll need to take extra care to avoid overcooking.
Clean the cooking grates and coat them with a thin layer of neutral oil. You don’t want the steaks to stick to the grates when it’s time to flip them.
When the grill is ready, add the steaks. Make sure to leave at least an inch between them to allow for even cooking. Sear for 2 to 4 minutes, then use tongs to turn them over. Continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes before testing the temperature.
Pro Tip: Try not to flip the meat more than once. If you turn the steaks too early, they might stick to the grill, as they haven’t had time to develop a crisp crust. You want the meat to have a good sear to give it the proper exture.
Aim for an internal temp of 120 degrees if you prefer your steaks rare, or 125-130 for medium-rare. We would recommend medium-rare for ribeyes, as the slightly higher temperature will allow the marbling to melt into the meat.
Remove the steaks from the heat and tent them with foil to rest. After 5 to 10 minutes, the internal temp should have risen by 5 degrees or so, giving the meat the ideal texture.
Serve the ribeyes at once, topped with a compound butter if you’d like an especially rich-tasting dish. The extra fat should help to offset the relative lack of marbling in the end cut.
Is the end cut inferior to the center-cut ribeye portions? Not at all—it’s just a little bit thinner, and perhaps leaner. The presentation might not be as impressive, but once you take that first bite, you’ll forget all about that.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!