Even when you’ve decided to narrow your menu choice down to steak, your work is far from done. There are numerous steak cuts available, and many of them are excellent partners for the grill.
In this guide, we’ll focus on two perennial favorites: ribeye vs T bone. If you’ve ever tried either of these beauties, you’ll probably understand why it can be hard to decide between them. We’re here to help make the choice a little bit easier.
Ribeye vs T Bone
The ribeye comes from the rib primal and is usually sold boneless, though it is possible to buy a bone-in ribeye. The T-bone is a cross-cut of the short loin, and contains both the strip steak and a portion of the tenderloin. Though they’re slightly different in terms of flavor and texture, both are excellent steaks, especially when grilled.
The ribeye is distinguished by its rich texture and intense beef flavor, both of which can be attributed to the high degree of marbling in the meat. Marbling is the term used for intramuscular fat, which contributes moisture and flavor to the meat.
Ribeye steaks are cut from the rib primal, which doesn’t get a lot of exercise. This portion of the steer is located on the upper midsection—specifically, the rib cage. The lack of motion ensures that the beef remains nice and tender.
All ribeyes contain the longissimus dorsi, the main muscle that runs the length of the steer from the shoulder blade to the hip bone. This portion, often called the “eye,” is where most of the marbling is located, though the other muscles may have some as well.
The spinalis dorsi, sometimes called the ribeye cap, makes up the second segment of the steak. This is a smaller muscle than the longissimus dorsi, but it’s still quite tender.
Some ribeyes may also contain the complexus, which is smaller still. Depending on where the steak is cut, there may be very little complexus muscle included, or none at all. In general, the more of the complexus there is, the less “eye” you’ll get, and vice versa.
Ribeye can be sold boneless or bone-in, though the former is more common. Though the bone contributes even more moisture and flavor to the meat, it makes the steak more difficult to grill. The part near the bone will cook more slowly, meaning the rest of the steak might overcook in the meantime.
When the bone is attached, the steak is often labeled either “cowboy” or “tomahawk steak.” Cowboy steaks contain some bone, while tomahawks include an impressively long bone segment that looks like an ax handle.
You’re bound to recognize the T-bone when you see it in the butcher’s case. As the name indicates, it’s distinguished by a large T-shaped bone, which runs through the center.
This is a cross-cut steak from the short loin, which can be found on the animal’s upper middle back. It contains both the strip steak and a portion of the tenderloin. The bone in the middle separates these two segments, making it easy to tell them apart.
A porterhouse is another type of T-bone, but the two terms aren’t interchangeable. While all porterhouse steaks are technically T-bone steaks, not all T-bones are porterhouses.
Why the difference? In order to be classified as a porterhouse, the steak must include at least 1-1/4 inches of tenderloin. The T-bone doesn’t need to include as much tenderloin—just 1/2 inch, though some might have a bit more.
The strip steak, also known as the New York strip, packs a lot of beef flavor. The tenderloin isn’t as flavorful, but it’s the most tender cut of steak you’ll find. When you invest in a T-bone, you don’t have to choose between the two.
Ribeye vs T Bone: A Side-by-Side Comparison
The first and most obvious distinction between ribeye and T-bone is the fact that they’re cut from different places on the cow.
The rib primal is located in the animal’s forequarter, behind the chuck. The short loin is positioned just behind it, above the broader portion of the flank. As the tenderloin bisects both the sirloin and the short loin, you’ll get a piece of it when you cross-cut the short loin to make a T-bone.
This distinction is a minor one, as you’ll get a winning combination of flavor and tenderness in both steaks. But it does affect their appearance and overall presentation.
Both of these cuts are fairly pricey, but not as much so as the tenderloin itself. Since the T-bone contains a portion of this cut, though, it’s often priced a bit higher.
Expect to spend between $10 and $18 per pound on a ribeye steak. T-bone is usually priced between $14 and $20 per pound. If you see a deal on either one, we would recommend that you snap it up. You can always put the steaks in the freezer if you have to.
Don’t forget that when you buy a T-bone, a portion of the weight will be made up of inedible bone. That would be the case if you were to opt for bone-in ribeye as well. If you decide on boneless ribeye, you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Ribeye steaks are usually sliced between 1-1/2 to 2 inches thick. The total weight of a single ribeye averages about 15 ounces, or just under 1 pound.
A T-bone should weigh in at 12 to 18 ounces when sliced 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. Again, these steaks will always include a sizable section of bone, so take that into account when deciding which one might be a better deal.
We would consider this category a toss-up. The ribeye is one of the most flavorful steaks on the cow, with a juicy texture that’s tailor-made for the grill. But the strip section of the T-bone is exceptionally tasty as well, owing mainly to the fact that it’s bone-in.
Which one you choose should depend on whether or not you’re in the mood for a few bites of tenderloin to accompany the more robust texture and flavor of the strip. The good news is that neither of these steaks requires much seasoning or marinating.
This is another category that’s too close to call. It all comes down to personal preference, as is often the case with these match-ups.
When grilled over an open fire, ribeye offers a lovely contrast between a crisp exterior and a juicy, tender center. The strip steak isn’t quite as tender on its own, but the tenderloin section more than makes up the difference.
Assuming that you don’t overcook them, neither of these cuts could be considered tough. In that regard, you can’t go wrong with either one of them.
How To Grill a Perfect Ribeye
Before we take you through the process, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
—Look for ribeyes that are cut at least 1-1/4 inches thick. If they’re too thin, you’ll run the risk of overcooking the meat.
—Try to find Prime ribeye steaks. If there are no Prime cuts available, a Choice cut should do nicely.
—Make sure the steaks have plenty of marbling. When there’s not enough fat on the meat, it will turn out too dry.
1. Take the steaks out of the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before you plan to cook them. Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
2. Fire up the grill. Use a medium-hot fire if you’re cooking with charcoal, or set the burners to medium-high if using a gas-powered unit.
3. Season the steaks with a simple blend of kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
4. Clean and oil the grilling grates.
5. Set the steaks on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes for medium-rare, or 6-7 minutes for medium. Turn the steaks and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes, or until the meat has cooked to 5 degrees below your desired serving temperature.
6. Remove the meat from the grill and tent it with foil. Let the steaks rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
How To Grill a Perfect T-Bone
Remember these tips the next time you’re thinking of grilling a T-bone or two:
—This is one of those steaks that should be reserved for special occasions. That should help to justify the high price tag.
—A single T-bone steak might be enough to feed 2 or 3 guests, depending on its size (and the appetites of your guests).
—You should position the tenderloin portion away from the heat source, as it’s especially important not to overcook this part.
1. Take the steak out of the fridge 30 to 45 minutes before you start to cook.
2. Set the grill to medium-high and allow it to heat up while you wait for the steaks to warm up slightly.
3. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. When the grill is hot, clean the cooking grates and coat them lightly with neutral oil.
5. Grill the steaks for 6-7 minutes on the first side for medium-rare, or 7-8 minutes for medium. Once they’re flipped, continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until their internal temperature is about 5 degrees lower than your preferred serving temp.
6. Remove the steaks from the heat and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 5-10 minutes. Serve with your favorite sides.
Ribeye steaks are a better choice for everyday grilling, while T-bones are more of a “special occasion” steak.
Aside from that distinction—and it’s up to you to decide what constitutes a special occasion—you’re in for a wonderful steak no matter which one you choose.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
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!