If I get an invitation to a dinner that serves either of these, I’ll be there at the drop of a steak knife. Despite their deliciousness, there seems to be some confusion about their meanings. Since I’m not eating them right now, let’s discuss standing rib roast vs. prime rib and get to the bottom of this.
What’s The Difference Between Standing Rib Roast Vs. Prime Rib?
The term ‘standing rib roast’ refers to a cooking method or position in which you place your rib roast. ‘Prime rib’ refers to a specific cut of beef from the rib section. The bones of the cow are numbered, and the ones in highest demand are from six to twelve. If you had ribs from outside that section, they would not be ‘prime rib.’ However, you could still cook them as a ‘standing rib roast.’
Why Is There Such Confusion?
Rib, prime, roast, standing; these terms get thrown around a lot in a butcher shop, and it’s totally common to feel like they’re speaking another language. There’s one main word that is the most misunderstood; prime.
This word carries a lot of weight in the meat industry. Beef being one of the most expensive meats, you can imagine what prime beef must cost. However, when the term ‘prime rib’ comes up, that’s not referring to the quality of the meat; instead, it’s telling us where we can find it on the cow.
A prime rib is the most sought-after cut of meat you can harvest from the cow and therefore earns the title of ‘prime.’ No matter the grade of the cow, every cow will yield ‘prime rib.’
Here’s a familiar word. We know what a rib is and that they come in the form of racks. Beef is no different, but they are enormous. When talking about standing rib roast vs. prime rib, this doesn’t help us since the word is used in both terms. It doesn’t even tell us what animal we’re dealing with, yet oftentimes, people just assume beef.
Standing Rib Roast Explained
Let’s get one thing straight, most of the time, when someone says “standing rib roast,” they mean prime rib. But it would behoove them to be more specific to ensure there’s no confusion.
Another confusing term, but in this case, it basically means you have a ‘loaf’ of meat. Roasts are voluminous pieces of meat that require long and even cooking times. This is so the middle can cook at the same time as the outside. Nobody likes dry meat with a raw center.
This term was coined by butchers decades ago. It alludes to how they suggest you cook it, standing on the bones. This is perfect for roast-style cuts because it raises the meat off the roast pan surface. Being suspended means there is sufficient airflow all around the roast, which allows for even cooking.
Without this method, the lower third of the roast would be mush after simmering in its own juices for so many hours. Although still delicious, it isn’t the best way to enjoy this style of cut.
Bone-In Or Bone Out?
With a standing rib roast, you have to have bone-in; otherwise, there is nothing for it to stand on. Be careful when you’re shopping. There are many types of ‘rib roasts’ out there, but it’s not a ‘standing rib roast’ without at least two bones.
Meat with only one bone would be called a ‘bone-in steak.’ This doesn’t have to be beef.
Ironically, you can get a boneless prime rib if you like, but only for specific uses. For example, to make deli-style roast beef or premium and authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwiches.
Prime Rib Explained
A prime rib is that delicious cut of beef we’ve all come to know and love. The big bones and carvery stations at fancy buffets make prime rib such a fan favorite. When you hear this term, it means only one thing, the best part of the cow.
Prime rib is usually cooked low and slow in an oven or smoker with the bones attached. The bones are a source of big flavor, and what gives this cut its distinct taste—often reserved for holiday meals or special occasions, it’s served with au jus and/or a little bit of horseradish.
It’s Called Prime, So It Must Be Good
Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you get a NY strip from your favorite steakhouse and it’s graded as ‘prime,’ then you got yourself a high-end NY strip. Just because you order prime rib from a restaurant doesn’t mean it’s graded as ‘prime.’
The USDA has three primary levels for grading meat. The best is prime, the second is choice, and the third is select. You can buy a select prime rib, or you can buy a prime prime rib. Both are from the same part of the cow, just different qualities and different pricing. The prime prime rib is as good as it gets, so you will pay a pretty penny.
You can demonstrate your knowledge of butchery by helping your friends and family understand the difference between standing rib roast vs. prime rib. Here’s an easy way to remember; you can have many standing rib roasts, but there’s only one prime rib.
Standing Pork Rib Roast
This is the same cut as a prime rib but taken from the pig. Most of the time, it will simply be referred to as ‘pork rib roast’ or ‘pork ribeye roast.’
This is cooked using the same method of sitting the pork in your roasting pan with the rib side down. Typically, a pork rib roast is leaner than its beef counterpart so getting an even cook is even more important to maintain moisture.
Standing Lamb Rib Roast
You may be more familiar with the term ‘rack of lamb.’ This is again the same part of a lamb with very tender and plentiful meat that gains deep flavor from the bone. It must also be cooked the same way and the internal temperature monitored closely.
While technically this is a standing rib roast, in most cases, when someone says that, they will be referring to beef.
Cooking Standing Rib Roast vs. Prime Rib
There is only one way to cook prime rib and that’s by slowly roasting at a low heat over the course of a few hours with the bone-in cuts.
You can cook a standing rib roast the same way or cut it into steaks first. While this makes it not a roast at all, a rib roast is usually taken from the leaner end. Lean cuts of meat benefit more from a hot and fast cooking style.
If you had a boneless rib roast, you could cut that into steaks and have a bunch of ribeye steaks. That’s why ribeye is so marbleized because it comes from the cow’s rib section.
In the case of prime rib, you may be served in steak form, but that’s after the chef has roasted the whole rack and then sliced it just before plating.
Is A Standing Rib Roast or Prime Rib Better For Holiday Meals?
Prime rib is better for holiday meals and celebrations. It’s a better cut of beef, and the presentation value is usually higher because the bones are more prominent. So much flavor comes from the bones as well, so for important meals of any kind, prime rib is preferred.
Is Standing Rib Roast Cheaper Than Prime Rib?
Yes, standing rib roast is cheaper than prime rib in most cases. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, so in that case, the price is the same. By definition prime rib is the best part of the cow, and because of that, it commands the highest price per pound.
Is Standing Rib Roast Bigger Than Prime Rib?
No, prime rib is almost always bigger than a standing rib roast. Although the terms are used interchangeably sometimes, a standing rib roast is from the leaner and smaller end of the ribcage. The bones are slightly shorter, and therefore the overall weight and appearance are smaller.
When talking about standing rib roast vs. prime rib, there’s a lot of politics at play, and many people who think they know what they’re talking about are spreading misinformation.
The easiest way to remember is that prime rib is unmistakable. There’s only one prime rib but many standing rib roasts, although prime rib could be considered a standing rib roast. That makes sense, right? Now I’m really craving some standing prime rib roast!
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!