Cut Of Beef For Prime Rib


A lot of people search for the cut of beef for prime rib. This article is a quick guide that explains what you need to know to discover the right cut of beef for prime rib steak. When you’re looking for something to make for dinner, you can’t help but think of Prime Rib. I mean, if there’s a recipe for something else, it will remind you of Prime Rib.

What Cut of Steak Is Prime Rib?

Here’s what to ask for at the butcher counter.


There’s nothing quite like serving up a gorgeous prime rib at your holiday dinner. The giant cut of meat is not only impressive but also guaranteed to be devoured by your guests. When you’re prepping and shopping for prime rib, you might be wondering, “what cut of steak is prime rib?” Don’t worry, that’s a pretty common question! We’ve got you covered below with an answer to that question and more.

What Cut of Steak Is Prime Rib?

When you’re shopping for prime rib, ask for a standing rib roast. That’s the name you’ll see at the butcher counter. The standing rib roast unsurprisingly comes from the rib section of the cow. Cows have thirteen ribs on each side; the first five are called the chuck, the middle seven are the standing rib roast and the very last rib is the loin. A whole standing rib roast can weigh up to twenty-five pounds (a.k.a. it’s huge), so butchers often cut it in half. The two halves are called the first cut and the second cut.

What’s the Best Cut of Prime Rib?

The first cut (sometimes labeled the small end or the loin end) comes from the hind of the standing rib roast near the loin. It’s more expensive and generally regarded as the best cut because it has less connective tissue than the second cut and therefore is more tender. The second cut (sometimes labeled the large end) comes from the front end of the standing rib roast near the chuck. It’s slightly tougher and looks less uniform, but some people prefer it because it’s fattier than the first cut. Slow roast the second cut, and that fat will provide moisture and flavor.

What Is Prime Rib vs Ribeye?

The ribeye muscle is actually part of the first cut of prime rib (ribs ten through twelve). It’s the reason why the first cut looks uniform and contains beautiful, even marbling. Sometimes butcher counters sell it as part of the first cut of prime rib, or sometimes they carve it into individual ribeye steaks (which can be found bone-in or boneless).

Is Prime Rib Prime Grade?

This is a fantastic question. Prime rib’s name is a misnomer because it contains the word “prime.” All prime rib is not prime grade steak, the highest rating assigned to steak based on heavy, even marbling (which makes for incredibly tender results). You can buy prime grade prime rib at a premium from high-end butchers. You can also buy choice grade, the second-best grade with less marbling.

How Much Prime Rib Should I Buy?

A safe bet is about one pound of meat per adult (and 1/2 pound per kid).

How to Cook Prime Rib In the Oven

The best prime rib is crisp on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. Our ideal cooking method is the reverse sear, which is done entirely in the oven. For a full recipe, check out Food Network Kitchen’s recipe The Best Prime Rib, but here’s an overview. For maximum flavor, we suggest seasoning the prime rib in advance and letting it rest in the refrigerator overnight. Then, instead of searing the meat at the beginning, you’ll cook the roast low and slow: place it fat-side up on a rack set in a roasting pan and roast it at 350 degrees F until the center of the meat reaches 120 degrees F. For an eight-pound standing rib roast, this will take about four hours. The low heat dries the surface which allows the high heat to crisp it up nicely. Remove the rib roast from the oven and let it sit for about one hour (the temperature will continue to rise as it sits). Then right before serving, crank up the oven to 500 degrees F and bake that rib roast until the fatty skin turns golden brown. Rest for thirty minutes and serve!

How to Select a Prime Rib Roast (What You Need to Know)

Prime Rib Roast is rich, juicy and tender – a spectacular centerpiece for the holidays, especially when it’s served with Horseradish Sauce and Mashed Potatoes. Prime rib is considered the king of all beef cuts.

This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.

Prime Rib Roast is truly simple to prepare. Here is everything you need to know to purchase the perfect Prime Rib Roast, from understanding beef quality grades, selecting bone-in or boneless, and how big of a roast you need for your gathering.

Prime Rib Roast tied with string

How to Pick the Perfect Prime Roast:

A Prime Rib Roast is a true holiday show stopper and one of the most impressive pieces of meat you can make for your family or friends. Making a great Prime Rib Roast begins at the butcher counter. You need to know how to pick the perfect rib roast. When you start with such a delicious high-quality protein, the culinary possibilities are endless!

Cooks Tip: Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. has both inspiration and all of the tips and tools that families need to prepare the perfect holiday meal. For example, Chuck Knows Beef, the only all-knowing beef virtual assistant, is the only helper that you need in the kitchen this season. Chuck can tell you exactly how to prepare that holiday roast, including how to follow the right cooking temperatures and even suggest recipes the whole family will love.

Natasha showing how to select prime rib at the butcher counter

What is Prime Rib?

At the store, “Prime Rib Roast” can go by different names including Rib Roast, or Standing Rib Roast (because it is positioned standing on the rib bones as it roasts). It can be found in the meat case with both boneless and bone-in options. So what cut of meat is Prime Rib Roast? The Ribeye Roast comes from the rib primal which gives it the rich, beefy flavor everyone loves. It is savory, finely textured and typically has generous marbling.

Fun Fact: If you cut prime rib roast into steaks, you get ribeye steaks.

Which Grade – USDA Prime or Choice?

There are different kinds of beef grades to consider. The USDA grading is what tells you the potential tenderness and juiciness of the roast you are getting. If you are looking to splurge, get the USDA prime grade. It can be harder to find, so know what to ask for. There is also a significant price difference between USDA Prime and Choice with Prime costing a bit more.

  1. “USDA Prime” – top 8% of all US beef (a bit harder to find), heavy marbling that is evenly distributed.
  2. “USDA Choice” – moderate marbling and is a high-quality option that is available in most supermarkets.
  3. “Select” – value-priced, less marbling, potentially less tender and juicy.
Showing the difference between choice grade prime rib and usda prime grade prime rib

Chuck End vs. Loin End:

Whether you are getting “USDA Prime” or “USDA Choice” grade, you can also choose whether you want it cut from the “chuck” end or from the “loin” end.

  • The chuck end (pictured on left): ribs 6-9, has more fat around and between the central meat.
  • The loin end (pictured on right): ribs 10-12, or the “first cut,” has less fat and a larger, leaner central eye of meat.
Chuck end prime rib and loin end prime rib cuts

Bone-in or Boneless Prime Rib?

We prefer bone-in prime rib because the bone insulates the meat as it cooks and produces more flavorful and tender results, but we suggest buying the type that is called for in the recipe you are using.

The primary benefit of getting boneless is ease of carving. Ask the butcher to remove the bones and tie them back onto the roast. The ribs will still keep the meat insulated and tender and you can easily remove the string and ribs before serving.

Chef’s Tip: Keep the fat cap that is present over the top of the roast to prevent the beef from drying out while cooking. Also, since all roasts vary in size and weight, a meat-thermometer is critical for great results.

Bone-in prime rib tied with string

How Much Prime Rib Per Person?

As a general rule of thumb, plan for 1 rib for every 2 people. If you have a big menu, you could easily get away with serving 3 people pr bone.

  • 8-10 pound bone-in Prime Rib Roast = 4-5 ribs. Serves 8-10 people or more.
  • 4-6 pound bone-in Prime Rib Roast = 2 ribs. Serves 4-6 people or more.

Ways to Make Your Holiday Prime Rib Even Better

Buy the best, dry-age it at home, cook it perfectly and carve it right

There’s a reason we tend to save prime rib for the holidays and other special occasions: it’s rich, full-beef flavor instantly elevates a meal. Oh, and it can be pricey, which means that you want to make sure you do right by it. Here’s everything you need to know about how to buy, age, cook, and carve a prime rib.

1. How to Buy a Prime Rib Roast

You may not realize is that the term “prime rib” has two definitions. It refers to both a particular cut of beef and to a USDA grade of beef. To help you talk the talk at the butcher counter, here’s an in-depth explanation of “prime.”

Prime rib: the cut

A prime rib roast, or standing rib roast, is cut from the back of the upper rib section of the steer, and it usually comprises a total of seven ribs. To make the Slow-Roasted Prime Rib recipe, you’ll need a three-bone rib roast, which can be cut either from the chuck end or the loin end of the rib section. Author Suzanne Goin prefers a three-bone rib roast cut from the loin end—called the small end or first cut. It’s smaller in overall size, but it has a larger rib eye, meaning more meat and less fat.

The chuck end (aka the large end or second cut) is bigger in overall size, but it has a smaller rib eye, with several thick layers of fat interspersed between portions of lean meat.

Prime: the grade

Prime is the best USDA grade of beef available, having the most marbling (flecks of fat interspersed in the meat) and therefore the best flavor and tenderness. Because of its expense, most Prime beef ends up in restaurants. The grade below Prime is Choice, the grade most supermarkets carry. When you ask for a prime rib at a supermarket, chances are the counterperson will assume you’re referring only to the cut, not the grade, and you will receive a Choice grade prime rib. The quality of Choice grade beef is still quite good, and since a rib roast is a rather fatty cut to begin with, a Choice grade prime rib will make a fine roast. That said, if you want to splurge on the best, you’ll need to order a prime (grade) prime rib, and you may have to seek out a specialty butcher shop or high-end supermarket to find one.

The bottom line

At the market, ask for a small-end (or first-cut) three-bone rib roast. If that doesn’t ring a bell with the meat person, ask for the roast to be cut from the loin end. The grade—Prime or Choice—is up to you, and your wallet.

2. Dry-Age It At Home for Maximum Flavor

Before dry-aging.
Seven days later (and 6 oz. lighter)

High-end butchers and steakhouses dry-age their own beef: basically a process of slow, controlled dehydration that concentrates the meat’s flavor, making it mellower, yet beefier. The good news is that you can mimic this process at home for dry-aged flavor without the huge price tag. All you need is refrigerator space, cheesecloth, and three to seven days aging time. 

3. Try the Reverse Sear

There’s no shortage of showstopping prime-rib recipes, but for big holiday meals, we’re especially enamored of the “reverse sear” technique: You roast the meat hours ahead of the final sear, so you can pull the rest of the meal together without worrying about when the meat will be done. Plus, you can do the final sear either in the oven or on the stovetop, depending on what’s going on with the rest of the menu. Learn more about how to reverse sear, and check out the recipe for Reverse-Seared Prime Rib, rubbed with a mustard-and-herb butter. Though this recipe uses a boneless prime rib, you can use the same technique for a bone-in roast, by simply upping the time on the initial slow roast (you’re still looking for the meat to come to the same temperature).

4. Or Roast Under a Crust

Drape the dough over the seared roast, covering it completely.
After roasting, lift off the crust in one piece, revealing the perfectly cooked meat below.

Another unusual method for roasting a prime rib involves draping it in a simple dough of salt, herbs, flour, and egg whites before roasting, which seals in all the juices and infuses the meat with flavor. The result is a tender, perfectly medium-rare roast beef that’s seasoned all the way through. Learn more about the salt-crusting technique here.

5. How to Carve a Prime Rib Roast

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