Rib Roast Vs Prime Rib: What's The Difference?

Unless you're a butcher or a highly experienced carnivore, all the different cuts of beef available can be confusing. Commonly found at steakhouses and holiday parties, rib roasts and prime rib are two of the cow's most elite yet expensive cuts. You may have gnawed on individual ribs from rib roast at a Christmas gathering or eaten it as a rib-eye steak with sides like mashed potatoes and creamed spinach (via MasterClass). Prime rib is generally eaten with similar steakhouse sides, although it's often served by the slice au jus, according to Serious Eats.

But what exactly are you eating when you munch on these fancy entrées? Let's dive into a little bit of cow anatomy for a minute. Unsurprisingly, both rib roast and prime rib come from the ribs of a cow, but the difference really lies in which section of the ribs the meat is cut from. According to Food Network, cows have 13 ribs on each side; the whole rack of ribs is considered a standing rib roast, while ribs 10 through 12 contain the rib eye muscle, and the ribs near the loin are the ones used for prime rib. While they're physically located near each other on the cow, these cuts of meat have some key differences once separated.

Prime rib is cheaper but takes longer to cook

Because the loin end of a standing rib roast is more tender than the rest, prime rib is generally considered the best cut, notes Food Network. On the other hand, the front section of a rib roast has more fat, which isn't necessarily bad. According to Bon Appétit, the top layer of fat on a standing rib roast melts down into the rest of the meat during roasting to keep it nice and juicy. Standing rib roasts also have the bones removed more often than not, notes MasterClass, which makes more work for the butcher and usually means they're more expensive than bone-in prime rib. To amp up the quality of your prime rib, Serious Eats suggests buying it well-marbled, fattier, and dry-aged, adding flavor and tenderness.

To ensure maximum seasoning, The Kitchn recommends cutting prime rib meat off the bones, seasoning it, and tying it back on the bones afterward. Rib roast and prime rib are usually cooked with similar seasonings (butter, garlic, and herbs are all top contenders). However, rib roast can be cooked in various ways, depending on how it's cut, while prime rib is generally roasted or grilled and can take longer to cook than a rib roast (via The Cold Wire). If you're unsure where to start, why not try out this Instant Pot prime rib recipe?