Why You Should Stop Overlooking The Ribeye Cap Steak Cut

Have you made a special request at your local butcher shop lately? You've already seen the most popular cuts of steak everyone loves: ribeyes, tenderloins, filet mignon, New York strips, and more. Despite the rise of chicken's popularity in America (it overtook beef somewhere around 2012, notes NPR), there will always be a place in the hearts of grillmasters for flame-kissed steaks and burgers blackened to perfection on the outside and masterfully cooked through on the inside.

Barbecues have been around for hundreds of years, perfected by Native Americans, says History Today, yet we are still discovering new and interesting ways to elevate our delicious meats cooked over open flames. Chances are good you've heard of ribeyes, those marbled cuts that come out soft and juicy. But what about a ribeye cap? Let us introduce you to a relatively unknown cut of steak that a renowned chef from Serious Eats calls "the tastiest cut on the cow."

Ribeye cap, or the best steak you've never heard of

Seattle-based and bestselling food author J. Kenji López-Alt fell in love with ribeye caps over 10 years ago on the East Coast, says Serious Eats. He notes that ribeyes offer some of the tastiest beef available, yet tenderloins provide the softest meat to sink your teeth into. His take on ribeye caps is that they are the best of both worlds with all of the flavors you get from a ribeye combined with the delicate fibers of a tenderloin.

Butcher shops may also refer to ribeye caps as deckle steak, spinalis dorsi (the technical Latin name), ribeye cap steak, or calotte (from the French). Snake River Farms notes this cut of steak is what covers the roll of ribeyes before they're cut into steaks. Boneless and marbled, at first glance, a ribeye cap looks like a miniaturized geologic layer from the Grand Canyon with its striations. Think of it as a thinner and more marbled version of brisket. López-Alt says typical cuts are 16 inches x 8 inches and 1 inch thick, weighing in at around 18 ounces, and they cook pretty fast.

How to cook and where to buy ribeye cap steaks

Because ribeye caps are thin, J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats recommends cooking them on high heat on the grill or in a skillet. The key is to flip it frequently. Bring your ribeye cap to room temperature by letting it sit out for 30 minutes, notes Steak University. Then, preheat a skillet or cast iron pan over a medium-high flame and add a few tablespoons of butter. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on one side, flip, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. 

Cooking it on the grill is slightly different because you have to utilize two different heat zones. In order to get a nice sear, cook it over high heat for 2 minutes per side, then move it to the medium-heat section for 4 to 6 minutes a side to ensure the ribeye cap steaks are done all the way.

You can purchase ribeye caps at your local butcher shop (you may have to ask about it) or online. Consider asking your butcher to cut the 18-ounce portion into more manageable sizes. As you might imagine, there is a price factor here. Snake River Farms lists an 18-ounce portion at $57 plus shipping, and Kansas City Steaks has four 6-ounce ribeye cap steaks for $149.95, as of December 2022. Is the price worth it? For what some call the best cut of the cow, absolutely yes.