How to Cut Ribeye Steaks

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cutting ribeye steak

Ribeye steaks are in high demand for their generous marbling and the rich flavor that comes from it. They’re easy even for beginners to cook correctly, but they can come at a high price tag. While prime rib is also quite a costly roast, it can be cut into a number of ribeye steaks at a lower cost than what you’ll find at the butcher’s counter. Learn to do a little home butchering by cutting your own ribeye steaks out of a prime rib. All you need is a sharp knife and a willingness to give it a try.

Where Does Ribeye Steak Come From?

All ribeye steaks start as part of an entire prime rib. The prime rib is the classic cut for making roast beef. It’s made with the primal cut of the beef rib, which is the large muscle that rests above the cow’s rib cage. The meat is generally tender and well-marbled with fat because it doesn’t get a lot of exercise, even in pasture-raised cows. When you buy an individual ribeye steak at the store, the butcher has already cut it from the larger prime rib. This is something you can do at home because the prime rib isn’t too big to bring home or cut with basic kitchen equipment.

Prime rib steaks are often confused for ribeyes, but they’re cut from a prime rib that was cooked whole as a roast. When the meat is cut raw before cooking, the resulting steak is known as a ribeye instead.

What Are the Different Ways to Cut a Prime Rib for Ribeye Steak?

You’re not limited to creating just one type of steak when you start with a whole prime rib. Bone-in ribeye cuts are the simplest to start with, but with some practice, you can easily create boneless cuts as well.

Bone-in Ribeye Cuts

For a classic bone-in ribeye steak, you’ll start with the standing prime rib roast. This cut of meat includes a set of rib bones that should point upward while you’re cutting the steaks. If you buy an untrimmed roast, there will be a large layer of fat on the opposite side of the bones. This is the cap and you should trim it down before cutting individual steaks. Leave a little fat for flavor, but remove the majority of the thick fat layer unless you’re slow roasting the meat. If there is a purple or silver-colored membrane on the underside of the bones, peel this off with the help of your knife as well.

Holding the prime rib by the bone side, you simply slice downward between the ribs to create thick steaks of ¾th to 1 inch thick. One bone per steak gives the perfect thickness and offers an easy way to handle the cuts without touching the actual meat too much. If trimmed properly in the previous step, each steak should have a thin rim of fat along the outer edge and two major sections of marbled muscle tissue. Depending on how the bone is finished, these bone-in ribeye cuts are often known as Tomahawk or Cowboy steaks.

Boneless Ribeye Cuts

Some prime rib roasts are sold as boneless cuts. The butcher trims out around the rib ends so that only the large muscle sections are left, held together by the thick fat cap. You’ll need to be more generous with the fat trimming, leaving a thicker section before slicing into individual steaks. Work slowly and leave steaks 1 inch thick since trying to cut thin steaks can result in ripped or separated cuts. Start with the thinner side of the roast and slice towards the thicker half for the smoothest cut. This is a soft piece of beef muscle, so boneless ribeye steaks benefit from careful handling and the sharpest knife you can find. If you are working with a bone-in prime rib, you can trim between the two sections of muscle tissue so that only the central “eye” section comes out with the bones attached to the other portion. Trim the fat down and slice this section into thinner steaks that can be rolled or turned into a variety of dishes.

Tips and Tricks

Let the Meat Rest Before Cutting It

Don’t rush to cut a freshly butchered prime rib, especially if you’ve had it frozen or refrigerated. Let the meat rest on the countertop for at least 20 minutes to up to 45 minutes, depending on thickness. Once it has warmed up a little, it’s much easier to get a clean cut through muscle tissue and fat. If the beef was recently butchered, it can benefit from resting at least two to three days in the refrigerator before you prepare to cut it.

Use the Sharpest Knife You Can Find

Sharp knives separate muscle tissues cleanly and without tearing. They also make crisp cuts through the fat and other tissues without damaging the cells too much. This results in a professional-looking steak that was cut at home. Any eight-inch chef’s knife or thinner meat-cutting blade will work well for cutting ribeye steaks. Sharpen the knife regularly and right before doing a heavy-duty job like cutting up beef prime rib.

Trim the Fat

Always trim the fat first, preferably while the meat is still cold from the refrigerator. The thick cap of fat can stay on the prime rib when it’s roasted for hours or smoked, but it won’t add to the experience when you’ve cut the meat into individual ribeye steaks.

Slice Across the Grain

Always work across the meat’s grain when cutting. The standing prime rib roast makes this easy since slicing down between the ribs will result in this type of cut. For boneless roasts, look at how the muscle tissue runs from one narrow end to another. Slicing through the tissue so it forms rounded steaks will ensure you’re cutting across the grain rather than with it.

Kitchen Equipment for Cutting Ribeye Steaks

Aside from a sharp knife, you’ll want a large cutting board that won’t slip around on your kitchen counter. Paper towels are also recommended to sop up any liquids on the prime rib roast so you can keep a good grip on it. You may want some bright spotlighting in the kitchen as well so you can see what you’re doing as you make each cut.

Cutting Ribeye Steaks FAQs