Tri-Tip vs. Ribeye Steak

Reading Time: 4 minutes Back to 4 minutes version
Photo by Loija Nguyen on Unsplash

When it comes to beef, two of the most popular cut of steak are tri-tip and ribeye. While they both come from the cow, they have distinct differences in terms of flavor, tenderness, and cooking methods. Understanding the characteristics of each cut can help you choose the perfect one for your next meal, whether you’re cooking at home for yourself or having family and friends over. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between tri-tip and ribeye steak and help you decide which cut is the best depending on the occasion or your mood.

History of Tri-Tip

Tri-tip is a cut of beef that comes from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut of the cow. This cut is also popularly known as the triangle or Santa Maria steak. The tri-tip dates back to the 1950s when it first got famous in Santa Maria, California. The cut wasn’t in demand back then and was often used for roast or ground beef.

In the early 1950s, a group of ranchers in Santa Maria stumbled upon the tri-tip. They soon discovered that a cut from the tri-tip roast was sinful, especially when barbecued. This same group of ranchers began to host barbecues and parties where they would serve the tri-tip with delicious steak sides. Soon enough, the tri-tip became a staple in every Santa Maria household.

The popularity of the tri-tip soon spread throughout California and eventually countrywide. Nowadays, barbecue enthusiasts have learned to prepare this flavorful cut using a dry rub or marinade. It’s a truly versatile piece of meat that everyone enjoys.

History of Ribeye

Ribeye is a popular cut of beef that comes from the rib section of the cow. It is popular for its distinct and rich marbling plus its tender texture. The history of ribeye dates back to the 19th century when it was first popularized in the United States.

During the 1800s, cattlemen began to slaughter their cows in the Midwest. They quickly discovered that the meat taken from the rib section was exceptionally tender and flavorful due to its marbling. Ribeye steaks quickly became a go-to not just in homes but also in high-profile dining places.

With the ribeye’s popularity growing, the demand soon followed. Once upgrades in meatpacking and transportation became accessible, it became easier to ship and distribute ribeye from the Midwest to practically anywhere in the country. A century after, the ribeye has made its mark and become a staple in high-end steakhouses and restaurants nationally.

Today, the ribeye is still enjoyed by many. It has been used in countless recipes in many cuisines, and it continues to do so.

Cost Difference between Tri Tip and Ribeye

The cost difference between tri-tip and ribeye can vary depending on several factors, including the region, the quality, and the demand for each cut. Overall, ribeye is usually more expensive because of its marbling, while the tri-tip remains a more affordable cut.

On average, a pound of ribeye can cost anywhere between $10 to $20 or more, depending on grade, region where it was sourced, and more. In contrast, a tri-tip can cost between $6 to $12 per pound or more, depending on the same factors. Both cuts can fluctuate prices because of seasonal availability, supply, demand, etc.

When should I use tri-tip over ribeye and vice versa?

Both cuts are delicious in their unique way. But if you prefer a leaner cut with a deeper beefier flavor, tri-tip is the way to go. If you want something richer and more tender, ribeye is the better option. Ultimately, it comes down to your preference, budget, and the specific recipe you have in mind.

Which is healthier – tri-tip or ribeye?

Both cuts are good sources of protein, iron, and B vitamins. Still, they also contain saturated fats and cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and other health issues if consumed in excess.

Tri-tip is generally a slightly healthier choice because it is leaner and has a lower fat content. Note, though, that tri-tip can also have some fat content. If you are watching your diet, just make sure to eat steak in moderation regardless of the cut you like.

Which cut of steak is the best for different cooking methods?

Here are some general recommendations for which steak to choose for different cooking methods:

Grilling: Ribeye is the better choice due to its high-fat content and tenderness. Other good options for grilling include sirloin, flank steak, and strip steak.

Oven-Broiling: For broiling in the oven, tri-tip works best, as it can withstand high heat without overcooking.

Pan-Searing: For pan-searing, a tender cut ribeye is the most appropriate choice because it cooks quickly at high heat. This cut may require more attention to prevent overcooking.

Slow-Cooking: For slow-cooking methods such as braising or stewing, tougher cuts like tri-tip work well as it breaks down during the cooking process to become tender and flavorful.

Always remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure your steak is cooked to your desired temperature. To get the best results, use marinades, rubs, and seasonings.

The level of tenderness between tri-tip and ribeye

Ribeye is generally more tender than tri-tip due to its higher marbling or intramuscular fat. However, cooking methods and techniques like marinating can impact tenderness. With the proper methods, both cuts can and will remain flavorful and tender enough for everyone to enjoy.

Which cut has a better flavor profile?

Tri-tip has a robust beefy flavor, while ribeye is rich, buttery, and indulgent due to its higher fat content. In the end, the choice depends on your personal preference when it comes to flavor, texture, and ease of preparation.


All in all, the world of beef can be multifaceted and complex, but understanding the characteristics of different cuts can help you make more informed decisions when cooking. So whether you prefer the versatility of tri-tip or the tenderness and rich flavor of ribeye, there is a cut that will suit your preferences and cooking style. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cuts until you discover the perfect blend of flavors and textures for your taste, and remember to only buy from steak shops you trust.