The 13 Ribs That Will Make Your Mouth Happy
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
What is the rib eye steak? Where is it? Why does it taste so good, and why is it expensive?
Let's learn about the rib eye steak. To do so, join me for a walk through the luxurious “Thirteen Ribs Boulevard” in a side of beef. We count the ribs starting from the front end of the cow (the neck), all the way to the 13th and final rib, where the loin begins.
As with any fancy boulevard, one can always find side streets nearby that will be more affordable, though no less charming. On our tour, we'll stroll past some ribs that are not officially considered part of the rib eye. If the meat is high quality, well marbled, and aged around 3 weeks, these cuts will be just as tasty but with a lower price tag. Exploring the ribs in ascending order:
These ribs are in the front, close to the neck and shoulder. They are part of the chuck “neighborhood.” The meats of this area are suitable for long braising (e.g., goulash or stew) or roasting.
If you have the good fortune to frequent a knowledgeable meat market, you may find two unique cuts from these ribs: the Delmonico and the Denver cut (a.k.a chuck flap, as we call it at Homestead Meats). These steaks are a terrific value in flavor-to-price ratio. Although technically it is part of the chuck, the Delmonico begins to look more and more like its fancy neighbor, the rib eye. At ribs 4&5, you can actually see the formation of the beautiful “fat eye” and the rib cap characteristic of the rib eye.
Only cuts from these seven ribs may be called rib eye, a well marbled and juicy steak
with the familiar fat formation in its middle-- the eye. It’s truly one of the best cuts. Expensive, too. The price is directly related to the quality and flavor, as well as the additional labor that goes into the shaping of this cut. A lot of fat and bone must be carved away to create the perfect rib eye. This is also true for lamb chops or pork chops.
As we move up the rib count, the eye gets smaller. At the last rib, where the transition from rib to loin begins, the eye disappears. This is where a very unusual steak can be found: the club steak, originally named for its availability at exclusive private clubs. It offers the best of both worlds, the juicy rib eye flavor and the beefy quality of the strip loin (more familiar as the NY strip).
We end our tour with a couple of quick tips on preparation. The rib eye, with its high fat content, is best cooked in a skillet with salt and coarse black pepper. This is a highly flavorful cut that I enjoy most in its natural state, without complicated seasonings, rubs or sauces that hide its true beauty. As always, be sure to allow the meat to reach room temperature before cooking and let it “rest” a bit afterwards. Enjoy!
Are you a fan of rib steaks? Which is your favorite? Tell us here or join the conversation on Facebook.
Homestead Meats is Evanston’s first locally sourced butcher shop, handcrafting unique fresh meats, deli meats, sausages and other charcuterie. All fresh meats and eggs are sourced from family-owned Midwestern farms that raise their livestock in open pastures, without hormones or GMO feed.