Breaking Down a Primal Ribeye Roast

Posted by johngl

I’ve been wanting to do a couple of experiments involving a ribeye primal.  That is, I wanted to separate the “cap” from the “eye” and prepare the cap as though it were short ribs and the eye as though it were a tenderloin.

What the heck is a ribeye primal?

The ribeye is one of about ten primal cuts (chuck, sirloin, round, shank, flank, and brisket are some others) .  The rib section is ribs six through twelve of the cow.  Oftentimes, these are sold as “standing rib roasts,” usually around Christmas.  At a restaurant, you will see them touted as prime rib (this is just a name, please don’t confuse it with the grade of beef). A standing rib roast can made up of anywhere from two to seven rib sections.  This particular choice grade piece is the whole deal less the bones.  It is a rather large piece of meat, but the price was right.

Anyway, this dozen or so pounds of cow flesh is going to yield a couple of different dishes over time, so expect some more posts about it.   This particular post is more about breaking it down and demonstrating yields, so lets get to it.

I usually start by cutting the ends off the cryovac package to let the residual blood and moisture drain out.  I will then cut across the bag and fold it open.

Ribeyes are actually kind of comma shaped pieces of meat.  In the photo above, you can see where I have already cut the lower tail of the comma off.  There is a LOT of fat here.  That band along the bottom is about an inch thick.  The “tail” itself has some meat in it an it really a lot like short ribs, hence the idea.  I used to just grind most of this into hamburger.  So, you just work your way through this thing, following the natural divisions in the musculature, and cut off the large chunks of fat.  In the end, you should have several different piles of stuff.

That big hunk of meat in the upper left is mostly the eye.  In the upper right, we have the fat and sinew trimmings (that I always brown and make into stock — more on that in a minute).  On the lower right, we have the cap and the tail pieces.  The cap is wrapped around the eye.  Looking at a ribeye steak (below), the cap is a lot easier to spot.

There is a clear layer of fat and silver skin that separate the cap from the eye.  If you just follow that, you will be fine.  Trim off as much of the external fat as you want.  The ribeyes have a substantial amount of intramuscular fat, so there really isn’t too much of a chance that you will dry things out.

In the end, you will have something that looks a lot like this:

You may notice that this looks quite a bit like a whole tenderloin, and I will prepare it in exactly the same manner.  This baby is right at six pounds.  I had roughly 2 lbs 14 oz of the cap and 3 lbs 9 oz of fat and trimmings.  And just look at the marbling:

I lightly salted this down and stuck it in my dry aging fridge. It will probably remain there until next weekend.  But, before I did that, I cut off a couple of thin slices for lunch.  I didn’t plan it this way, but one of the greatest advantages of cutting up your own cow flesh is that you can do things like this on a whim.

It was just about 1:30 and the most glorious one wandered in and asked, “What’s for lunch?”

I said, “How about some small rib eyes?”

“Well, I won’t argue with that.”

“What do you want with it?” I asked.

“How about some wine?”

“I mean besides that!”  Wine is a given.


“And?”  I wasn’t making much progress.  “Just steak, wine, and bread?”

“Sure.  It’s a beautiful day; we should eat outside!”

“OK,” I’d given up on the side dish.

Obviously, we wound up adding some chips.  The Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin was great with this and we used some Al Fresco (locally produced) olive oil for bread dipping.  The stock was cooking away (all those yummy beef pieces) and the “short ribs” were marinating.  Now this is the way to multi-task!

I’ll keep you posted on how the rest of these experiments in meat cutting turn out, but I must say this lunch of “steak on a whim” thing worked out great.

This entry was posted in Land, Meat, Recipes: Eats, Techniques and tagged , , by johngl. Bookmark the permalink.

About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.

10 thoughts on “Breaking Down a Primal Ribeye Roast

  1. Nice work. If I was a bull, I’d prefer to end up on your site than McDonald’s, at the end of my days.

    p/s: I”m about to cook my first aged beef today $30/lb, wish me luck.

    • Duke!

      Thanks for stopping in. Best wishes on the aged beef. At $30/lb its a bit steep. You can do your own for half that 🙂

  2. Any other primal suggestions, along with sourcing, would be nice! Excellent photos, and details of butchering would add to the knowledge. I already BBQ and brew my own beer, but primals would lead me closer to my goal. Freezer and solar panels for power are providing me much more volume of space for storage, so 1/4 or side of beef/bison may be soon next?!

    • For sourcing, you might want to find a local cattleman and ask him where he processes meat for his own usage. Usually, these guys don’t buy meat at a grocery store. Since I don’t know where you live, that’s about the best I can do from a sourcing perspective.

      As for suggestions for primals, it depends on what you really want to eat. Chuck, Rib, and Short Loin tend to be my favorites. The Ribeye is actually part of the Rib primal. A front quarter of beef is hard to beat.

      So, are you using an ammonia-water solar-powered freezing unit for that big freezer?

  3. Justin,

    I checked out your video…nice work! I agree with you, they do compliment each other 🙂

  4. Nice post! I like seeing the breakdown picture by picture from picking up the ribeye, through the fabrication and to the plate. I found it especially interesting because this has been one of (if not the only) other blog which I’ve seen cover this topic. We recently did a video showing it…think both posts compliment each other well 🙂

  5. So far, we have done two different dishes with the braised cap and both turned out nicely. Look for those next weekend.

    To prepare the cap, just use the same recipe as the one for the short ribs.

  6. Wow, thanks for the meat lesson! The price per pound is amazing! I’ve never seen it that cheap.

    Now my mouth is watering for steak!

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