Rib Roast VS Prime Rib — Similarities And Differences

Rib roast and prime rib are terms often used interchangeably and for good reason – they’re both the same cut. To be more specific, prime rib is also known as the ‘standing rib roast,’ so there’s no wonder that it’s seen the same as rib roast. However, there are distinctions in the rib roast vs prime rib comparison. 

Yes, even though they are both from the same cut and have similar names, they are different. The main difference is how they’re each prepared. 

So, let’s get a detailed look and see what the differences really are.

Rib Roast VS Prime Rib: Key Differences And Details

The Bone Of Contention: Difference Between Prime Rib And Rib Roast

rib roast vs prime rib

The key difference between rib roast and prime rib are the bones (or the lack thereof). 

Prime rib contains the rib (bones) of the animal intact. The cooking process or recipe will often leave the bone intact and many recipes indeed use it to bring out the flavor or to work with the cooking process. 

A prime rib cut can contain anywhere between 2-7 bones. The number of bones is simple math. Prime rib is cut from the primal rib of the beef, which corresponds to ribs 6 to 12 on the animal. So, depending on how big the cut is, it might contain 2-7 bones.

Rib roast is cut from the same part of the animal. However, butchers will usually remove the bones from this cut, which enables this cut to be sold as steak. This is the famous rib eye steak. Remember to cut the rib roast before cooking. The rib roast needs to be cut before cooking. At this point, it’s also a good idea to check for the presence of bones.

prime rib

Cooking Method

With the change in bones, the cooking method undergoes a huge change as well. Due to the presence of bones, the prime rib is usually roasted standing up, hence the name standing rib roast. This becomes possible because the bones provide structural integrity to the meat, allowing it to stay standing during cooking.

When it’s standing, the meat doesn’t come in direct contact with the grill or plate. However, it does receive heat indirectly, which cooks the meat. Of course, this isn’t the only method to cook it. It’s also possible to grill this cut to bring out its delicious flavor.

Rib roast has a different cooking method. Since it doesn’t contain any bones and is sold as a steak, it’s good for pan frying as well as grilling. 

Simply put, prime rib is usually roasted or grilled for cooking. On the other hand, rib roast is pan-fried or grilled.

The Cost Point

The rib roast (or rib eye) is the more expensive cut of meat and is very much in demand. Prime rib (or standing rib roast) costs relatively less and is more readily available than the rib roast.

What Is Prime Rib?

Prime rib is a cut of meat taken from the primal rib of the animal. The primal rib region includes ribs six to twelve on the animal. As such, this cut of meat can contain anywhere between two to seven bones. The cut is also known as the ‘standing rib roast’. Despite its name, it’s not the same as a rib roast.

What Is Rib Roast?

The rib roast, much like the prime rib, is taken from the primal rib of the animal. The big difference for the cut is that it doesn’t contain any bones. Any bones in this cut are either removed by the butcher or by the chef before cooking it. Rib roast, also known as rib eye, is usually sold as a steak. This is quite a popular and expensive cut of meat.

How To Select A Prime Rib Roast?

There is a subtle art and skill in selecting the right prime rib roast for your cooking. This is a fairly popular cut of meat and you’ll find it available at most stores. However, don’t just trust the packaging before you pick one. A little bit of attention can make a world of difference and make sure you get the best bang for your buck.

Not all prime ribs are created equal. As with several food items, there is a grading and classification system here that can help you make the right choice and even give you some idea of the pricing.

The gradings are based on guidelines provided by the USDA. Here are the three choices of the cuts and what they mean.

  • USDA Prime: Prime is the best cut of the prime rib. It has evenly distributed heavy marbling, which is a testament to its quality. Less than 8% of all US beef falls into this category. As such, this is relatively expensive and a bit tough to find.
  • USDA Choice: The choice cut of beef has moderate marbling and is of fairly good quality. In most supermarkets, this is the cut that gets paraded as high-quality.
  • Select: The prime rib that doesn’t fall into the other two categories makes its way into this one. This cut has relatively low marbling and may not be as tender and juicy as expected.

More Choice And Considerations For Picking A Prime Rib

Apart from these gradings, there are a couple more considerations you can use when buying a prime rib roast. This setup is more about the location of the cut in the primal rib.

  • Chuck End: This cut goes from ribs six to nine. It has somewhat more fat than the other options.
  • Loin End: This cut includes ribs ten through twelve. This is a relatively leaner cut and has a leaner and larger eye of meat.

At this point, it is worth remembering that prime rib comes from the primal rib of the animal. This region extends from ribs six to twelve, which are as described above.

Another option in this scenario would be whether you want to go boneless or have the cut with bones. Either is a good option.

The boneless prime rib is the rib roast or the rib eye and it’s usually sold as steak. If the bones are allowed to stay inside the meat, it is known as the prime rib or the standing rib roast.

How To Cook A Standing Rib Roast

There are a few points to note when cooking a standing rib roast. Recommended doneness here is medium rare. The other options are not recommended, though that can depend on individual preference. Although, you should never get the prime rib ‘well done’. 

When you’re aiming for medium rare, hitting the right temperature is important. So remember that the prime rib continues cooking as it rests. Therefore, the pull temperature here is 122 °F as we aim for a target temperature of 129 °F. 

Remember to give the prime rib at least 20 minutes of resting time. This gives enough time for the meat juices to redistribute and creates a more juicier and flavorful dish.

How Long Do You Cook A 9lb Rib Roast?

When working with a roast, you can start by keeping it at a high temperature (500°F) for 15 minutes. After this, things get more specific. To cook the roast, you should keep it at 13 to 15 minutes per lb of the meat. So, a 9 lb rib roast will have to stay cooking for 117 minutes to 135 minutes. 


There are a lot of similarities between rib roast and prime rib. Both of these are cut from one part of the animal and have very similar names. However, the way they are processed and produced is different. As such, they follow different methods of cooking and get varied groups of tastes and textures.

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