There’s a fierce debate about how to serve a ribeye — bone-in or boneless. Until recently, most agreed that cooking with the bone-in makes a more succulent steak.
However, this is not the end of the debate; some recent researchers and testers have also concluded that there is virtually no taste difference between bone-in ribeyes and boneless ones.
Those who are anti-bone aren’t necessarily stridently against it; they just say it doesn’t matter one way or another. Those who like cooking their ribeyes with the bone claim the flavors trapped in the bone seep into the muscles and meat around it.
1. Where is the Ribeye Located?
The ribeye steak, also known as the Delmonico, Spencer steak, or Scotch fillet, is one of the most relished meat cuts. It’s cut from the area high up on the ribs on the steer, between the sixth and twelfth ribs, and it’s known for its buttery and marbled texture and incomparable taste.
There are three different parts of the ribeye, and the bone in question is a rib bone that usually runs down the middle or along one side of the meat. The ribeye refers to the nut of fat that resides in the center of your steak. This bone is responsible for a lot of the marvelous flavor as the fat melts during the cooking process to soak into the surrounding meat.
2. Parts of the Ribeye
This cut of meat from far up on the ribs has three distinct parts: the central part is the longissimus dorsi, with the cap or crown running around the edge, and the complexus is a small muscle at the top.
The longissimus dorsi is the meatiest part of the ribeye, and each steak has an eye of fat that melts and lends a lot of the tremendous flavor. This part is surrounded by kernels of fat that dissolve and absorb into the meat surrounding it.
Ribeye Crown or Cap
The ribeye cap or crown, also known as the spinalis, gets a lot of this melted fat, making it the ribeye’s juiciest part. It sits right above the steak’s eye and is coveted for its scrumptiousness.
The final part of the ribeye steak is the complexus, a small muscle located near the ribeye’s eye. The bigger the complexus, the less fat your ribeye will get from the eye.
3. Boneless Ribeye Pros and Cons
There are those out there who maintain that leaving the rib in your ribeye doesn’t make any difference, as the beef bones are virtually impenetrable. They also maintain that you gain much more when you cook your ribeye boneless.
Removing the rib from your ribeye gives your steak another opportunity to create a delicious crispy crust along the edge. For those who adore the crisp edges of a steak, removing the rib offers more surface area to char.
Some say that taking the bone out robs the steak of a lot of flavors. You may not want to take the chance of reduced taste for an extra crust on your steak.
4. Bone-in Ribeye Pros and Cons
For those who are decidedly for cooking your ribeyes with the bone-in, there are no questions that the delicious marrows seep through the bone in the cooking process, making the meat more tender and flavorsome.
There are two types of marrow noted by steak aficionados — red and yellow marrow. Red marrow is generally found in store-bought meat and contains more nutrients. Yellow marrow, called prairie butter by some, seeps through the bone and into the steak when you leave the bone in your ribeyes.
Another pro to cooking your ribeye with the bone in is that it holds its shape much better. In the process of cooking, some steaks will spread and lose their outline, but keeping the bone in helps your ribeye adhere to a distinctive shape.
Bones conduct heat differently than meat and muscles, so the area around the bone may become cooked to a different degree than you would like it to be.
Bones heat up more quickly and take longer to cool down, so when you take the steak off the heat, the area around the bone may cook more slowly as the bone next to it is cooler than the rest of the steak.
Many who like their steaks medium to well done find the rare bits next to bone juicier and more tender; those who cook their meat rare may have to add extra cooking time to bone-in ribeyes.
For those who like to grill their ribeyes, there’s a scientific reason to debunk the bone-in theory — a layer of collagen surrounding the bones that cannot break down unless subjected to high temps for hours. Unless you’re slow-cooking your ribeyes, this protective layer isn’t exposed to heat for a long enough time to melt down.
Whether you like it bone-in or boneless, the ribeye is known for its exquisite flavor due to high marbling and fat content, melting and distributing throughout the steak in the cooking process.
The cooking world hotly debates the bone-in versus boneless ribeye debacle. Pro bone scientists argue that the flavorful marrow, prairie butter included, seeps out of the bones to make the meal more delectable.
Those who are against keeping the bone in while cooking note that there’s virtually no flavor differentiation at all between the two cooking methods and that keeping the bone in robs the steak of a delicious, crispy edge.
Even if you don’t think that keeping the bone in makes one whit of difference flavor-wise, there are other reasons you may (or may not) want to cook it one way or the other. Maybe you want your ribeyes to hold their shape better, or you prefer boneless steaks for the exact cooking times.
Whether you like the cap or the ribeye, you’ll have to decide for yourself which option you prefer. You can also have your own taste test at home, with delicious results.