Buying steaks, but you aren’t sure what the difference is between a ribeye and a sirloin? You’re in the right place!
In this TheGrillingDad.com article, we’ll cover:
- The difference between sirloin and ribeye
- Which steak is healthier
- And much more!
Choosing between a ribeye and a sirloin can be a tough decision. After all, on the store shelf, these cuts might look a bit similar. In fact, you may lean towards a sirloin over a filet simply because it looks leaner. But this isn’t how you should judge these two cuts of steak.
Depending on your personal preferences and what you plan to cook, the answer to whether you should buy a ribeye or a sirloin will differ. We are going to cover all the differences between the two steaks in this article.
Read on to learn all the facts about ribeyes and sirloins so that you can make an informed buying decision next time you head to the store to buy steaks!
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Ribeye vs. Sirloin: The Differences
The main difference between a sirloin and a ribeye is the fat content and where you will find the fat in the meat. When you pick up a ribeye steak, you should be able to see the fat throughout the meat in a pattern known as marbling. A top sirloin, on the other hand, will have very little fat, and if it has any, it will be around the edges of the meat.
Sometimes a top sirloin will have a band of fat through the meat, but this isn’t the norm. Additionally, a ribeye should have many lines of fat throughout, so, in theory, these should be easy steaks to tell apart.
Although they may be cut into similar shapes, these steaks are not the same. Ribeyes, because of their high-fat content, are delicious when slow-cooked. This allows the fat to melt and gives this cut of steak one of the best flavors. This fat also helps keep the ribeye tender, even when you accidentally overcook it, making it a great cut for a beginner.
But that shouldn’t be your only deciding factor, as a top sirloin can also be delicious and tender when cooked properly. Ribeye tends to be more expensive than a top sirloin, and it is the only one of the two that offers a bone-in cut–which might be a huge deciding factor depending on your confidence when it comes to cooking bone-in steaks.
Ribeye is easy to cook as long as you are prepared to cook low and slow as well as sear. If you don’t have a grill that you can use for searing, we recommend that you buy a sirloin instead. This is because sirloin is much easier to cook in a pan or using other methods like sous vide. Ribeyes aren’t as good when they are cooked using a method that doesn’t involve searing.
Related >> Sirloin vs Filet
What’s a Ribeye?
Where it’s Located:
The ribeye, as its name suggests, comes from below the ribcage of the cow. Usually, it is from the upper rib cage between ribs 6 to 12. Ribeyes are most commonly cut from the longissimus dorsi muscle but can contain bits of other muscle groups as well.
Other Names for Ribeye
There are several names for the ribeye, and we’ve listed them all below:
- Beauty steak
- Delmonico steak
- Cowboy cut (only when served bone-in)
- Tomahawk (when served bone-in and complete)
- Entrecote (French only)
- Scotch filet (Australia Only)
- Spencer Steak
Characteristics of a Ribeye
A ribeye is characterized by its unique fat marbling, tenderness, and delicious meaty flavor. Most chefs recommend cooking a ribeye to medium rare so that the fat melts back into the meat and creates a tender steak that seems to melt in your mouth.
Ribeyes are typically some of the larger steaks you will see on the grocery store shelf and tend to be about one inch thick. Some will have a band of fat around the edges, as well as fat throughout the meat.
While you can order a ribeye medium well or well done because the steak will remain tender, this simply isn’t how this meat is meant to be enjoyed. In many countries, namely Japan, ribeye is cut into very thin strips and served with a hot stone for the user to cook the meat themselves.
Buying Info for a Ribeye
Ribeyes can be amazing, but they can also be lackluster, depending on where you purchase yours. The best ribeyes are those which have the highest fat content, something which usually costs a little more. Because a ribeye is more expensive than a sirloin anyway, we recommend getting the best ribeye possible as this will not only give you an amazing steak, but it will also be more forgiving to experimental cooking methods.
If you want to order your steaks online, Snake River Farms is a quality butcher known especially for its ribeyes.
Cooking Methods for Ribeye:
1. Sear and Slow
Our favorite way to cook a ribeye is by searing it on the grill and then moving it to an area of medium heat to allow the steak to cook to temperature and the fat in the meat to melt. This is done easily with two-zone grilling.
Keep your eye on your ribeye as it cooks because the high-fat content can sometimes cause your grill to flare up. If it does, and it is searing your steak too quickly, use tongs to move it to a cooler area.
2. Reverse Sear
Reverse searing is a bit more complicated but pretty easy to master after a couple of tries. With this method, you will cook the ribeye low and slow until it reaches an internal temp of 95°F. Then, you will turn up your grill or move your ribeye to the hottest part of your grill to sear it until it reaches your desired temperature.
You can also use the grill for the low and slow cooking, then transfer the ribeye to a hot pan over the stove for the searing process–whatever works best with your grill.
Related >> Sirloin vs New York Strip
What Is a Sirloin?
Where it’s Located
The part of the cow the sirloin is cut from is the top of a cow’s back near the rear end. This is known as the sirloin subprimal. This area has two sections, the top sirloin butt and the bottom sirloin butt, which results in sirloin being listed a couple of different ways on the store shelves.
Other Names for a Sirloin:
- Top sirloin (when cut from the top sirloin butt)
- Sirloin steak (cuts from the bottom sirloin butt)
- Rump steak
Characteristics of a Sirloin
Sirloin steak is characterized by its low-fat content, and usually, any excess fat around the edges is cut from the steak during butchering. While you might see some fat in your sirloin, it is likely to vary from cow to cow, and if you truly want a fattier piece of steak then you should choose the ribeye.
Like the ribeye, sirloin is usually cut into slices that are about an inch thick. You can also see sirloin cut into stew meat–typically when it is rump roast and isn’t nice to eat as a steak. Sirloins tend to be cheaper than ribeyes and are often smaller as well.
Remember that ribeyes are going to have a much more robust taste than sirloins. This means if you are cooking a sirloin, you will generally need more seasoning or even a marinade to help enhance the flavor.
Buying Info for Sirloin
Generally, if you are looking to purchase a sirloin steak, we recommend choosing a top sirloin. We also recommend that you head to a butcher rather than scouring the grocery store shelves, as non-quality sirloin isn’t nice when served as a steak.
Because sirloin is so cheaper than ribeye, we understand your choice between these two steaks may be based on price. If you really do need to stick to sirloin, we recommend buying it in advance and putting it in a marinade to help enhance the flavor.
Cooking Methods for Sirloin
1. Sous Vide
You may have heard that there is no way to make a tender and juicy sirloin. This isn’t the case. If you use the sous vide method of cooking, where the steak is submerged in hot water, you can get an amazing medium-rare sirloin that is still juicy. That being said, this method does take time and possibly a sous vide setup.
2. On the Grill
You can throw your sirloin on the grill, but you’ll need to sear it at high heat first, then allow it to grill for a few minutes at medium heat to get it to temperature. This can be a bit tricky, which is why we recommend sous vide for those who truly want a medium rare sirloin.
3. In a Cast Iron Pan
If you are a beginner in the world of making steaks, then grab your cast iron pan and use it to sear your top sirloin. This is the easiest cooking method to control, and it can help you master cooking a top sirloin. Once you’ve figured out the cast iron, consider making your next top sirloin on the grill!
Which Steak is Healthier?
Well, for as much as we love a great ribeye, the sirloin is clearly the healthier cut between the two. Sirloin has less fat content than a ribeye and is typically a better choice for those avoiding fats in their diet.
If you are looking at calories, then know that these steaks are about the same in that regard. For those that want to cut calories, we recommend splurging on a delicious ribeye and then sharing your steak with another member of the family to help lower the caloric impact.
Want More Steak Info?
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