The rib eye is a cut that any steakhouse worth its salt will have on its menu. The cut gets its name from the inner muscle strand of the prime rib – the muscle meat is encased by the fatty tissue of the prime rib cap, giving it the appearance of an eye. It is often claimed that the name is derived from the cut’s famous fat eye, but in reality, the derivation comes from the longissimus dorsi – the “eye of round”.
What is the difference between the rib eye and entrecôte?The terms entrecôte and prime rib sometimes cause confusion, as they are mistaken for additional cuts – in fact, all three titles denote, in principle, one and the same cut. The rib eye is simply the American cut, which is more oriented towards the prime rib area. While the French cut is made on the intermediate rib (“entrecôte” consists of the “entre = between” and “côte = rib”). The differences are minimal and have converged increasingly in recent years. Essentially, it can be said that entrecôte usually refers to the back section and thus the piece as a whole roast, while rib eye is the name for the steak that is cut from it.
The international terms
- Germany – Entrecôte/Rib Eye
- Austria – Rostbraten/Hohe Rippe
- France – Entrecôte
- Italy – Costada/Controfiletto
- UK – Rib Eye/Fore Rib
- USA – Rib Eye
Where is the rib eye steak located?The entrecôte or rib eye is found in the front section of the saddle. This name itself is no coincidence, as it essentially denotes the end section or “sirloin tip”, which sits towards the back section of the saddle.
It comprises four large muscle groups in the saddle. Two, in particular, catch the eye of meat connoisseurs – the previously mentioned longissimus dorsi and the spinalos dorsi.
The latter has also recently come to be considered a separate rare cut among meat fans. To do this, either the muscle is removed from a steak that has already been cut and tied compactly together with twine, or the entire prime rib cap is separated from the whole entrecôte to create a flat steak that is similar to the flank steak. This so-called rare cut is also referred to as the ribeye cap by people in the know. However, many butchers and steak fans alike turn their noses up at this technique, as it basically destroys the flawlessness of the noble entrecôte and makes it difficult to resell when cut to this size.
How does the rib eye become a tomahawk?The decisive feature of a tomahawk is the rib bone – this is what turns the noble entrecôte into a glorious tomahawk steak. Essentially, the same cut is used here as for the classic rib eye steak, with the subtle difference that the entire bone remains intact with the meat. In doing so, it serves primarily as an additional flavour enhancer that gives the meat’s own flavour a real boost. At the same time, it also determines the thickness of the steak – an advantage when you consider the daunting amount of meat on offer. In some places, the tomahawk is also called the cowboy steak.
How can I recognise the perfect rib eye steak?The main characteristics of the rib eye are, above all,
- its strongly pronounced marbling
- and the famous fat eye, which has been much praised for decades.
And rightly so – because the high fat content of the steak ensures, among other things, its juiciness and stunning texture. That is why the fine strands of fat should always run through the entire cut and should be clearly recognisable as marbling. To ensure that there is also enough of the cone-shaped tenderloin with your entrecôte, the cut should be made by the butcher between the eighth and tenth rib.