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Cooking Tips

A Rib-Eye is Two Different Steaks. One of Them is Way Better.

Rib-eye is a primo cut for good reason. But many people overlook its most tender, flavorful part. Here’s how to enjoy this steak to the utmost.
By and

Published Mar. 2, 2023.

Rib-eye steaks are the stuff of romantic dinners and celebratory meals. If you’re looking to impress, this is the cut for you.

Also known as beauty steak, Delmonico steak, and Spencer steak, a rib eye is cut from the rib of a cow. It's, in essence, a boneless piece of prime rib, and it shares that roast’s big beefy flavor, rich marbling, and tender texture. 

But here’s something you may not know about this primo steak: It’s actually not just one steak. It's two—a big center eye and a slimmer attached cap that curves around the outer edge. 

Why does this matter? Because we have a chef’s tip that can help you enjoy this steak even more: Separate the two muscles and then slice and eat each part individually.

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The cap is a muscle called the Spinalis dorsi and the eye, the Longissimus dorsi muscle. Because the cap is thinner than the eye and separated from it by a band of fat and silver skin, it may look less desirable. 

Make no mistake: This is the best bit of beef on the cow.

Chefs in the know will even serve it on its own without the eye. At The French Laundry, Thomas Keller chargrills the cap and calls it culotte de boeuf.

The high-end mail-order meat emporium Snake River Farms refers to rib-eye cap from American Wagyu beef as its most luxurious product and peddles it for $64 per 8-ounce piece. 

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And only by eating it on its own can you appreciate the cap’s delectable qualities to the utmost. 

That’s where our chef’s tip comes in. Regardless of whether you sous vide, grill, or pan-sear your rib eye, after the meat has rested, separate the two muscles. 

A raw rib-eye steak, showing the two clear parts divided by fat.
A rib-eye steak, showing the two distinct sections divided by fat.

If your rib eye also contains a third distinct muscle between the cap and eye—the complexus muscle—keep it attached to the cap, since it’s juicy and tender like the cap.

Then, trim off the gristle and, if desired, some of the fat. 

And finally, cut the eye into strips across the grain as you normally would. But slice the cap on the bias into slightly wider strips—that way, you’ll be better able to savor its juicy, unctuous texture. 

Serve the steaks—and watch how diners exclaim, “Wow, this Spinalis dorsi is delicious!” (I promise they will use those exact words.) 

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