What are the types of steak you most often see?
The first picture that springs to mind is probably a Ribeye, T-Bone, or a Tenderloin. No surprise on this since they tend to be the most common steaks served at high-end restaurants and steakhouses.
Different cuts have distinctive characteristics and different flavors that make them unique.
In short, not all steaks are equal and not everyone agrees on what is ‘The Best’ but Ribeye and Tenderloin are at or near the top of most steak lovers' wish list.
In today's article, you'll learn the different characteristics of Tenderloin and Ribeye. Here is a quick outline to help you scan and skip to sections of interest:
- Ribeye and Tenderloin Key Traits
- Fat Content : Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- How to Cook: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Cuts / Parts of the Cattle: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Importance of the Ribeye Longissimus Dorsi Muscle for Farmers
- Cost :Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Flavor and Taste: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Texture: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Bone or No Bone: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- The Tomahawk Steak Phenomenon
- Organic Grass-fed: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
- Tenderloin and Ribeye are also known as:
- Tenderloin versus Ribeye Summary
Ribeye and Tenderloin Key Traits
Steak lovers will have different opinions over which is better between Tenderloin and Ribeye. The reality is that both cuts are on the list of best-quality steaks. But what sets them apart?
If you like your meat to taste rich and fatter, you'll prefer the Ribeye. As the name suggests, Ribeye steaks come from the rib cage area. The initial cutting process leaves the bone attached, which means fat from the ribs also remains.
The ‘eye’ in Rib-eye is the most tender part which is the Longissimus Dorsi muscle. It is the higher fat content of Ribeye that provides the characteristic unique flavor.
Tenderloin steaks (or filet mignons) come from the tenderloin section of the beef specifically the Psoas Major muscle. They are incredibly tender and lean. If you prefer super soft texture over flavor in your steak, this is your to-go cut.
I always simplify the choice by saying that if flavor is your priority, you should go for the Ribeye. On the other hand, if you want your steak to be buttery and soft, Tenderloin steak is your best choice.
But that is only part of the story. Let's take a deeper look at some of the other factors to consider when comparing Tenderloin v Ribeye.
Fat Content: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
Despite having almost no fat, a Tenderloin is the most tender cuts a beef has. Since it comes from a highly unused muscle, the Tenderloin has low intramuscular fat content and almost no nerves. No wonder its texture is so unique!
Indeed, Tenderloin tends to be mild in taste specifically because of the lower fat ratio, which is why it is often prepared with other high fat and flavored ingredients to enhance its flavor.
Wrapped in bacon, in the the form of Beef Wellington in the oven, or accompanied by rich and flavorful butter and wine-based sauces, you can be creative when cooking a tenderloin steak. Once not overcooked, with Tenderloin, you'll have the guarantee that your steak will melt in your mouth.
When it comes to flavor, the Ribeye has it all including plenty of fat. You don't have to be an expert to tell that a Ribeye is much richer in taste than a simple Filet Mignon.
Your take on this will entirely depend on your relationship with fats. Indeed, Ribeye's rich taste comes from its high quantity of fats found in the marbling. A Ribeye steak is well-marbled and surrounded by layers of connective tissues and fat giving it its distinctive natural lusciousness. Even an organic grass-fed beef ribeye steak will have ample fat for flavor.
How to Cook: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
Now let's look at the best cooking methods to get the very best of these cuts.
Both Tenderloin and Ribeye are expensive cuts, and you'll want to know how to cook them properly to avoid them going to waste. Also, remember to lay your cuts flat on a cutting board at room temperature around 2 hours before you start cooking to bring the meat to room temperature and ensure it comes out deliciously pink in the middle with a tasty, browned crust.
Tenderloin is a hard cut to make properly because it tends to dry too quickly. This is due to the ultra-low fat content. No wonder high-end restaurants offer it in different sauces and accompanied by other flavorful ingredients. Having a rich sauce to fall back on is a chef's greatest weapon against an overcooked Tenderloin.
Plus, your classic Filet Mignon is often smaller in size but thicker than most cuts of meat out there so it does throw people not used to cooking it.
For this reason, the Reverse Sear method can help avoid any surprises. First, be sure to season the steak well by adding plenty of Kosher Salt or Sea Salt, sear the steak on the grill over very high heat to get a crust, and then complete its preparation in the oven to hit your target temperature of 130 F (54 C) then rest for 10 minutes for a nice Medium Rare doneness.
Ideally, you will want to serve your cooked Tenderloin with a red wine sauce or a bearnaise sauce.
The ribeye steak is so tasty you won't need any accompanying ingredients except for Kosher Salt or Sea Salt and some Pepper!
Because of its fat content, the best way to cook a ribeye is to panfry it. Use a cast-iron skillet for the best sear. Only place your steak on the pan when it's super hot. Searing the first side will take about 5 minutes on the hottest setting. Then, flip the steak over and cook to an internal temperature of 130 F ( 54c) just like the Filet. Serve the Ribeye after 10 minutes resting to let the juices stay in the steak where you want them.
Cuts / Parts of the Cattle: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
As mentioned, the Tenderloin is without a doubt the most tender part you can have from a cow. The psoas major muscle which makes up the entire Tenderloin does no working movement on the animal leaving a cut of unparalleled softness and tenderness. Tenderloin is easily spotted due to its unique long round shape.
The oval-shaped Ribeye comes from between the loin and shoulder and is made up of three muscle
- Longissimus dorsi muscle
- Complexus muscle
- Spinalis muscle.
The Importance of the Ribeye Longissimus Dorsi Muscle for Farmers
In the Beef Industry, the surface area of the longissimus dorsi (eye) muscle between the 12th and 13th rib is used to determine the yield and quality grade of a carcass. This is done by hand or by ultrasound method and is the industry-accepted indicator of carcass muscle density.
These two grading factors will determine the ultimate price of the meat from a given carcass so a lot is riding on the longissimus dorsi for farmers looking to get the best price for their livestock.
With this in mind, it is no surprise why growth-promoting hormones are so prevalent in the beef industry. The bigger Longissimus Dorsi, bigger price to the farmer!
The Ribeye is also available in boneless or bone-in cuts with the rib bone still attached.
Cost :Tenderloin versus Ribeye
Beef Tenderloin is the most expensive cuts out there. The reason is not only because it is incredibly tender but also because it makes up less than 2% of an entire cow and in many cases far less than 1%. You can find Tenderloin at around $20-25 per pound on a farm if you are lucky and can go all the way up to $150 per pound in a steakhouse.
On the other hand, a Boneless Ribeye steak averages about $15 to $20 per pound at most Grocery stores, and $40 to $60 in a restaurant. Of course, you may find cheaper or more expensive Ribeye steaks, depending on when you buy them.
Keep in mind that the price you pay doesn’t always reflect the quality as there are cheaper steaks out there that are great eating.
Learn how to choose a high-quality cut and save yourself some money!
Flavor and Taste: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
We've talked about this earlier, but let's encapsulate it one more time :
The tenderloin is a lean cut with little to no fat (or marbling) with a 'more Beef and Less Fat ' taste. This lean meat in Tenderloin also means it tends to dry out easily. Once cooked right i.e. to Medium Rare/Medium, you have some seriously soft and tender beef to eat rich in beefy umami flavor notes.
The Ribeye, on the contrary, is often praised as the most flavorful cut of steak. Its marbling provides for a juicy texture and rich flavor. The high-fat content contributes to keeping the meat moist during cooking and enhances its flavor plus……. fat = flavor!
Texture: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
The Tenderloin comes from a muscle that is used very little, which guarantees superior tenderness.
And a very soft texture not found on any other cut of beef. For soft texture, no other cut can beat the Tenderloin!
The Ribeye is more marbly, stringy texture but still quite tender. Most steak lovers will define a ribeye as the epitome of beef meat.
Bone or No Bone: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
While a Tenderloin never has bones at all, Ribeye can come both with or without the bone.
When you buy a boned Ribeye it's called a "Cowboy Steak” if the bone is cut short 2 to 3” protruding from the Ribeye steak. If the full Rib bone is left on, that’s the infamous social media darling: Tomahawk Steak!
The debate of bone or no bone has been going on probably since man was wearing animal hides and living in a cave.
Most meat lovers will tell you that a steak MUST come with a bone. They would argue that the marrow contained in the bone seeps through the meat during cooking giving your steak a smoother and buttery flavored finish. Most meat lovers would tell you that a steak without a bone is not a "real" steak.
However, research by Texas A & M , by Dr Greg Blonder of Boston University and this detailed experiment by Thermoworks have shown that the presence or absence of bone doesn't make any difference to the meat eating experience.
The bone merely acts as an insulator keeping the meat close to the bone approx 10F cooler than the rest of the steak.
In short, whether a steak comes with a bone or not has no link with the quality or flavor of the meat.
By virtue of how a bone-in steak is cooked ie on a flame grill or pan, the reality is that marrow doesn't get “into” your steak during cooking. It simply can't.
What a bone does is provide your steak with additional insulation and slow down the cooking process.
If your looking for the added flavor of marrow, simply roast some marrow bones and scoop out and spread on your Ribeye or tenderloin for a flavor boost.
Bone-In or No Bone and The Tomahawk Steak Phenomenon
Take a look at the astronomical prices Tomahawk Steaks go for online, at a butcher’s, or in a restaurant, Tomahawk Steaks are clearly in huge demand. Social Media Cooks like Salt Bae have made a global career from the Tomahawk steak.
The reality is, you’re going to pay a hell of a lot of money for a lot of bone. Take a look at any social media platform, the first thing that happens in a Tomahawk Steak video is the bone is cut off.
To me at least, it is hard to reconcile this against the high price plus the bone has no impact on the final taste.
With its primal look, the Tomahawk Steak is very ‘Instagram-able’ without a doubt but ……not worth the hard-earned money in my opinion.
Organic Grass-Fed: Tenderloin versus Ribeye
Organic and 100% Grass-fed meat comes from cattle raised entirely on grass without the use of hormones or antibiotics. Due to the clean diet of the animal, the muscle cuts tend to be leaner so less marbling on one hand but way more tender and ‘beefier’ meat than grain-fed, and it is more sustainable than traditionally raised beef.
Tenderloin and Ribeye both eat very well once one key rule is followed i.e. Don’t Overcook It!
Due to the leanness, when it comes to all organic grass-fed beef, heat causes muscle fibers to contract quickly therefore it is quicker and easier to cook to overdone in a short cooking time.
The Golder Rule we advise all our customers is Cook Organic Grass-Fed Beef including Ribeye and Tenderloin for 25% less time than conventionally raised beef to avoid overcooking.
Tenderloin and Ribeye are also known as:
Just to complicate things a little, there are several names to indicate these two fine steak cuts that you will see in restaurants, TV, and social media. Let's clarify what they are for Tenderloin and Ribeye.
Tenderloin is also referred to as:
- Filet Mignon
Ribeye is also known as:
- Beauty steak
- Market Steak
- Spencer Steak
- Scotch Fillet
Keep the above in mind the next time you go shopping for meat. You might end up refusing a Scotch Filet when looking for a Ribeye, without noticing that the two are the same thing!
My personal favorite out of the two? It really depends on what I am looking for in a meal. Tenderloin is like a Bentley....such a nice special occasion treat while Ribeye is like an SUV.....and will perform on your tastebuds no matter what.
Looking for other steak options or want to learn more?
Consider Picanha vs. Ribeye , two great steaks with unique qualities that make both real winners!
Tenderloin versus Ribeye Summary
- Tenderloin and Ribeye are the most common steaks in high-end restaurants. the two cuts are very different.
- Your taste and preferences for fat or lean will play a huge role in determining which steak is the best for you.
- The Tenderloin comes from an elongated psoas major muscle, which is lean and tender.
- The Ribeye has a higher fat content and more marbling, which gives it an intense flavor.
- Tenderloin always comes without bones. Ribeye is available both boneless and with a bone.
- Despite what many may think, the presence of bone does not make any difference in the final taste.
- In terms of cost, Tenderloin is more expensive than Ribeye.
- Because of the lower fat content, the Tenderloin tends to dry more quickly, which is why it is often wrapped in bacon or accompanied by sauces.
- 100% Organic Grass-fed Tenderloin and Ribeye steak are often leaner than grain-fed but more tender and flavorful.
- Tenderloin and Ribeye are called different names so be aware of this when shopping or ordering.