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How (and Why!) to Break Down a Prime Rib Roast

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A whole Prime Rib Roast is a surprising value cut, even if it may be intimidating—so we teamed up with the Beef Checkoff and author Meathead Goldwyn to teach you how to quickly take on a Prime Rib Roast.

Prime Rib Roast of beef is a real hunk, a veritable hill of meat, and one that's appropriate to cook most times of year, whether it's over charcoal or roasted in the oven. It can be broken down into different components: a rack of Ribs, Eye of the Ribeye, and the Rib Cap. And while a roast is a roast is a roast, that doesn't mean it can't be other things, too; namely, many different cuts all wrapped up in one. The Prime Rib Roast is a true sum of its parts—which, bought all together, are usually more affordable than if procured piecemeal.

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Meathead Goldwyn, author of the recently released cookbook Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling and owner of the popular website AmazingRibs.com breaks down how it all fits together.

The muscle group that runs along either side of the backbone and above the back ribs is, in general, the most sought-after cuts on a steer—this is where the Prime Rib is. The Eye of the Ribeye runs through both sides—and Meathead, in his book, says this cut is "tender, juicy, and woven with thin, lacy lines of fat that melt during cooking," which is where the rich texture and full flavor come from. The front part is where the Rib Roast is located, usually sporting seven or so ribs. On top of the Ribeye is what's called the Rib Cap, which, writes Meathead, is "the single best muscle on the steer."

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If you do happen to leave it whole, use Meathead's reverse sear method. But if you carve it all up, you'll have 10 different cuts to cook for a party, use in different recipes, or freeze for later. If you're thinking of making one, they'll sometimes be available on the fly, but in general, it's good to plan ahead: You'll probably need to order one from your butcher a few days ahead of time, and Meathead says to spring for fresh, not a frozen one.

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Here's a Prime Rib Roast broken down by cut. Watch the video above to see Meathead do it in action.

Photo by James Ransom, Graphic by Tim McSweeney

We teamed up with the Beef Checkoff to share recipes, tips, and videos all season long, showing you how to prep and cook beef at home like you've been doing it forever.

Tags: ncba, prime rib roast, meathead