Sirloin vs Ribeye: Staking Out the Differences

August 22, 2022

With sirloin vs. ribeye, the differences include flavor, texture, cost, and more!

I spent quite a bit of time in a steakhouse so I learned the ins and outs of the most popular cuts of meat, which included ribeye and sirloin. And, now I can share my wisdom with you!

In this post I will outline the differences, show you preparation methods, and a whole lot more. Let's begin!

Sirloin vs Ribeye

What is Sirloin?

Let's first break down what beef sirloin is:

Sirloin is one of the two major subprimals of the beef loin primal cut. It is situated closer toward the rear leg. These muscles tend to get more exercise, which makes them a lean, tough muscle, particularly when compared to the cuts at the front part of the loin known as the short loin.

Sirloin

The sirloin tends to be separated into two wholesale cuts - the boneless top sirloin butt and the boneless bottom sirloin butt. This is achieved by cutting along a seam that exists between the primary muscle of the top sirloin and the knuckle which is sometimes known as the sirloin tip.

There are three types of sirloin:

Top Sirloin Butt

This is known as the top sirloin butt, top butt, or sirloin butt. It is typically made into boneless steaks but it can be trimmed down to different degrees. For example, the top butt includes a triangular area referred to as the sirloin cap. This usually is removed and cut up into steaks called cap steaks or coulotte steaks.

The top sirloin steak and top sirloin filets are great for grilling as they are cheaper than short loin and rib cuts like the New York strip and rib eye steak. It is also a great substitute for flank steak.

Bottom Sirloin Butt

This portion sits even closer to the rear legs, creating even tougher muscle. This meat is quite often used for ground beef and stew. The most popular version of this cut is the tri-tip, derived from a coarse-grained triangular area called the tensor fasciae latae. Tri-tip is comparatively lean, although it does have an exterior layer of fat that makes it is suitable for slow cooking.

The sirloin tip is where the loin is divided from the round primal.

Butt Tender

This is the rear portion of the tenderloin and has the most tender texture. As is it of fairly uniform shape, it is easy to cut it and sell as tenderloin steak. If trimmed, it can be sold as a roast as well.

A Note

Now, you may have noticed that many of the terms that I used here didn't involve steak. This is because sirloin refers to a large cut of beef. These sirloin cuts are what is divided up into smaller sirloin steaks of varying types.

What is Ribeye Steak?

Let's move onto what ribeye is:

Ribeye steaks are undoubtedly one of the most well known cuts of beef steaks. They come from the beef rib primal cut. The roasts from this area that is known as the prime rib.

Sometimes referred to as a beauty steak, it is taken from a portion that runs from the hip bone to the shoulder blade. It is known as the longissimus dorsi. This area is quite tender as it doesn't get as much exercise.

There is also a great deal of intramuscular fat, which is also known as fat marbling. This is what adds moisture and flavor to the ribeye steak. The portion is also the main muscle in strip steaks. The other strip at the top of the steak is known as the spinalis dorsi or rib-eye cap.

Ribeye steak can either be boneless or bone in ribeye. If the bone is left in, it is usually termed a rib steak. However, having the rib bone in is quite unusual.

Key Differences Between Sirloin and Ribeye

Lets take a look at several factors for these two very different but popular steak cuts:

The Flavor

One of the biggest differences with sirloin vs. ribeye is the flavor. Now, this is due to the fact that each of these steaks come from different parts of the cow.

Sirloin steaks tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to taste, but this isn't fair at all! YES, it may be the leaner cut and may not be as desired, but, it still makes for a flavorful steak as it has a delicious beefy flavor profile.

That being said, the sirloin steak can pale in comparison to the ribeye. This largely has to do with the higher fat content of ribeyes that is just not available with a sirloin cut. It melts to produce a certain level of richness that results in a nice and juicy steak. In short, it has a nice and robust flavor.

The Level of Tenderness

The texture of the individual steaks is also related to the type of muscles from which they are derived. Sirloin steak comes from the working muscle of a steer. This is why it tends to be tougher and naturally lean.

However, you shouldn't automatically assume that this is an unpleasant texture at all. Rather, thanks to just a small amount of connective tissue, it has an interesting and unique chew to it.

The ribeye is taken from an area of the cow that isn't exercised as much. This is why it makes for a more tender steak. To add to this, the rich marbling on the meat adds to the texture. When the marbling melts, it adds moisture, causing the meat to tenderize further.

Cooking Methods

Contrary to popular belief, most steakhouses don't actually grill their ribeye steaks. Instead, it is more common to broil them. This type of steak will often be pan seared as well. When you are at home, though, you can give grilling a ribeye steak a try.

steak

The only thing that you need to be concerned with, though, is the risk of flare ups. As mentioned, these steaks have a lot of extra fat. When placed over a grill, this fat melts and drips into the fire, causing a flare up.

Now, due to the fact that the ribeye is such a flavorful steak, there is no need to use a marinade. Rather, the red meat is lightly seasoned so that the natural flavors of the steak shine through.

It is much more commonplace to use a marinade with this lean cut. The seasonings help to infuse it with a great taste. Smaller chunks can be used in stews or they can be skewered and grilled for kabobs.

The sirloin is great on a grill, at a barbecue, and there is less risk of a flare ups as it has a lower fat content. Still, pan seared tends to be the way to go with this particular cut as well.

In general, though, both sirloin and ribeye steak are best cooked on a stove.

Price

It should go without saying, but sirloin steak is the more affordable cut. Ribeye steak is considered as a prime cut and thus, is sold at a premium price. It is also while you are more likely to find this cut in your favorite steakhouse, with a higher price tag attached.

The main reason for ribeye steak being more expensive has to do with the tender texture of the meat.

However, the answer isn't always so straightforward. For instance, a boneless top sirloin may cost more than a bone in ribeye. The grade of the meat, the size of the steaks, and other factors can come into play here as well.

This also includes the source. Some premium butchers may automatically cost you more than a grocery chain store.

One tip that you can follow to save money is to buy a full sirloin cut, trim it, and then slice it into smaller steaks. Now, this can take some time, skill, and effort but can be a good way to shave off a few dollars when you want to indulge in steaks.

And if you would prefer a more affordable version of ribeye, a skirt steak may be a suitable substitute.

Nutrition

Then, in ribeye vs sirloin steak, is one healthier than the other?

It turns out that there is a pretty definite winner here and it is sirloin steak. In particular, top sirloin steak is one of the healthiest types of steaks. As far as nutritional information goes, a single steak has fewer calories at 150 calories and 1.9g of saturated fat. It also boasts 26g of protein. Now it does have 91g of cholesterol, though.

The NY strip steak is a pretty good option too.

Unfortunately, the ribeye steaks rank rather poorly here. Although they clock in just 4g of saturated fat and 80g of cholesterol, the overall fat content is pretty astonishing. Remember, this is a well marbled piece of meat and contains up to 21g of fat!

Sirloin vs. Ribeye Steak - Is One Better?

This is a fair question, but I am afraid that I dont have a proper answer for you and here's the reason:

For one thing, when it comes to ribeye and sirloin, it really is down to personal preference. It doesn't matter about what the experts say, it is about what you like in terms of taste, texture, and even price!

The other reason is that each of these steaks have their the own set of pros and cons. Thus, when compared side by side, they can appear to balance each other out.

Personally, I think the best question would be to learn about when you should choose ribeye or sirloin for a particular dish...

When to Choose Ribeye or Sirloin?

Your idea of a the perfect steak will depend on what you are looking for with the cut of meat.

For instance, if you are looking for simplicity and a quick cooking process, then ribeye steak would be the way to go. This is because, as stated, prepping is minimal. What's more, it can take just a few minutes until the meat is cooked properly.

With sirloin, there is a little bit more fuss involved. This is because you have to season, marinate, and then cook the meat. As this meat has a tougher texture, it can take longer to cook as well.

At the same time, sirloin is one of the most versatile options around. You can absolutely cook it as a steak, especially a top sirloin cut. At the same time, you can grill it or fry it and use it for steak sandwiches and fajitas.

It can also work well for breakfast dishes that include steak and eggs.

If you are planning on feeding a crowd, then ribeye steaks can end up being a rather pricey investment. The larger sirloin steak, though, will allow you to slice it into smaller options, saving you quite a bit of money.

The Top Sirloin Steak Recipe to Try

Here are some cooking tips to try when preparing sirloin steak:

Create a marinade with low sodium soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried herbs. You can marinate the steak for up to 24 hours, depending on the thickness of the meat.

Then, season with desired seasonings. Heat the pan and place the steak. When one side has browned, flip it over. Make sure to use a thermometer to check the the steak has cooked properly in the middle.

Make up a garlic butter sauce and serve it on top of the steak.

The Top Ribeye Steak Recipe to Try

Here is the best way to prepare ribeye:

Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Heat neutral oil in a skillet and place the steak in. Flip it over every 2 to 3 minutes until a dark crust has formed on each side.

Move the steak to one side of the pan. On the other, add butter, garlic, and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme. Tip the skillets so that the herbs cook and sizzle. Then, continuously spoon the sauce over the steak until it is cooked to your desired level.

Wrapping It Up

There is quite a bit of difference between these two popular cuts. They taste quite different to one another, are cooked in different manners, and are each used in unique ways as well. Despite these, they are both equally delicious in their own ways.

Now that you are well-versed in these two cuts, you can decide which one you prefer. Or, you can simply choose and prepare them with a greater level of skill and knowledge.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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