If the ribeye is, as some say, the king of steaks, then the ribeye cap is the jewel in its crown. This is not a common cut of meat to find, but if you are lucky enough to find a ribeye cap (sometimes called rib cap or even by the Latin spinalis dorsi) at your local grocery or meat store, do not hesitate—buy it! In our considered opinion, it ranks as perhaps the greatest cut of meat on the whole cow, boasting an unmatched balance of tenderness, flavor, and ease of cooking. Read on to learn more about this amazing cut and how to cook it properly. Here’s a hint: if you’ve ever cooked a steak with a Thermapen® Mk4, you’ve pretty much got it down already!
What is ribeye cap?
The rib cap is the glorious outer-rim of the prime rib roast. It is, to many minds, the best corner of a traditional ribeye steak on the plate—that loose part on the other side of the strip of fat that runs through the middle of each ribeye steak. But removed from the rest of the rib loin entirely and cooked as its own self-sufficient cut, the rib cap becomes something altogether extraordinary.
The meat of the cap is, well, loose. Spongy, almost. It has layers of muscle fibers that are bound together with almost no connective tissue. The cut is shot-through with marbling fat that melts like butter when cooked, and it’s not just any fat, either. It’s rib eye fat. If you’re a beef lover, you know already that every muscle tastes differently and that fat from every part of the cow has its own unique flavor and texture. And you know that seared ribeye fat is among the best smelling and best tasting.
How to butcher a ribeye cap
As I mentioned above, the spinalis dorsi is not a common muscle. I hear tell of it being sold at giant-box wholesale stores from time to time, and you can certainly buy them from specialty retailers online. If you have a very good local butcher’s shop, you can most likely get one there. But otherwise, if you want a ribeye cap, you’re going to have to make one yourself.
Yes, this is an opportunity for some light home-butchery, so sharpen up your boning knife and check out the video below. It’s really quite simple, once you get past the first stages. At a certain point, you can even set the knife down and let your fingers do the work.
- First, remove a few steaks from the loin-end—the end that looks more like a NY strip. At this end the cap is too thin to use, so cutting off a few steaks for later use will get you to the part of the cap that is thick enough—at least a solid half inch. Enjoy these steaks at your leisure.
- Trim away any excess fat and silver skin from the surface of the cut to make trimming the cap easier later.
- Turn the rib loin over and remove the intercostal muscles (the between-the-rib meat).
- Find the seam on the rib-side where the cap runs parallel to the length of the rib. Rip it open, trimming out any portions you can’t easily tear with your hands. Note that this step is an extremely satisfying part of the process.
- If you like, you can cut center—the eye—of the rib loin into steaks. These are called rib filets. Or, and we’ll be talking about this later on, you can wrap it up and use it later for a roast.
- Trim the rib cap of any excess fat and silver skin.
There you have it. A properly prepared rib cap. Now, as to
Note: one end of the cap may be a good deal thicker than the other. You can either cut the cap into pieces of even thickness for even cooking, or you can cook the thinner side to medium-rare, leaving the thicker side rare (adjust up the scale as your guests require).
Rib cap with caramelized onion butter recipe
This is based on a recipe from Jess Pryles, GrilledRibeye Cap w. Caramelized Onion Butter & Truffle Salt
For the meat
- 1 ribeye cap (about 18 oz)
- Salt and pepper
For the butter
- 1 stick butter
- 2 medium onions
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the salt
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp porcini powder
- 1/2 tsp black truffle oil
- Before cooking the beef, prepare the butter.
- Thinly slice the onions
- Oil the pan and heat it over medium-low heat
- Add the onions, salt
andvinegar. Stir and cook slowly for about 45 minutes until the onions are well caramelized.
- Cool the onion mixture.
- Soften the butter and knead with the onions to combine.
- Prepare the salt
- Combine porcini powder, salt, and truffle oil in a small bowl. Mix to combine.
- Prepare the beef.
- Heat a grill or cast iron skillet or flat-top on high heat.
- Season the ribeye cap with salt and pepper.
- When the grill is hot, oil the grates or the surface of the pan.
- Place the rib cap on the cooking surface and sear.
- Cook, turning every 1-2 minutes until a Thermapen Mk4 inserted into the steak reads no lower than 130°F (54°C) for medium.
- Remove the ribeye cap from heat and let it rest for a few minutes.
- Slice the rib cap and serve it with the onion butter and truffle salt.
The ribeye cap is an incredible cut. It is not an exaggeration to say that the whole team here now lists it in their top beef rankings. And here’s the thing: we think you should eat this every time you buy a prime rib. Hear me out. Buy a prime rib for a party, cut the cap off, then trim, tie, and roast the eye of the rib as if it were a whole rib roast or a large tenderloin. Everyone will love it! Picky eaters won’t miss the trimmed off fat and the rosy-pink interior will keep everyone happy. Then, the next day after everyone has gone, you cook the cap for yourself to congratulate yourself for being such a gracious host. You get two different meals out of one expensive roast and no one is the wiser. This expanded prime rib utility is something I will absolutely take advantage of, and we think you will too, once you try it out
So grab a knife and a rib loin, a skillet and a Thermapen Mk4 and try out what may well be the best piece of beef there is.