As part of a series of related articles, we’re clearing up some of the mysteries about the major cuts of steak. Today we’re looking at sirloin vs ribeye.
They’re both excellent steaks, but what are the distinguishing features, and how should you prepare and cook them? Read on for the answers, plus nutritional data and three excellent recipes for each kind.
Part of being the best griller you can be is knowing your cuts of meat. By learning what their characteristics are, how to cook them, and which is best for you, not only will you have more fun, but you’ll also eat better food more often. And isn’t that the whole point of barbecue?
A category of meat that nearly everyone loves, and yet still causes confusion, is steak.
There are many kinds of steak. We look at many of them in our guide to the eleven best steaks for grilling. But there are in fact anywhere from 12-16, depending on whom you ask. Considering most cuts have at least two alternate names, it can get downright intimidating, selecting a steak. That’s where we come in.
Contents (Jump to Topic)
- 1 Ribeye Vs Sirloin Comparison Table
- 2 Sirloin 101
- 3 Ribeye 101
- 4 Sirloin Vs Ribeye Detailed Comparison
- 5 Which is Better – Sirloin or Ribeye?
- 6 When Would You Pick One Over the Other
- 7 Three Best Recipes for Sirloin from Around the Web
- 8 Three Best Recipes for Ribeye from Around the Web
- 9 Final Thoughts
Ribeye Vs Sirloin Comparison Table
|Cut||Size||Meat Content||Fat Content||Average Weight||Average Servings Per Cut||Location on Cow|
|Sirloin||Medium to large||Very meaty||Low to moderate fat||6 - 10 oz.||1||Loin primal, top or bottom|
|Ribeye||Medium to large||Very meaty||Moderate to high fat||8 - 12 oz.||2||Upper central ribs|
“People generally either love or hate sirloin. It doesn’t carry as much marbling as a ribeye, nor is it tender like a filet, but generally is a good value at the grocery or a steakhouse.” – Melissa Cookston
There is an oft-repeated story that King James I of England ate a steak in Scotland that was so delicious, he knighted the loin. From then on, the tender cut was known as “Sir loin.” It’s a fine tale, but almost certainly untrue.
In fact, the name comes from the Old French word surloigne, meaning “above the loin.” No less historical (the word predates the reign of James I), but far less interesting.
Sirloin steaks are incredibly popular, and you’ll find them in every steakhouse around the world. Actually, most sit-down restaurants in North America offer a sirloin of some description. It’s perhaps the most recognized cut of steak by name, along with filet mignon.
Confusingly, there is more than one kind of sirloin steak. Most commonly, you’ll see simply “sirloin steak” and “top sirloin.” The top sirloin comes from a section of the loin close to the tenderloin and is correspondingly more tender than the standard or “bottom” sirloin. All sirloin steaks, however, are decently tender.
While not a cheap steak, sirloin offers great bang for your beef buck.
Where on the Cow Does Sirloin Come from?
The sirloin primal is located near the rear of the cow, just in front of the round, which is the hindmost primal. Sirloin steaks are cut from either the top sirloin or bottom sirloin subprimals.
Picture a steak in your mind, without a bone. Got it? That’s probably exactly what a sirloin looks like – it’s a classic, elongated oval (or rounded rectangle) cut of muscle, usually 1 to 1.5 inches thick. Porterhouse and T-bone steaks also come from this neighborhood.
How Much Meat and Fat Does Sirloin Contain?
A trimmed sirloin is almost all meat. Fat marbling is generally very light to virtually non-existent, making sirloin one of the leanest cuts of beef available.
This will depend greatly on the cut, however; a centre cut sirloin steak may contain one-third as much fat as a top sirloin steak.
Nutritional Information (Top Sirloin)
|Nutrition||Total Amount (Based on 3oz Serving)||% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Portion Size: How Much Sirloin Per Person?
Because sirloin doesn’t taste as naturally rich (because it’s lower in fat) as ribeye, an 8 oz serving should be a manageable portion for most adults. If you really love your beef, 10-12 ounce cuts are widely available.
How to Prepare Sirloin for Grilling or Smoking
Who else wants to hear that sirloin sizzle? Not so fast – first, we need to prepare that bad boy for the barbecue.
Since a sirloin is very light on fat, there should be no trimming required, particularly if your butcher did his or her job right. It’s a tender steak, but marinating a sirloin, especially a bottom cut, is not out of the question. Don’t leave it too long, though; overnight is overkill – an hour or two is plenty.
In fact, you might just want to give it a salt and pepper rub (kosher salt is best), and perhaps a bit of garlic. Having said that, it’s fun to play with flavors, especially since this is a budget-friendly cut – you’ll be less nervous about “ruining” a sirloin than, say, a filet mignon. Let the sirloin rest on the counter to lose that refrigerator chill for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on thickness.
How to Cook Sirloin
Grill time! And that’s exactly where your sirloin belongs – on a hot grill, right over the flame. Set your burners to medium-high on one side and low on the other. For you charcoal grillers, move all the coals to one side to create a 2-zone set-up.
After about 3 minutes over direct heat, flip the sirloin to complete the sear on the opposite side. Another 3 minutes, and you can move over to the indirect heat zone. For thinner cuts cooked to medium-rare, the searing time is probably enough, but check with your digital meat thermometer to be sure.
If you need more time, or like a steak that’s medium or well done, leave it on the indirect side until it’s ready. Allow about 5 minutes of resting time for the carryover cooking to do its job and for the juices to lock in before serving.
As an alternative, if you have a thin sirloin (under 1 inch thick), consider the afterburner method or using the infrared burner on your grill, if you have one. Either way, the idea is to sear the steak for just a minute or two over incredibly high heat and then rest it. It’s the fastest way to medium rare and will save your thin steaks from drying out.
“If the rib eye came from a sheep, it would be a lamb chop. (A very big lamb chop.) Which is to say a tender, juicy, super-well marbled steak.” –Steven Raichlen
Taking its name from where it’s cut, the upper ribcage close to the spine, the ribeye (or rib eye, or rib-eye) is a meaty and flavorful steak. As with most steaks, it has several aliases, including market steak, Spencer steak, and beauty steak. Really hoity-toity places might serve it as Scotch fillet or Entrecôte. But, they’re all one and the same steak.
It’s incredibly popular around the globe thanks to the combination of tenderness and full-bodied flavor. That, and it can be had in oversize 12- and 14-ounce portions, which always looks great on a menu.
If you enjoy tender steak, a ribeye is a great choice. This portion of the cow doesn’t get much exercise, so ribeyes don’t toughen up the way brisket and skirt steak does.
Where on the Cow Does Ribeye Come from?
Ribeye doesn’t have rib in the name for nothing; ribeye steaks are cut from the upper section between ribs 6 to 12 on the cow.
Prime rib and rib steak also come from this section – and a rib steak is just a ribeye with the bone still attached. Have you seen or heard of “tomahawk steak”? It’s just a trendy name for a rib steak with an extra long section of rib still attached.
A good ribeye is at least 1.5 inches thick, looks like a wonky oval, and has considerable fat marbling crisscrossing the muscle.
How Much Meat and Fat Does Ribeye Contain?
Being a large cut, there’s a lot of meat on a ribeye. You’ll also find there’s a lot of fat, too. That’s good, though, since fat translates into both flavor and juiciness. On average, a ribeye features more fat than any other steak.
|Nutrition||Total Amount (Based on 3oz Serving)||% Daily Value (based
on 2000 calories/day)
Portion Size: How Much Ribeye Per Person?
When we go out for steak, we tend to go for the big numbers in terms of weight (which often means big numbers in the price column!).
Practically speaking, though, a 6-ounce serving is plenty as part of a larger meal. If you’re planning on showcasing the steak with minimal sides (fries are always a great choice!), bump it up to 8-10 ounces.
How to Prepare Ribeye for Grilling or Smoking
Before you head for the backyard, you may need to do a bit of prep work on your ribeye, first. Here’s what you need to know.
Choose well-marbled ribeyes around 1.5 inches thick. There should be no need to trim anything off, but if you spy some weird bits of fat hanging around, slice them off.
When you’re ready to grill, pull the ribeyes from the fridge and let them rest in the kitchen for anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. This allows the steaks to safely come up to room temperature; a cold steak won’t cook evenly.
We don’t suggest marinading your ribeye – it’s already tender and flavorful the way it is! Too long in an acid bath (that’s basically what a marinade is) will turn your ribeye to nasty mush. Instead, give it a generous rubbing of kosher salt and pepper to make the flavor pop. You could even mix in some paprika, garlic, or other spices if you’re feeling “extra.”
How to Cook Ribeye
Got your grill warmed up yet? No? Ok, well, now’s the time, while the ribeyes are resting.
Establish two heat zones on your grill, one direct and medium-high, and one indirect and low. That may mean turning on just one burner or moving your charcoal all to one side.
Start by searing the steaks on the direct heat side. Timing will vary by thickness but expect to cook each side for 4 to 5 minutes. Once seared, move the ribeyes to the low-heat zone to finish.
The surest way to gauge doneness is with a digital thermometer. Medium rare is 130F, so you’ll want to take the steaks off the grill at 125F and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Carryover cooking will bring them the rest of the way. For medium to well-done ribeyes (we’re trying not to judge), leave them in the low-heat area for a few minutes, checking with your thermometer to know when they’re ready.
As an option, you can cook ribeyes in a smoker. Choose your favorite wood (preferably something medium- to heavy-flavored) and get it up to 225F. Cook until you’ve reached the right temperature for the doneness you want. Consider adding a quick sear on a hot burner after it’s cooked – this is called a “reverse sear.”
Sirloin Vs Ribeye Detailed Comparison
Now that you’ve met the competitors, it’s time for them to face off! Which steak will emerge victorious?
Cooking Methods – is One Easier to Cook Than the Other?
In terms of prep, we have to call this one a draw. You probably won’t need to trim either kind, and there’s no need to marinade sirloin or ribeye steaks. Sirloin steaks will usually cook more quickly than ribeyes, though, being smaller and thinner on average.
The one advantage sirloins have over ribeyes is the lack of fat. Yes, fat equals flavor and juiciness. But, juiciness means drippings and drippings on the barbecue can mean flare-ups. Keep a close eye on your ribeyes to avoid scorching them. If you’re easily distracted or new to grilling, you might pick sirloins for this reason alone.
Is One Better for Grilling Than the Other?
Both of these steaks are excellent on the grill. They are similarly sized and shaped, and both come away tasting amazing. There seems to be a slight preference for sirloin among grilling fans, largely due to the more appealing price and the lower fat content making it easier to cook.
Sirloins also generally come in more manageable sizes than ribeyes, making them an excellent choice for casual and family barbecues.
Difference in Tenderness
Although both are tender cuts, ribeyes definitely score higher in this category than sirloins. All that fat marbling renders on the grill, leaving ribeyes very tender and easy to chew.
Which is More Flavorful?
Once again, though sirloins are no slouches in this area, it’s ribeyes for the win. If big beef flavor is your jam, crank up the ribeye steaks. They pack a ton of flavor into every bite without needing rubs, marinades, or sauces.
Which is USUALLY Bigger?
Of course, we can’t state definitively one is larger than the other. On average, though, ribeye steaks are larger than sirloins, especially if you get them from a grocer. For larger (or smaller) cuts than average, talk to a butcher and see what you can get.
Which is Better – Sirloin or Ribeye?
It would be tough to think of a more subjective question than this. Each cut enjoys certain advantages over the other. But how to choose which is best between two good cuts of beef?
Feel free to disagree, but we’re going to crown sirloin steaks as our winners in the head-to-head competition. Why? We think sirloin offers a great barbecue experience from fridge to fork for grillers of any skill level.
Consider: sirloin steaks are easy to cook, are both tender and tasty, versatile (cube them, slice them thin, make fajitas, put them on salad, etc.), well-sized, and economically priced for what you get. You can mess around with flavors, and if you make something you don’t like, or happen to overcook your dinner, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted a lot of time or money.
Ribeyes are, obviously, awesome steaks. We highly recommend trying them on the BBQ, especially if you’re confident in your grill skills.
But, sirloins are, to us, the backyard champs from this pairing and should be on every grillers go-to list for satisfying the steak craving.
When Would You Pick One Over the Other
Sirloins are, as we mentioned before, highly versatile steaks. They’re excellent served as kabobs, or sliced for fajitas. If you’re planning a Middle Eastern or Mexican menu, go for the sirloin steaks.
Ribeye steaks are the ones to pull out when it’s all about that beef. Sometimes you just want that caveman experience of meat cooked over a fire! They also present impressively on the plate – paired with a robust bottle of red wine, you’re sure to impress the boss or your fussiest relatives.
Three Best Recipes for Sirloin from Around the Web
Sirloins at the ready? We’ve pulled together a trio of tasty ways to serve that steak if you want something more than a salt and pepper rub.
Grilled Sirloin Steak (With Red Wine Marinade)
No points for originality on the name, but full credit for a delicious but simple marinade! Made from just seven basic ingredients, you’ll be able to whip this up in no time. The recipe suggests leaving the steak in the marinade as long as overnight, but we’d recommend less time, or you risk over-softening the sirloin.
The rich, mildly seasoned marinade will add sophisticated depth to the taste of your steaks, elevating them to a level worthy of a special occasion. At the same time, it’s almost a slam-dunk for a crowd, since it’s not overpowering, too sweet, or too spicy. You really can’t go wrong!
Start your sirloin adventure here:
Grilled “Tagliata” Steak
This Italian-style steak recipe is meant for serving sliced on a bed of mixed greens and dressing. (Ok, fine – it’s a salad.) It’s a great example of how versatile sirloin really is and how you can make delicious meals with minimal effort – something we appreciate around here from time to time.
Prepping the steak is simple; just rub it with rosemary, oregano, and pepper. Boom. You’re done. You’ll end up with an authentically flavored Mediterranean meal, but without sacrificing the great taste of the sirloin. Not only is the flavor fantastic, but you also get total portion control, meaning you can tailor this dish to varying appetites and diets.
Follow the link for the full recipe:
We love the simplicity of this recipe and its promise of flavor as big as a Texas sky. The key here is the 7-ingredient dry rub that’s equal parts sweet, salty, and spicy. Not only will it deliver flavor in droves, but it will still let the taste of the steak shine through. We like that – you shouldn’t hide a flavorful steak under gallons of sauce or overpowering rubs and marinades.
What we don’t love is the recommended cooking time: 10 minutes per side! While some folks do like sirloin cooked to medium, we firmly believe medium rare is the way to go. Do what you like, but we’d suggest half as much time on the grill per side. Also, though the recipe calls for top sirloin, any sirloin steak will do.
Click here to put some “yeehaw” on your ‘cue:
Three Best Recipes for Ribeye from Around the Web
While a basic s&p rub and then straight to the grill is plenty, here are 3 exciting recipes to try out for new ribeye experiences.
Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks With Parsley-Garlic Butter
Parsley is a totally underrated herb – change my mind. The potency of parsley is unlocked in the seasoned butter included in this recipe. You’ll also find classic garlic and a splash of cognac adding to the decadence. As for the steak itself, it’s salt and pepper to the rescue, as always.
Topping a steak with butter adds to the richness of the steak and can soften a crust that got away from you. To be honest, it’s not for everyone – some may find the final product too rich to enjoy. But, if you love total indulgence when you’re eating steak, you’ve got to try this one.
If you think everything is better with butter, check this out:
Greek Grilled Ribeye Steaks
There aren’t many cultures or cuisines you can’t adapt a steak recipe for. With this recipe, the nod to Greek cooking is subtle but delicious. It offers a unique taste experience, but without masking the incredible, natural flavor of the ribeye steak.
Between the marinade and the basting, expect a crust that’s bursting with zesty flavors, including Mediterranean staples like olive oil, lemon, and red wine. Again, we recommend minimizing the time spent marinating to preserve the tenderness of the ribeye. The effort-to-results ratio on this one makes it a must-try.
Ready to Greek out on the grill? Point, click, love:
Sizzling Spicy Rib Eye Steaks
If you love bringing the heat to your dinner table, why let the ribs and wings have all the fun? This recipe gets your ribeyes registering on the Scoville scale. It also shows what you can accomplish with a simple dry rub of common spices most of us have in the kitchen right now.
Blending seasonings like red pepper flakes and chili powder, this rub probably won’t make you break into sweats. But, it’s definitely going to put some tingle on your tongue – and you can always adjust it to suit your personal preference for heat. We highly recommend serving this one in the summer with a cold amber or pale ale.
This way to spicy nirvana:
Now that you know a bit more about these two great steaks, have you decided which will be next on your grill? Either way, we know you’re going to enjoy a delicious meal. Best of all, you now know you’ve got options when it comes to cooking style and flavor profile. As Homer Simpson once said about donuts – is there anything they can’t do?
If you still have unanswered questions, or if you’ve got tips you’d like to share, fill out the contact form or drop a line – you will get a response! And, as always, you’re encouraged to share this article with your barbecue mates around the globe.
Thanks for reading. And remember – life is too short to eat lousy food!