Prime Rib vs Ribeye – Differences & How to Smoke on a Pellet Grill

Us meat lovers certainly aren’t short for choice when it comes to cuts of meat to enjoy. From pork ribs and sausages to steaks and burgers, you can have something different for every meal and never get bored.

While we’ve certainly got plenty of choices, we’re not always sure exactly what the differences are between two cuts and how they should be prepared. To help you make the most out of prime rib and ribeye steak, today we’ll guide you through the best way to grill prime rib and the best way to grill ribeye, and the key differences between the two.

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    What cut of meat is prime rib?

    Prime rib and ribeye both come from a cut of beef called the “primal” cut. Prime rib sometimes called standing rib roast, is a cut that contains (up to) 7 full ribs from this area of the cow. The top is a large marbled piece of meat surrounded by a thick fat cap which is ideal for keeping it moist when cooking. When a prime rib contains the full 7 ribs, it weighs over 20lbs, but you don’t have to buy it this way.

    If you don’t want a full prime rib, you can buy a cut that just contains a few ribs. Regardless of how big a cut you buy, you need to smoke it whole and then cut it up to serve after.

    What cut of meat is ribeye?

    Ribeye is a cut that contains just 1 rib of those from the primal cut, with any excess fat trimmed away. Ribeye is always cooked as a steak, and while you should buy your ribeye as individual steaks, you could technically cut several ribeye steaks from a prime rib – it’s just probably not going to go very well if you’re not a butcher!

    Prime Rib vs. Ribeye: Taste & Texture

    Prime rib and ribeye are both flavorful, juicy cuts, but the way they are cooked is what gives them a different flavor (and often texture) profile. Prime rib is smoked low-and-slow over many hours, giving you a tender hunk of meat you can cut up and serve, while ribeye is cooked quickly (usually in just 15 minutes), leaving them with a pink middle (though how pink it depends on your preferred doneness).

    Some people think that the flavors in prime rib tend to be stronger due to the fat cap and/or the presence of the ribs, so you may find that to be true, but ribeye never disappoints. While both have a tender texture in the mouth, ribeye steak should have that melt-in-your-mouth quality we all crave.

    Prime Rib vs. Ribeye: Cost

    Prime rib is more expensive than ribeye for a couple of reasons: one, because it is a much more substantial cut than ribeye, and two because it’s generally considered a better cut.

    How to Prepare Perfect Prime Rib

    We generally recommend purchasing prime with bones in, but if you don’t want to, go ahead and buy one with the ribs already removed. Bones-in helps keep it moist and potentially more flavorful, but you’ll still be blown away by the results you get if you don’t buy a cut with bones.

    Fortunately, preparing prime rib is super easy – you essentially don’t have to do anything to it. Simply apply a simple rub or some oil and fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary and let it sit for a while before you cook it if you can. 2-4 hours is best.

    How to Prepare Perfect Prime Rib

    How to Smoke Prime Rib on a Pellet Grill

    To smoke prime rib on a pellet grill, you’ll need about 0.75-1lb of meat for each person you’re serving (though a little extra will never go to waste!). To smoke prime rib on your pellet grill:

    1. Trim excess fat from your prime rib – it’s best to leave a fat cap about ½” thick, though ¼” is also fine
    2. Cover your prime rib with some olive oil, and then apply your rub or herbs
    3. Allow it to sit for 2-4 hours, if possible
    4. Set your grill temperature to 250F and allow it to heat up
    5. Place the prime rib directly on the grill grates, bone-side down
    6. Close the lid and leave it to cook for 3 – 3.5 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 125F
    7. Remove the prime rib (you can place it on aluminum foil to catch the juices if you don’t have a large enough pan)
    8. Increase the temperature to 450F
    9. Add the pan and prime rib back to the grill (or just the prime rib if you don’t have a large enough pan)
    10. Close the lid and let it cook for 5 minutes just to add a little crust to the outside of the meat

    Finally, we recommend you let it sit for 20-30 minutes before you carve it to let the flavors settle into the meat. This is also ample time to prep the other food you plan to serve it with, so it’s also very convenient. For a comprehensive guide on how to cook prime rib, check out our Ultimate Guide for Smoking Prime Rib on a Pellet Grill.

    How to Prepare Perfect Ribeye

    Again, preparing ribeye steak is simple – even simpler than prime rib! Just trim excess fat, rub with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

    How to Smoke Ribeye on a Pellet Grill

    To smoke ribeye steak on a pellet grill:

    1. Trim fat from your ribeye and season
    2. Set your pellet grill for the highest heat setting (or close to 500F)
    3. When it reaches temperature, open the lid and place the steaks directly on the grates
    4. Turn the steaks after about 6 minutes, and then continue doing so every 6 minutes until it reaches your preferred doneness – generally, you’re looking for an internal temperature of 135F, which will give you medium-rare. If you like it rare, take it off at about 130F, and if you like it more well done, simply just add 5-10F for every degree of doneness you want to add.
    5. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, and then enjoy!

    How to Smoke Ribeye on a Pellet Grill

    What Grill Should I Use for Prime Rib and Ribeye Steak?

    You can use any type of smoker, but we recommend using a pellet grill. If you’ve yet to invest in a pellet grill, here are the grills we recommend:

    • Pioneer 450B Pellet Grill – this is one of our bestselling grills because it’s so versatile – ideal for those with limited space, a limited budget, or new to grilling.
    • 7002B Pellet Smoker – If you need a little more space than the 450B offers, the 700 series will give you the best of all worlds – including being budget-friendly.
    • Multitasker 11002B WiFi Pellet Grill – this grill represents the future of grilling, with wifi for remote cooking control. If you want to invest in a grill that will blow all your friends, family, and neighbors away (and turn them green with envy), this is the grill for you. It’s ideal for big get-togethers.

    Besides your pellet grill, you’ll also need a temperature probe and some aluminum foil.

    What wood pellets should I use for prime rib and ribeye steak?

    You really can’t go wrong here – you can use whatever quality pellets you have to hand. Work with Hickory Wood Pellets if you love a deeper, smokier flavor, choose Apple Wood Pellets or Cherry Wood Pellets if you want something lighter for serving a lot of people. Just make sure that you have enough pellets to hand for prime rib! A prime rib takes about 3.5 hours to cook if it’s 7lbs, while a ribeye steak will usually only take 15 minutes.

    What to Serve with Smoked Prime Rib?

    The truth is, you can serve whatever you like with smoked prime rib! That said, here are a few of our favorite suggestions:

    What to Serve with Smoked Ribeye?

    Again, you can serve whatever you like with smoked ribeye, but here are a few of our favorites:

    • Steak fries (thick-cut fries)
    • Garlic butter button mushrooms
    • Salad
    • Mash potato or baked potato
    • Bacon-wrapped asparagus
    • Roasted or fried Brussels sprouts

    Best Smoked Prime Rib Recipe


    • 75-1lb of prime rib per person
    • Olive oil
    • Your preferred rub or some fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme is a great combo)


    1. Apply olive oil and your rub or herbs to your prime rib and allow it to sit in the fridge for 2-4 hours
    2. Set your pellet grill to 225-250F
    3. When it reaches temperature, add your prime rib bone-side-down on the grates
    4. Allow it to cook for 3-4 hours (depending on the size of your prime rib) until it reaches an internal temperature of 135F
    5. Remove it from the grill, add it to a pan, and increase the temperature of your grill to 450F
    6. Add the prime rib and pan to the grill and allow it to cook for a further 5 minutes, just to crisp up the outside
    7. Remove from the grill and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes before carving

    View more Smoked Prime Rib Recipes here.

    Best Smoked Prime Rib Recipe

    Best Smoked Ribeye Recipe


    • 1 ribeye steak per person
    • Olive oil
    • Salt and pepper


    1. Set your grill to the highest heat setting (as close to 500F as possible)
    2. Place your steaks on the grill and give it 4-6 minutes per side, then flip
    3. Use a temperature probe to keep an eye on the internal temperature, and remove the steak at each person’s preferred doneness (about 125F for rare, 135F for medium-rare, 145F for medium, 155F for medium-well, 165F for well done)
    4. Let it sit for 5 minutes and serve

    View more Smoked Ribeye Recipes here.

    Best Smoked Ribeye Recipe

    Both ribeye steak and prime rib are delicious when prepared on a pellet grill, so if you’ve yet to try cooking either on your pellet grill, what are you waiting for? Give them a try now. If you’ve yet to get your hands on one of our grills or your pellet grill isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s time to check out our current top deals on our industry-leading grills: you can do that here.

    About The Author

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    Z Grills

    Z Grills is a grill manufacturer with over 30 years of experience within the industry. With over 650,000 pellet grills sold and 85 million cooks made, trust us.

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