Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib: The Ultimate Steak Showdown

There’s not much that can beat a good steak. Succulent and juicy, with just the right amount of char going on, when they’re good, they’re delicious. But with so many different cuts of steak out there, how do you go about choosing which one is the one for you?

We’re going to take a look at a couple of the most popular ones, beef tenderloin vs prime rib, and see which one will take you to flavor town. How to find the best meat for grilling is essential knowledge come grilling season, so make sure you know what’s what before plunging into the beautiful world of steaks.

While you might think that any steak’s a steak, you’ll be surprised at the differences between beef tenderloin vs prime rib.

Main Differences between Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib

The main differences between Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib are:

  • Beef tenderloin doesn’t have much fat on it, whereas prime rib has quite a lot of fat
  • Beef tenderloin doesn’t have many flavors of the fat surrounding it, whereas Prime rib has more of that flavor
  • Beef tenderloin is one of the most tender cuts of beef you can buy, whereas prime rib can be a little bit tougher.
  • Prime rib is quite often roasted, whereas you’ll want to make sure you sear your beef tenderloin.
  • Beef tenderloin is one of the most expensive cuts of beef you can buy, whereas prime rib is slightly cheaper to get your hands on
  • Beef tenderloin makes a much better steak, whereas Prime rib, if still a part of the entire rib rack, makes a brilliant roast dinner

So let’s sharpen those knives and get carving on our Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib battle!

Beef Tenderloin – In Detail

Beef Tenderloin

Beef tenderloin is often seen as the most tender cut of beef you can buy – and therefore, it has a pretty hefty price tag to match! It’s effectively a portion of a T-bone or porterhouse steak, focusing on just the beautifully tender meat. The very fancy and upmarket cut Filet Mignon comes from the beef tenderloin (you can read up on the filet mignon vs rib eye article on our site for more info!).

Tender, succulent, and very special indeed, you can either roast up an entire tenderloin for the added wow factor or carve it up into manageable chunks for multiple meaty magnificence. A bit of a sear on high heat, and then into the oven to finish it off. Delicious!

What does a Beef Tenderloin look like?

The beef tenderloin is a cut taken from a muscle on the cow that doesn’t get much exercise, making it gloriously tender. It’s shaped a little bit like a pencil – at one end, it is pretty thick (the sirloin), and it then tapers out into a much thinner end.

This thinner end bit is also right next to the filet mignon cut, and it can be a challenge to work out what to do with it. It doesn’t quite make a balanced steak as it’s pretty small, and it can also get overcooked rather quickly if you’re roasting the beef tenderloin whole. We’ll go into our top tenderloin cooking tips later on.

What does a Beef Tenderloin taste like?

This particular cut doesn’t have a lot of fat attached to it, and so it can end up having a very subtle taste in comparison to other cuts. Fat often adds lots of flavor to the steak, but as the beef tenderloin lacks fat, you have to cook it carefully to harness the flavors. You’re forgoing a fair bit of flavor for a melt-in-the-mouth experience!

More often than not, beef tenderloin is served with a special sauce, or it has a bit of a marinade with it. Certain meat maestros may deride the chef who doesn’t use just salt and cracked black pepper as their seasoning for a supreme slice of steak, and while you can certainly keep it simple with the beef tenderloin, it does come into its own with a little bit extra.

I’m in – but before we go any further… How much does it cost?

Here’s the bad news for all those who were on board for a tender tenderloin treat. The beef tenderloin is one of the most expensive cuts of meat out there.

For just a simple trimmed-out center-cut beef tenderloin, you’ll be looking at at least $25-$30 per pound. If you’re going by the estimated 1/2 lb of meat per person, this can quickly add up if you’re feeding a few.

If you’re looking at purchasing an entire beef tenderloin, you’ll be looking at well over $100 – so this steak is undoubtedly one for those extra special occasions!

How do I go about cooking it?

Beef Tenderloin

Because beef tenderloin is such a pricey cut of meat, you don’t want to mess up the cooking process! To make the most out of your beef tenderloin, have a read of our top cooking tips.

  • Take your beef tenderloin out of its wrapping and leave it in the fridge overnight. This will slightly dry out the surface, which will result in an absolutely gorgeous brown crust when you come to sear it.
  • Remove the beef tenderloin from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Make sure you season it well with salt and cracked black pepper!
  • Heat some oil in a good sturdy skillet – you may need to cut your tenderloin in two if your pan isn’t quite large enough.
  • Sear your beef tenderloin on all sides for about 3-5 minutes per side. Make sure you’re getting a good brown crust to it.
  • Heat your oven to 425oF. Place your tenderloin in the oven and let it roast for around 40-45 minutes, until the temperature on your meat thermometer hits at least 136oF
  • Leave the beef tenderloin to rest for 10-15 minutes, and then serve it up whole for that added wow factor! You can slice it as thick or as thin as you like.

Prime Rib – In Detail

Prime Rib

Let’s take a look at the prime rib. The prime rib cut is commonly a large cut that is ideal for roasting. It’s bone-in as well, meaning it looks pretty primal and prehistoric!

It’s also the cut that butchers take a lot of other different cuts from, including the beef tenderloin. And when it comes down to prime rib vs rib eye, it’s a tough call to make.

A delicious and beautifully flavored cut, the prime rib has a good layer of fat that gives the meat an incredible flavor. The prime rib is tender and juicy, and perfect for any ‘au jus’ recipes – or as an amazing statement piece for a big party!

What does a Prime Rib look like?

Prime rib is also known as the standing rib roast, as more often than not, it’s cooked with the ribs standing vertically.

It’s quite an impressive specimen, with rib after rib standing up from beautifully marbled red meat if purchased whole, and it has a large section of fat at one end which is worth keeping on to imbue your meat with delicious and vibrant flavors.

It’s a very impressive sight indeed, and it tastes as good as it looks too!

What does Prime Rib taste like?

Well owing to the fact it’s got a good layer of fat and is marbled throughout, it is juicy and tender when cooked. Also thanks to the fat that is present on this cut, it has a beautiful, rich, meaty flavor. It’s often been thought that a prime rib has a slightly stronger flavor than other steaks and cuts of beef out there – but that’s surely nothing to complain about!

In addition to the fat giving it some great flavor, the bones themselves also make this a succulent slice of steak that you’ll never forget. Roasting the prime rib is a great way of preserving and accentuating these incredible flavors as well.

My tummy is rumbling! But first things first – how much does it cost?

Knowing how much prime rib costs might unfortunately ruin your appetite. You’re not only forking out for an absolutely delicious cut of meat, but you’re also forking out for one of the most jaw-dropping centerpieces of any dinner party too, as an entire prime rib, roasted and fresh out the oven, dripping with hot juices, looks amazing.

Prime rib will set you back roughly $17 a pound. Now that doesn’t sound like much does it? Well, you’ve got to take into account the fact that a pound of prime rib might not be that much at the end of the day.

If you’re looking to feed around, say, a dozen people, you’ll probably be looking at spending over $200 for a prime rib rack cut. It may not be too suited for a small gathering, but it’s certainly a great cut for a crowd!

So how do I go about cooking a Prime Rib?

Prime Rib Roast

If you’ve decided to fork out for this glorious meaty extravaganza, you’ll be wondering how best to cook it. After all, a full prime rib is enormous! Be sure to swot up on some of the principles of grilling, if you are looking for some extra tips on how to handle your meat. Read on for our method for cooking this show-stopping roast to perfection.

  • Take your prime rib out of its packaging and let it come up to room temperature. This should take about an hour or so. Season it liberally with plenty of salt and cracked black pepper
  • Preheat your oven to 450oF, and then carefully place your seasoned prime rib in a roasting tin, with the fat side down
  • With the oven up to temperature, pop the whole prime rib in and let it cook at this high heat for 30 minutes – this is the equivalent of searing it, as you do with beef tenderloin. It’s worth noting that it takes around 15-20 minutes cooking per pound of beef
  • Reduce the heat to 350oF and then let it cook for a further 1 hour 30 minutes (this cooks it medium rare – for anything more than that, leave it in longer!)
  • Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer – if it’s 136oF then it’s ready to take out. Cover the whole thing with tin foil and leave it to rest on the side for at least 20 minutes
  • To serve, you can bring the whole prime rib rack to the table and slice along each of the ribs to remove them. Then slice the roast against the grain and serve to your stunned guests!

I’m not sure either of them suits what I want. Are there any alternatives?

Sirloin

Sometimes you might want to have a slightly more traditional steak. Finding the best meat for grilling can be tricky for sure – and knowing how to find the best meat for grilling is always useful.

Here are some great alternatives to beef tenderloin vs prime rib that could fit the bill (or should we say, grill).

Sirloin

There’s not much that can go wrong with a good old sirloin steak! Take a look at our clash of the titans ribeye vs sirloin full guide for more about this legendary steak

Tri-Tip

A slightly more obscure cut of beef, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious – especially when you put the tri-tip vs brisket head to head in the arena!

Ribeye

Another absolute classic cut, which you can rarely go wrong with. Ribeye has unique flavors that can easily match up to our two contenders!

Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib – Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s dive into some of the more common questions around beef tenderloin vs prime rib.

Question: Are either Beef Tenderloin or Prime Rib suitable for grilling?

Answer: Prime rib will be a tricky one for popping on the grill largely because of its size. If you were to get your hands on a smaller one, you may be able to. Beef tenderloin can be grilled, but it isn’t recommended as it is quite easy to overcook, plus you lose some of those precious juices.

Question: I’m worried about burning the meat! How do I keep track of all these timings?

Answer: If you find time management a little tricky, then there are all sorts of different apps you can use to keep track of when your meats will come out perfect. Alternatively, you can never go wrong with a good old-fashioned stopwatch.

Question: I’m torn between Beef Tenderloin vs Prime Rib – How do I decide which one to go for?

Answer: It’s a tricky choice, especially when they’re both so delicious and they’re absolute showstoppers as well. If you want to get really fancy and impress your guests with some haute cuisine, a beef tenderloin will never fail you. If you’re looking for a big family feeder, then prime rib is for you.

Final Verdict

So beef tenderloin vs prime rib – which is best? Well, our vote certainly falls in the beef tenderloin camp. There’s nothing better than that melt-in-the-mouth feeling with a steak, and you can experiment with different sauces, marinades, and rubs.

Plus, it has the added advantage over the prime rib as you can whack it on the grill (as long as you’re careful!).

At the end of the day though, it’s up to you. Which one do you usually go for? We’d love to know – leave us a comment about your favorite out of beef tenderloin vs prime rib!

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