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How To Grill The Perfect Ribeye Steak

how to grill a ribeye steak with fire

This blog about grilling the perfect NY strip steak is one of the most visited blogs on my site. It’s popularity made me realize there’s a real need to understand the nuances of grilling different cuts of beef, and explaining how to grill ribeye steak. Here, I’ll discuss not only how to grill ribeye, but also dive into how to pick a ribeye, and how to season a ribeye.

The strip steak, as I explained in that blog, is probably the easiest steak to grill. To grill the perfect ribeye however, is slightly more challenging. 

Why? For a few reasons. First, the ribeye steak is made up of more than one muscle. Each muscle is marbled with various amounts of fat, and cook at slightly different paces. 

Second, ribeye is often offered as bone in ribeye, or “rib steak.” While the bone does offer some advantages, the meat closest to the bone cooks much slower than other parts of the meat. So, by the time that meat is medium, the rest of the steak might be closer to medium well.

Finally, unlike the strip steak that is usually cut to about 1 ¼” thick, you’ll find the ribeye ranges from one to 2 ½” thick. For anything over about 1 ½” thick I recommend the reverse sear method. For this blog I’ll be using the constant flip method because the steaks used are just under the 1 ½” thickness.

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What Is a Ribeye Steak?

The ribeye steak is cut from the beef rib primal section of the animal, often called the ribeye roll. This section of meat comes from between the chuck (or shoulder of the animal) and the short loin. The ribeye starts at the sixth rib and extends to the twelfth rib, where the short loin starts.

Because this section of muscle doesn’t get a ton of work, it’s well marbled with fat, making this cut of meat so juicy and flavorful. This is what a good steak is all about for many people.

In the photo below, you’ll see ribeye steaks cut from a ribeye roll. Starting at the top left is the first steak cut from the chuck end. The bottom right is the last steak cut, next to the loin end. Pay particular attention the the muscles that make up the ribeye steak.

steaks cut from a ribeye roll

How Many Muscles Are In a Ribeye Steak?

This is likely one of the more confusing questions about the ribeye steak, with various sources offering different answers. This is important to know because it will impact how to grill the perfect ribeye steak.

So, here goes…some ribeye steaks will consist of four muscles. Others will not; depending on where in the ribeye roll they were harvested from, and the trim the butcher put on them while processing.

diagram of the muscles in a ribeye steak

The largest muscle is the Longissimus Dorsi, or the “eye of the ribeye”. This is the section that makes up the strip steak as well. Ribeye steaks also include a smaller muscle that most consider to be the best part of the ribeye.

The Spinalis Dorsi, or “ribeye cap” is more marbled than the eye, and cooks much faster. This muscle is extremely tender and is often removed from a ribeye roll, and grilled separately. The cap gets noticeably smaller on steaks cut from the loin end of the ribeye roll. Beyond these two muscles, it starts to get a little tricky.

The first few steaks cut from the chuck end of the ribeye roll, will also include the complexus muscle. It’s smaller than the eye and the cap, but still very well marbled. You’ll notice that its round shape tapers in size, and depending on how thick the steaks are cut, after about the fourth steak, it’s no longer present.

diagram of the complexus muscle in the ribeye steak
Notice the size of the complexus muscle in the top steak, cut from the chuck end, and how by the 4th steak towards the loin end, the muscle is nearly non-existent.

Last, is the tail section. The tail section is often removed from the steak during processing, and used for burger meat. If you’re processing your own ribeye roll, I suggest removing it and using it for rib tips.

I left the tails in place when processing the ribeye roll I used for this blog, just for the sake of visual depiction.  

How Long Do You Cook a Ribeye Steak on the Grill?

This is a question I am asked routinely. There is no right answer. The truth is, it depends on the thickness of the ribeye, the level of doneness you desire, and the method you’re using to cook.

For example, if you’re cooking a 2” thick tomahawk using the reverse sear method, it might take 90 minutes.

On the other hand, if you’re grilling a ribeye steak that’s only one inch thick, you might be using the continuous flip method directly over high heat. In that case, it might only take 10 minutes.

ribeye steak on the grill over fire
Bone in ribeye cooking on the Kalamazoo Shokunin Kamado grill.

How to Pick Out The Best Ribeye Steak

Like so many things in grilling, this comes down to personal preference. That said, your preferences will guide your ribeye selection. 

If you don’t mind some extra fat, and some extra work, I recommend selecting a ribeye from as close to the chuck end as possible. Steaks from the chuck end will have the biggest portion of spinalis; widely considered the best piece of meat on the animal.

ribeye steak cut from the chuck end of the ribeye roll

The extra work comes from the suggestion to tie those steaks around the circumference with some butchers twine. They tend to start falling apart on the grill as the fat starts to render and the muscles separate. 

ribeye steaks tied with butchers twine
Ribeye steaks tied around the circumference with with butchers twine.

It’s not the end of the world if the steaks start to separate, but from a presentation standpoint it helps to tie them up. In the below example, note the complexus muscle starting to separate from the steak.

grilled ribeye steak with compound butter

If you prefer a little less fat, but still want some spinalis, look for a ribeye that comes from the middle third of the ribeye roll. This will reduce the amount of fat tremendously, while still offering a nice sized portion of the spinalis.

If your preference is for as little fat as possible, while still enjoying the ribeye, select a steak close to the loin end. You’ll sacrifice the spinalis as there is little to none located here, but there’s also very little fat.

Notice the lack of fat and spinalis on this ribeye which was harvested from the loin end of the ribeye roll.

Some would say you’re basically eating a strip steak at this point. I can understand that opinion because the steak here is almost all Longissimus Dorsi, which is the same muscle as the strip steak.

two ribeye steaks side by side
Note the difference in muscles for these two ribeyes; the first and last ones cut from the ribeye roll.

What To Serve With Grilled Ribeye Steak

I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I am obviously going to suggest pairing your grilled ribeye steak with garlic mashed potatoes. They’re creamy, garlicky and honestly one of the best sides ever.

If you are watching your carbs, try this crazy good grilled broccolini. The acid in the lemon is the perfect balance for the fattiness of the steak. Talk about fresh!

If you can’t find broccolini, try this spicy grilled baby bok choy. Only slightly spicy, the flavor from these grilled veggies can stand on its own, but goes well with a ribeye.

How To Properly Season a Ribeye Steak

Season your steak with kosher salt at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours before grilling it, if you have the time. This allows time for the salt to penetrate into the meat, seasoning it throughout as opposed to just the outside.

You’ll hear some “experts” say that seasoning so early draws moisture out of the steak and makes it dry, blah blah blah. While the salt will draw out some moisture, there’s plenty of intramuscular fat in a ribeye to keep it moist. It’s well worth the minimal moisture loss in exchange for getting salt into the meat.

Peppering the steak before grilling is as controversial as pineapple on pizza or ketchup on a hot dog. People have very firm opinions on this topic. Here’s what I’ll tell you. Pepper burns, and gets slightly bitter when exposed to very high direct heat.

Some people really enjoy that slight bitterness, I do on occasion. Others prefer a more pure pepper taste and insist on using pepper only after a steak has come off the grill. 

Try it both ways and see what your preference is. Don’t be bullied into group think when it comes to pepper.

Tips for Grilling the Perfect Ribeye Steak

  • The Salt: Kosher salt differs from table salt, don’t use table salt. Further, different brands of kosher salt differ from one another. Morton’s kosher salt, for example, easily doubles the “saltiness” in taste as compared to Diamond Crystal Kosher salt. Plan accordingly.
  • Know your steaks’ temperature: Grilling the perfect steak with consistency is impossible without using a reliable meat thermometer. Trust me, this is the one tool I talk about most, and it’s a must-have for anyone who cooks. 
  • Steak Positioning: When searing a ribeye, try to keep the spinalis as far away from the direct heat as possible. Of course you want it to char nicely, and build flavor, but keep it on the periphery of the hot section of your grill so as not to overcook it.
  • Be Patient: You’ll be flipping the steak often, every 20-30 seconds. After the first handful of flips it might not look like you’re getting any char at all. You will, it just takes time. Flipping often like this will prevent overcooking the outside and undercooking inside.  
  • Make use of the hot grill: Don’t forget the sides when planning this steak. Plan for some that cook quickly while your steak is resting, and that benefit from high direct heat like this grilled broccolini or grilled baby bok choy.

Ingredients
1 22 oz ribeye (boneless or bone in)
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp compound butter 
Optional:
2 tsp Maldon salt flakes

Prep Time: 5 minutes | Cook Time: 10-12 Minutes | Serves: 2

How to Grill the Perfect Ribeye Steak

Step 1: Evenly season the steak with kosher salt on both sides. Place the steak in the refrigerator for one hour. Then, take it out of the refrigerator along with the compound butter and set them on the counter one hour before grilling the steak. This allows them to come up to room temperature.

uncooked ribeye steak on butcher paper

Step 2: Light your grill and set it up for high direct heat. You’ll want to get the coals as hot and as close to the cooking grate as possible. If you’re using a gas grill, turn all burners to hi or max setting, close the lid, and allow the grill to preheat for at least 30 minutes, getting the grill grates as hot as possible.

Step 3: Place the steak on the grill, directly over hot coals or burners and flip every 20 seconds. With each flip, place the steak in a different spot on the grill grate. This allows the best searing to take place through conductive heat. 

Tip* Once you start to see a nice char forming on the cap of the ribeye, position and flip the steak so the cap isn’t directly over the coals to prevent it from overcooking.

Step 4: After about six minutes of total cook time, use a reliable quick read meat thermometer and checking the internal temperature of the steak. Remove steak from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 115° F for a medium rare steak. 

Step 5: Top the steak with the compound butter, and tent it with aluminum foil. Allow the steak to rest for five minutes. Carry-over cooking will continue and the final serving temperature of the meat will be in the neighborhood of 125° or so, the perfect medium rare.

Step 6: Slice steak, top with optional finishing salt and serve hot. 

sliced ribeye steak on a cutting board
Notice the seam where the ribeye cap sits atop the “eye” of the ribeye.
ribeye steak on the grill over fire

How To Grill The Perfect Ribeye

5 from 9 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 1 22 oz Ribeye Steak
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp compound steak butter
  • 2 tsp Maldon salt flakes optional

Instructions

  • Evenly season the steak with kosher salt on both sides. Place the steak in the refrigerator for one hour. Then, take it out of the refrigerator along with the compound butter and set them on the counter one hour before grilling the steak.
  • Light your grill and set it up for high direct heat. You’ll want to get the coals as hot and as close to the cooking grate as possible. If you’re using a gas grill, turn all burners to hi or max setting, close the lid, and allow the grill to preheat for at least 30 minutes, getting the grill grates as hot as possible.
  • Place the steak on the grill, directly over hot coals or burners and flip every 20 seconds. With each flip, place the steak in a different spot on the grill grate.
  • After about six minutes of total cook time, use a reliable quick read meat thermometer and start checking the internal temperature of the steak. Remove steak from the grill when the internal temperature reaches 115° F for a medium rare steak.
  • Top the steak with the compound butter, and tent it with aluminum foil. Allow the steak to rest for five minutes. Carry-over cooking will continue and the final serving temperature of the meat will be in the neighborhood of 125°F or so, the perfect medium rare.
  • Slice steak, top with optional finishing salt and serve hot.

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