The ribeye steak has long been sacrosanct, unbreakable, unalterable, tasty and tender, the perfect grilling fare just as it comes from the package.
Yet the ribeye steak has some problems these days; namely that the large size of many cattle today means it has become nearly a ribeye roast when cut at thicknesses suited for rare-to-medium doneness.
So, what do you do with ribeye steaks cut from a mammoth?
The answer is to break huge ribeyes out into the main muscles, says Phil Bass, meat scientist for Certified Angus Beef.
Shocking but simple.
In the ribeye there are three primary muscles which can become more steaks and roasts and more marketing opportunities for retail grocers or for foodservice outlets.
The process begins with removing the "lip" from the outer edge of a rib roll primal. This is just trim.
Next remove the "cap muscle" or Spinalis dorsi and trim it carefully to create very flavorful and expensive small, flat-looking steaks or rolled "rib casquettes." In some cases, this whole muscle could be rolled and made into a "farmer's roast" but would likely be less profitable. Bass says this choice muscle meat is potentially worth $19 per pound.
Next remove the small tail piece or complexus muscle at the chuck end of the rib roll. This typically can be cut into ribeye medallions, which are similar in appearance to small tenderloin steaks. They can be cut into butterfly steaks at the smaller end of that muscle or into thick, attractive steaks that have "elevation" on the plate, as Bass puts it.
Last is the remaining Longissimus dorsi or the loin muscle in the ribeye. This is the same muscle that makes up the vast majority of the New York strip steak and the top and biggest muscle of T-bone and Porterhouse steaks.
Bass explains this loin muscle is much bigger at the back end and so presents one more problem to be solved, or perhaps one more opportunity.
In a demonstration he cuts "filet of rib" steaks nice and thick off the small end of the loin muscle until they begin to get rather large. Then he turns the muscle and splits it lengthwise. From this point it can then be sliced into thick, small steaks or perhaps into small roasts which are typically carved table-side for two in white-tablecloth restaurants.
Such a breakdown of the rib roll really solves the inherent problems with huge carcasses.
"We can sell light ribeyes all day long," Bass says. "They're clamoring at the door of the packers for those."
Breaking up large rib rolls can create leaner cuts, more variety of cuts, more control of portion size and steak thickness and also of flavor and eating experience.
"Three different muscles; three different eating experiences," Bass says.
To watch Phil Bass break a large rib roll into smaller portions watch this video.