Both are commonly prepared quickly on the grill or in cast iron, and offer a savory combination of lean muscle with beefy, flavor-packed marbling. But for all the similarities, the chuck eye comes at a significant discount to its ribeye lookalike. In examining the reason for the price disparity, we should address a question that seems basic, but may never be considered by the average consumer: what are you paying for when you buy beef?
Say you’re planning a weekday dinner for the family. You’re at the market shopping for beef, and the options are many: you could go for a large roast to throw in the oven, or you could save a few bucks and go with ground beef for burgers or marinated fajitas. Or, for a treat, you decide on steaks. And, since you’re already treating the family, you figure you’ll grab something you know is familiar and nice: ribeye. Four ribeyes, you grab some broccoli and rice for sides, and you’re on your way – with a $70 tab?
Let’s take a moment to ask: what did you even pay for? You probably didn’t bother to ask whether or not the butcher had any “chuck eye” steaks available as an alternative to “rib eye,” because the terminology is unfamiliar, or because you actually felt more comfortable paying a higher price, to ensure quality. To make a more informed decision about what to pay for , let’s take a look at a particular case in which two steaks cut from the same place on the animal, and therefore share a majority of characteristics, end up with different names and different prices. The chuck eye and ribeye are direct neighbors on the animal, but are separated with the very first set of knife cuts by the butcher.
Like the ribeye, the chuck eye works great in cast iron with butter and light seasoning.
“Chuck” eye vs. “Rib” eye
A butcher’s first move in breaking down a side of beef is to separate the half-steer into four major components, the so-called “primal cuts.” Starting at the head-end of the animal, the primal cuts consist of the chuck (shoulder), rib, loin, and round. Separating the primal portions animal gives the butcher a starting point for further processing, or can be sold to restaurants to be broken down according to the chef’s specific needs. Convention dictates that the chuck section extends to the animal’s fifth rib, with the rib section then beginning at the sixth rib, and extending to the twelfth.
Accordingly, a true “rib eye” steak would be the “eye,” or central portion, of the muscles attached to ribs numbered six through twelve. A “chuck eye” derives from the very same group of muscles, but lies across the imaginary “line” between chuck and rib. A true chuck eye is simply a rib eye cut from the fifth rib, the first rib not eligible for labeling as a part of the rib section. Thus, the “chuck eye” is the cut most closely resembling a “rib eye,” albeit without the same level of flavor and tenderness. At a massive discount to the ribeye, we love the chuck eye for a quick, wallet-friendly cook that offers a flavor all its own, while receptive to marinades and spice flavors.
The chuck eye’s muscle structure and marbling resemble those of its neighbor, the ribeye.