Trying to decide which cut of beef to bring home and cook is an exercise in mass confusion for a lot of home cooks. There are quality cuts from one end of a cow to the other and, depending on your needs, there is no "right answer" every single time. The rib-eye and sirloin are just two of the cuts that attract a lot of attention, and a good deal of confusion, too.
The rib-eye is a cut of beef found near the rib section of the cow. Meat from this area is well-marbled and is usually quite tender and flavorful. The rib-eye is known as a juicy cut of beef, whether in steak or roast form. Both the roast and the steaks are pretty expensive when compared to other cuts, and the steaks are usually boneless. Marbling refers to thin strands of fat that run all through the meat and melt into it as the meat cooks. More marbling often means more tender and more costly. Another name for rib-eye roasts and steaks is Delmonico.
The sirloin cut actually refers to a series of different cuts, all from the sirloin section of the cow, which is located toward the rear between the loin and leg, or round, sections. Some of the cuts that come from the sirloin portion include the sirloin, top sirloin, sirloin tri tip, ball tip steak and flap steak. Sirloin steaks and roasts from the top part of the sirloin are usually more tender and flavorful. Sirloin steaks and roasts that have a flat bone in them are more tender than sirloins with a round bone.
A Matter of Preference
Determining which cut is "better" depends on which features you are using to make your decision. Either cut can make a tasty steak or roast, but if you want a leaner cut with a lower fat content, then sirloin is a better choice. If you want one that is a little easier on the wallet, then sirloin is probably the way to go, again. If you want a steak or roast that melts in your mouth and has a good amount of marbling all the way through, rib-eye is the way to go. Before you decide, figure out which factors are most important to you, then go from there.
The lower you go on the sirloin, the tougher and chewier the meat tends to be. It still has a lot of flavor, but you won't get that melt-in-your-mouth feeling, unless you take your time and cook it slowly. Braising or slow roasting is a good way to cook the lower sirloin cuts, while grilling and pan-frying work well for top sirloin and rib-eye steaks. The Foodsafety.gov website recommends cooking beef to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.