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Battle of the Beef: Tenderloin vs. Rib Roast

Roasted Beef Tenderloin“Help!” It’s a popular phrase this time of year, especially when holiday meal plans are in their final stages. In the era of pop-up timers and guidelines aplenty beamed right to your palm, turkeys are easier to cook than ever these days. But when it comes to beef, especially centerpiece cuts like Prime Rib Roasts and Tenderloin, the instructions are rarely written on the package. 

Each of these fantastic beef cuts have their own attributes, so we’re going to do a bit of a beef exploration that will hopefully give you the info you need to make everyone’s Christmas wishes come true (at least at the table). And remember, all the beef at Whole Foods Market® stores comes from cattle certified to Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP) 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program.


This cut lives up to its name! Its tenderness comes from the fact that it is on the interior of the cavity and used very little.  During aging, the tenderloin is stretched when the beef is hung upside down; this adds tenderness as well.  Tenderloins are also very lean, which can be an asset or liability, depending on your palate.  Fat is generally where beef derives that well known succulent flavor.  Commonly bacon is added to filet mignon for this reason. But tenderloin is a forgiving roast as the tenderness will hold despite level of doneness.  When purchasing, allow for ¾ pound per person. This recipe for Roasted Beef Tenderloin is fit for any holiday celebration.

Rib Roast

Typically loaded with marbling, most butchers consider this cut the most flavorful. Rib Roast comes from the rib portion and the loin and can be served boneless although it is most commonly served on the bone to maintain flavor.  You can order by the rib, with one rib feeding about two people, or about 2 lbs.  Try the “cut and tie” method: the ribs are cut away, or hinged, and then tied back on to the boneless portion for roasting.  Once the roast is finished cooking, the ribs can be easily removed to reveal a nice, easy-to-carve boneless roast that still has rich bone flavor cooked in.  Or, ask your butcher to “cradle” your rib roast, which creates a cavity for stuffing or aromatics. Try this tasty recipe for Standing Rib Roast with Caramelized Onions, or the popular Herbed Prime Rib Roast.

The Battle of the Beef rages on! Remember to consult your butcher and don’t forget that “lean may be keen, but fat’s where it’s at.” What cut will you choose for your holiday party?

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Lisa says …

I will definitely go for the rib roast. While I love tenderloin, I don't want to risk overlooking. Rib roast is the perfect meat to roast in the oven for a long period of time which means I can enjoy cocktails with my guests!

tracey manzi says …

I am long time, regular customer of Whole Foods for over 15 years now. I buy the majority of my groceries at WF's weekly and spend, on average, over $250 a week. We are big meat eaters and frequently buy prime steaks, which I know are not offered in all the WF stores around the city. Around 6 to 9 months ago, I noticed something was very different with the quality of the meat. For a long period of time, I was not able to get prime steaks. When they finally became available again, the steaks I've purchased were noticeably different in taste. This isn't a one-off, the quality of the meat has changed - and not for the better. The Prime steaks that WF sources no longer have any flavor. I have spoken with the store managers about this and they assured me WF is sourcing the meat at the same place, but the taste and quality of the meat suggests otherwise. As a loyal customer, I want to give WF's the benefit of the doubt and even purchased a prime rib roast for $57 this week for my Christmas meal. Once again the meat is completely tasteless. I'm wondering if the new standards are impacting the taste of the meat because there is clearly something very off in your meat department. Sadly unless the situation corrects itself in 2013 - I will no longer be purchasing any meat from WF's and will elect to source my steaks and other meats from one of the two top local butchers who carry prime meat with sacrificing the exquisite taste when you are paying $25+ per pound for a cut of meat.

Jody mooney says …

To Tracey, I purchased an aged prime rib roast also for Christmas, and it was one of the best prime ribs that I ever had. I purchased it at the Roosevelt Store. We stuffed it with our home grown garlic and cooked it to the internal temperature of 135 F.

tracey says …

Hi Jody, thanks for sharing your experience. I, unfortunately, have not been satisfied with the meat department at Whole Foods lately. It doesn't matter what type of meat I purchase, whether it's the prime, choice, dry-aged or even grass fed, the flavor of the meat has not been consistent. It shouldn't be this way. I used to be able to source amazing cuts and quality steaks from Whole Foods, but ever since they rolled out their 5 step animal welfare rating standards the meat is dramatically different. Every once in a while I can get a good cut, but it is consistently hit or miss. I consider myself a meat connoisseur and have no problem paying up for a premium cut providing the taste is worth it. My Christmas prime rib roast that I purchased reconfirmed my issue with how Whole Foods sources their product and with the standards they now follow.

Dale R, McGinnis says …

Where"s The Beef~? Prime-Rib's; It's What For DINNER AnyMore!?! My Choice Fore 2013.

Kent says …

A question regarding your beef. Is it USDA graded, and if so, what grades do you sell?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KENT - We use a 5-Step Animal Welfare rating system. You can find out more info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/animal-welfare-standards.