Everything to Know About Prime Rib

What cut to buy, every way to cook it, how to slice it - and more.

December 02, 2021
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184656351

SEVERAL MORE IN THIS SERIES. Roasted prime rib cooked medium rare and juicy. Also known as a standing rib roast; this is the cut from which ribeye steaks are made. Wine glasses and bottle in background. Shallow DOF.

Photo by: NightAndDayImages/Getty Images

NightAndDayImages/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

This traditional holiday dinner main is expensive, so we want to make sure you cook it right. That's why we put together a very comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about prime rib, from choosing your roast to slicing it. Right this way for a glorious, impressive standing rib roast at the center of your table.

Photo by: /Getty Images

/Getty Images

What Is Prime Rib?

Prime rib is a large cut of beef with seven rib bones attached. When a side of beef is broken down, it's cut into nine pieces; each piece is called a primal cut. Prime rib is one of the nine pieces; chuck and loin are two of the other cuts. Prime rib comes from the 6th through the 12th ribs of the cow (and is not to be confused with Prime cuts of beef, a grade given by the USDA to beef with abundant marbling). For more detailed information on buying prime rib, check out What Cut of Steak Is Prime Rib?.

Standing rib roast is another name for prime rib. The meat is still on the rib bones, which rest on the roasting pan, insulating the meat as it cooks. When cooked, the roast appears to stand on the ribs. To put it in perspective: prime rib is the beef version of rack of lamb.

If you’re comfortable with your carving skills, a standing rib roast is the best choice. Meat roasted on the bone will be more flavorful and juicier. Bear in mind that whenever a roast is cooked on the bone, the meat next to the bones will be the rarest and that there will be a gradation of doneness in each slice of the roast. To make it easier to carve, have the butcher remove the entire roast from the bones and then re-tie it to the bones: you’ll get the benefit of roasting on the bone, but then can cut the strings, take the entire roast off the bone and slice it just like a boneless roast.

Rolled rib roast is the meat of the prime rib that has been taken off the bones and tied to keep it in a consistent cylinder so that it roasts evenly. Rolled rib roasts are very easy to slice.

Rib-eye roast is the center, most tender and flavorful part of the prime rib, cut off the bone. Rib-eye is the most expensive of all the cuts and it’s also the section that is cut into rib-eye steaks.

How Much Prime Rib Per Person?

When buying a bone-in roast, opt for 1 pound per person to have enough to go around plus some leftovers. The bone will account for nearly half the yield on the roast. For a boneless roast, 1/2 pound per person will work out just fine.

How to Season Prime Rib

A roast is a large cut of meat: it needs more seasoning than you might expect. Season it generously with kosher salt the day before roasting it and let it sit in the fridge uncovered overnight. When you take it out of the fridge before roasting, add pepper and any additional herbs. If you'd like, you can use the tip of a paring knife to shove thin slivers of garlic into the roast to perfume it as it cooks.

What Temperature Should Prime Rib be Cooked To?

Using an instant read thermometer, take the temperature of your roast at its very center, being sure to avoid bone or fat at the tip of the thermometer. Remove the prime rib from the oven when the thermometer measures 5 degrees below your desired level of doneness. Tent it with foil and let it rest 15 to 20 minutes; the carry-over cooking will bring it up 5 degrees.

  • Medium-rare: 125 degrees F
  • Medium: 135 degrees F
  • Medium-well: 145 degrees F

How Long Do I Cook a Prime Rib?

There are so many variables that determine the cook time for prime rib. Is it a standing rib roast on the bone? Is it boneless? Is it 4, 6, 8 … or 14 pounds? What temperature is your oven set to? Are you using a convection oven? (If you have one and you’re not using it, you should use it especially when roasting, it will go faster: learn how from our story What Is a Convection Oven?). Here are some general timing guidelines, but be sure to use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness; everyone's oven is different.

In a 225 degree F oven:

  • Medium-rare: 30 to 35 minutes per pound
  • Medium: 35 to 40 minutes per pound
  • Medium-well: 40 to 45 minutes per pound

Allow 30 minutes for resting followed by 10 minutes at 550 degrees F for the sear at the end just before serving (no resting needed after the sear).

In a 325 degree F oven:

  • Medium-rare: 20 to 25 minutes per pound
  • Medium: 25 to 30 minutes per pound
  • Medium-well: 30 to 35 minutes per pound

In a 350 degree F oven

  • Medium-rare: 15 to 20 minutes per pound
  • Medium: 20 to 25 minutes per pound
  • Medium-well: 25 to 30 minutes per pound

How to Make Prime Rib

There are several ways to make a prime rib roast.

How to Slow Cook Prime Rib

Here, one of the most classic ways to cook prime rib: the reverse sear method. You'll cook the prime rib low and slow in the oven, then crank up the heat at the end to achieve a crisp outside. This method has several advantages: the prime rib loses less juice to the bottom of the roasting pan and it cooks evenly all the way through.

  1. Season the beef aggressively. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight.
  2. Bring it to room temperature for several hours. Let it sit on the counter for 4 hours before cooking. Bringing the roast to room temperature is especially important here because a cold roast will take much longer to cook.
  3. Cook it low and slow. Set the oven to 225 degrees F and put the roast in the oven. Refer to our time chart above for cooking time and start taking an internal temperature on the roast 30 minutes before it should be done. When it reaches the right temp, take it out of the oven.
  4. Rest it. Cover with foil and let it rest for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour.
  5. Reverse sear it. Turn the oven to 550 degrees F. Uncover the roast and put it in the oven until it achieves a good sear on the outside, 7 to 8 minutes.
  6. Slice it. Because it has already rested, you can slice when it comes out of the oven. The reverse sear time has the added benefit of reheating the prime rib right before serving.

How to Smoke a Prime Rib

Smoking a prime rib is not much different from roasting a prime rib low and slow.

  1. Remove most of the fat from the outside of the roast. The temperature in the smoker will be low, so you won't need the fat as insulation, and you want the smoke to infuse the meat, not the fat.
  2. Season the beef aggressively. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight.
  3. Bring it to room temperature. Let it sit on the counter for 2 to 3 hours before smoking; this will help it cook more evenly.
  4. Prepare the smoker or grill. You can use a dedicated smoker or a charcoal or a gas grill with wet wood chips set up for indirect heat. The smoking process is slow, so plan plenty of time for the roast to cook. Place the roast in the smoker, with the bone side down.
  5. Cover the grill smoke. Adjust the vents to maintain a temperature between 200 and 250 degrees F. Add more charcoal and wood chips every 45 minutes to keep the temperature steady. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the prime rib registers 130 degrees F for medium rare, 35 to 45 minutes of cooking time per pound. An 8-pound roast will take about 5 1/2 to 6 hours.
  6. Flash in the oven for a crisp crust. Put the roast in a 550 degree F oven, uncovered, until crisp on the outside, 7 to 8 minutes.
  7. Rest before slicing. Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before slicing.

How to Grill Prime Rib

Grilling a prime rib roast is the same process as smoking a prime rib, minus the wet wood chips and smoker.

Use indirect heat in your grill and maintain the temperature between 200 and 250 degrees F. Bring the roast to your desired internal temperature and then crisp the outside in a 550 degree F oven for 7 to 8 minutes.

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1166785438

A Caucasian hand with white kitchen surgical gloves Cutting a beef roast with a large knife in a kitchen

Photo by: wilpunt/Getty Images

wilpunt/Getty Images

How to Cut Prime Rib

Place a cutting board in a half-sheet pan to catch all the juices that will come out of the roast. The grooves in your cutting board won’t be able to hold all the juice and you don’t want it on the floor. Sharpen your knives. Grab some disposable gloves for your non-dominant hand: that’s the hand that will hold the roast stable while you’re slicing. Slice one slice per person, then slice more as needed. Keeping the leftover roast in one large piece makes it much easier to either reheat or slice lovely thin slices for sandwiches.

Slicing a boneless prime rib roast is easy: get a long-ish sharp knife and slice, applying pressure on the forward cutting motion but not on the backward motion to achieve smooth beautiful slices (instead of the raggedy ones you'd get from sawing). Aim for 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Slicing a bone-in prime rib roast is a little trickier at the beginning but then it’s just like the boneless roast. You need to take the roast off the rib bones first. Hold the bones in your non dominant hand, hold a thin boning knife flat against the bones and slice downwards, following the curve of the bone. At the bottom you may have to go over a bump. When you're done, you will have removed all of the bones in one piece. Here’s another time to think of a rack of lamb as a visual in your mind to make this easier. Now place the prime rib roast cut-side down on your board and slice it like you would a boneless prime rib roast.

Can You Freeze Prime Rib?

You can freeze a well-wrapped, raw prime rib roast for up to one year. Thaw in the fridge for 4 days before roasting day.

Freezing tightly wrapped cooked prime rib roast is also fine, but it shouldn’t stay in the freezer more than 6 weeks. Thaw it for 4 days in the refrigerator before re-heating it.

A raw prime rib can stay in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, while a cooked prime rib keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Prime Rib Recipes 

Classic 100, Prime Rib

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

We think this recipe is the best because it uses the low and slow reverse sear method. Season it with the salt the day before for the best flavor and juiciness.

YK_081612_FNM_PrimeRib_179.tif

YK_081612_FNM_PrimeRib_179.tif

Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks ,Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks

Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

Boneless Prime Rib is salted the day before to give you maximum flavor. Use the ribs and scraps in place of a roasting rack: they add flavor to the juices used for basting.

Food Network Kitchen’s Holiday Roast Prime Rib.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Don’t be confused about the directions for this recipe: you are going to sear this boneless rib-eye roast at a high temperature and then leave it in the oven with the heat turned off, allowing it to gently come to the right internal temperature.

Reverse Sear Instant Pot Prime Rib and Gravy

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

Using an Instant Pot to make a roast is brilliant. It's faster than roasting it in the oven, and you can bake or roast anything you want at the same time since the oven will be free.

Ree Drummond’s PW's Prime Rib with Rosemary Salt Crust, as seen on Food Network's The Pioneer Woman, Season

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

This recipe calls for an entire rib eye roast cut in half. That give you options: make only half if you have fewer than 8 to 10 guests. Or make the entire roast and cook each half to a different doneness: one to medium rare and one to medium.

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