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Prime Rib 101


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It’s that time of year when the questions start flowing asking for advice on making that perfect prime rib for a Christmas feast.  I would like to take a few minutes to share my ideas and experiences with you on this amazing hunk of beef and how to cook it. 

 

My FIRST and MOST IMPORTANT piece of advice on a cook like this is to AVOID doing experimental or first-time modifications to your process if you are cooking for an important meal. 

 

My second piece of advice is that the prime rib cook is an EASY one, so do not sweat it!

 

Buying your Prime Rib Roast:

 

Buy your prime rib roast at least a week before you are planning to cook it.  You are going to want to start prepping the meat one to two days before the cook.

 

How much do I need?

 

I would suggest budgeting for a bare minimum of ½ pound per person.  I always like to go with ¾ pound per person.  If I have 1 pound per person, I’m not upset in any way either.  There is nothing wrong with having leftover prime rib, especially if you have a vacuum sealer. 

 

Prime, Choice, or Select?

 

If prime is not a financial burden, then do it.  You cannot go wrong there.  I will also say that I have never bought a choice grade prime rib roast that I was dissatisfied with in any way.  Angus beef usually falls into the choice category, but I have had some that looks as good as any prime roast I have purchased.  I would avoid select grade.

 

Grass fed vs Grain fed?

 

This one is a personal preference.  I am not a fan of grass-fed beef for many reasons that mostly concern the flavor of the beef.  Some of the best beef I have ever had has been grass fed and grain finished.  The grain in the diet is a major contributor to the intramuscular fat marbling that most of us want in a great cut of beef.  Most of the grass-fed beef I have bought in the past is mostly devoid of that marbling. 

 

Bone in or boneless?

 

Most of us are fans of the bone-in concept with it comes to big fat ribeye steaks and prime rib roasts.  I am not going to recommend one or the other but I am going to tell you that I prefer boneless when it comes to prime rib.  The only value I see in the bone is for presentation purposes.  If you need or want an interesting presentation, then go with the bone.  The reason I prefer boneless is because I find that the meat cooks more evenly.  The bone is shielding the meat from the heat.  It extends the overall cooking time by some small amount.  I would also rather have a more even browning on the outside of my roast.

 

Prepping your Prime Rib Roast:

 

The most important prep procedure on any prime rib roast is salting.  This is a big cut of meat and it can handle plenty of salt.  I like to salt mine 24 to 48 hours prior to cooking time.  This gives the salt a lot of time to work its way into the heart of the roast.  Most of us will be using a rub or seasoning blend on our prime rib roasts, which is fine.  I just recommend putting it on early.  Season the meat adequately and then wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap and toss it back in the fridge until you are ready to cook.  As a rule of thumb, a roast like this can easily handle 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat.  Cut that in half if you are using regular table salt.  Be aware that most seasoning blends are less than 50% salt.  Since salt is an important flavor enhancer in this cook, we do not want to come up short when adding it. 

 

My preference for seasoning a prime rib roast is keeping it simple and flavorful.  I would recommend using one of your favorite salt/pepper/garlic based seasoning blends.  I suggest avoiding seasonings that include herbs if your cooking technique is going to involve any searing.  More on that later.  I also like to truss my roast tightly with butcher’s twine to help it hold a nice round shape as much as possible.  This is optional but it’s my preference.

 

Cooking Techniques:

 

There are a lot of ways to cook a prime rib and we all have our favorites.  Choose whichever method you prefer but keep two goals in mind.  First, we do not want to overcook the meat.  Secondly, we do not want to scorch the outside of it either.  Yes.  It is true.  Scorching is not the same as caramelizing. 

 

Target Temperatures:

 

125°F - Rare

135°F - Medium Rare

145°F - Medium

155°F - Medium Well

165°F - Well Done

 

Low and Slow:

 

This is my preferred method. I like to set my grill up for indirect heat at 250°F with a light smoke.  I will typically use a single chunk of cherry.  I set the meat in the center of the grill, insert a temperature probe into the center from one end of the roast, and I will let it cook slowly until my internal temperature reaches 125°F.  When it hits this mark, I take it off, wrap it in foil, and let it rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing it.  I will get anywhere from 7 to 10 degrees of carryover cooking on a typical roast cooked this way.  It lands perfectly in my medium rare range close to 135°F.  When I slice into this roast, I have a perfectly even pinkness from edge to edge.  It is a perfect cook. 

 

This method takes 2.5 hours, give or take 20 minutes on average.  This is also independent of the size of the roast.  These roasts all take about the same amount of time to cook because of their shape.  The only thing that makes one roast bigger than another is the length. 

 

Sear, then Low and Slow:

 

This is another method that I like, but I just do not do it very often.  IF you prefer a more seared exterior on your roast, take it out of the fridge when you are ready to cook and toss it in the freezer for about 30 minutes with the plastic wrap still on the meat.  Preheat your oven (or another grill) to 500°F while this roast is in the freezer.  After the oven has had 30 minutes to preheat, place your roast on a rack in a pan and set it in the hot oven for about 15 minutes to lightly brown the outside of the meat.  When you are happy with the browning, take it out and transfer it to your grill and follow the low and slow instructions above to finish the cook.  This method produces a great result. 

 

Reverse Sear:

 

The reverse sear technique involves following the Low and Slow instructions posted above and then searing the outside of the meat after the initial cook.  This is challenging to do properly and to do well on a roast like this.  Once the roast has been cooked via the low and slow method and has had a chance to rest, you can sear the outside of it by a couple different techniques.  You can sear over direct flames on your grill, you can sear it on preheated cast iron such as a griddle, pan, or Dutch oven, or you can use a flame device such as a torch to put a final sear on the meat.  Whichever method you choose here, be CAREFUL not to scorch the meat.  The meat is already cooked, and it does not take much to take it too far at this stage. 

 

Rotisserie:

 

The rotisserie is another method preferred by many to cook a prime rib roast.  With a rotisserie I still try to keep my ambient grill temperature between 250-300°F.  The rotisserie method cooks the outside of the meat a little more, so you get that caramelization during the cook rather than adding it before or after the cook.  The rotisserie also provides a few extra challenges during the cook.  You must be careful about grease dripping onto your fire.  It can cause flare ups that can scorch the outside of your meat if you are not careful.  I recommend working through a few prime rib roast cooks and some other rotisserie cooks before you do your first prime rib roast on the rotisserie. 

 

If you want to make an amazing horseradish dipping sauce for your prime rib, please feel free to try my recipe:

 

1 cup prepared horseradish (or freshly minced with micro plane grater)

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Dash of hot sauce (optional)

 

Combine these ingredients well and refrigerate until ready to use.  Make a day in advance if possible.

 

So now you are armed with everything you need for a successful prime rib feast! 

 

John Setzler

#AtlantaGrillBlog #PrimeRib101

 

 

 Here's the video from my December 2020 Prime Rib Cook:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks John for this excellent post.  I have two questions for you.  I am doing a whole roast and want to try the sear, low and slow method.  I have a s/p/g rub I use on all my beef but I also like a course prime rib rub my butcher sells.  I want to try salting 24-48 hrs before cooking but wasn’t sure if I cut the spg in half if I would get the same result.  I’m afraid of over seasoning.  Also I’ve noticed all your vids say about 2.5 hours cook time but I’ve read other posts saying up to 4 hrs at the same temp?  Is this possible.  I’m just trying to plan a dinner time.  

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4 hours ago, Jay Bee said:

Thanks John for this excellent post.  I have two questions for you.  I am doing a whole roast and want to try the sear, low and slow method.  I have a s/p/g rub I use on all my beef but I also like a course prime rib rub my butcher sells.  I want to try salting 24-48 hrs before cooking but wasn’t sure if I cut the spg in half if I would get the same result.  I’m afraid of over seasoning.  Also I’ve noticed all your vids say about 2.5 hours cook time but I’ve read other posts saying up to 4 hrs at the same temp?  Is this possible.  I’m just trying to plan a dinner time.  

 

I can't tell you the answer to the salt issue because I have no idea how much salt your other rub contains.  What I DO advocate is not making changes when you are unaware of the results on an important meal such as Christmas.  

 

I have never had any prime rib take 4 hours at 250.  I always like to quote 2.5 hours give or take 20 minutes and that has not failed me yet.  

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31 minutes ago, John Setzler said:

 

I can't tell you the answer to the salt issue because I have no idea how much salt your other rub contains.  What I DO advocate is not making changes when you are unaware of the results on an important meal such as Christmas.  

 

I have never had any prime rib take 4 hours at 250.  I always like to quote 2.5 hours give or take 20 minutes and that has not failed me yet.  

My spg seasoning is....

1 part table salt

1/4 part garlic powder 

1/4 part ground black pepper

 

my rub says 

3% sodium per serving

If I wasn’t clear I am wanting to use both if it would work for the salting?

i hope this helps?

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5 hours ago, Jay Bee said:

My spg seasoning is....

1 part table salt

1/4 part garlic powder 

1/4 part ground black pepper

 

my rub says 

3% sodium per serving

If I wasn’t clear I am wanting to use both if it would work for the salting?

i hope this helps?

 

Use the normal amount of the spg and then add however much of the other you like but I would go easy on the secondary rub

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Thanks, perfect timing on this post! Just three of us for Christmas dinner this year, so I picked up a small bone in rib roast. Hope its not too small, only 2.5 lbs. I reckon it won't be bad though. I do wish I had read this post this morning before I went to the grocery, I would have picked up the horseradish ingredients!

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