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3 Secrets to Foolproof Prime Rib

By Natalie Boike
Updated December 14, 2016
Easy Prime Rib Roast
Learn how to cook prime rib. This special-occasion roast is easier than you think!

I was in college when my Uncle Randy first introduced our family to prime rib. Since then, it has replaced turkey as the main dish at all extended-family Christmas gatherings. (Once you’ve made the switch it’s hard to go back!)

The trick is all in how you prepare it. So I’m sharing my three secrets for a prime rib roast that turns out every time. If you’ve done it right, you end up with a tender, flavorful version way better than any Thursday-night restaurant special.

Buying Prime Rib Roast

Easy Prime Rib Roast

If you can roast a turkey, you have everything you need for prime rib: a shallow roasting pan and a meat thermometer.

When you purchase your meat, you’re looking for a “Prime Rib Roast.” There are actually several different options, so here’s a run-down of the variations.

  • Bone-In vs. Boneless While slow roasting with the bone in does lend flavor it’s not necessary worth the added cost since we are talking about a more expensive cut of meat. It’s also easier to cut and serve a boneless prime rib.
  • Fresh vs. Frozen A fresh roast can be kept in the refrigerator for one to two days before serving, so it’s your best bet if you’re planning on preparing it soon. If you purchase a frozen roast, plan about two days to defrost your roast in the refrigerator. You do not want to start with a partially frozen roast as it guarantees uneven cooking.
  • Fresh vs. Dry-Aged Some people prefer the added depth of flavor and tenderness of dry-aged Prime Rib, but it’ll cost you more than a fresh prime rib roast. You can order this from your butcher; it’s essentially a cut that’s been stored in a well-controlled climate for a month or two. Simply roast it just as you would a fresh roast.

Bone-in or boneless, fresh or dry-aged, the meat should be nice and marbled. It’s that ribbon of fat that keeps the meat tender and renders down into a flavorful baste as it cooks. Depending on the size of your roast, the butcher may truss the meat for you. This isn’t required, but helps ensure even cooking.

You should plan to purchase about 10-12 ounces per person, more if you’re purchasing a bone-in roast. So, an average 5-pound boneless roast should serve 6 to 8 people.

Season the Roast

Line your roasting pan with foil. You can use a roasting rack if you have one. Place your roast fat-side up in the pan. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Secret 1: Start your roast at a relatively low temperature. You can always increase the heat at the end, but overcooking is a cardinal sin when cooking prime rib!

3 Secrets to Foolproof Prime Rib

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper. Sprinkle and press your herb mixture on top of your roast.

3 Secrets to Foolproof Prime Rib

Roasting Time

For a medium-rare roast—the optimal temperature in my opinion—bake uncovered for 1 hour 45 minutes before checking for doneness. You’re looking for a 135°F so pull out when the center reaches 130°F to account for what’s known as “carryover cooking” as it rests. You may need an additional 30 minutes. If you prefer medium, you’re looking for an internal temp of 150° F—which make take another 30 minutes.

Secret 2: Invest in a reliable oven thermometer and keep tabs on your cooking progress. Don’t forget to account for about 5 additional degrees of carryover cooking.

Once you’ve reached your desired doneness, remove from oven. Remember, the roast retains heat, which will continue to increase the temperature about five more degrees once you’ve taken it out of the oven (“carryover cooking”).

Secret 3: For heaven’s sake, let it rest!

Tent loosely with aluminum foil and let stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving to let the juices redistribute. While it rests, you can whip up your desired sauces.

  • Traditional Au Jus: In a 1-quart saucepan, mix pan drippings from roast, 1 cup beef broth and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until reduced by half.
  • Creamy Horseradish: Take horseradish up a notch by stirring 1 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons fresh ground horseradish, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives and 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper until well blended.
  • Creamy Pesto: Enhance your herb seasoning by mixing stir 1 container (7 ounces) refrigerated pesto and 3 tablespoons sour cream until well blended.
  • Blue Cheese Sauce: Go a little fancy with 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons milk and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper (cayenne) stirred until well blended.

Use a large kitchen or chef knife to slice your roast. If your guests have varying preferences for doneness—no problem! Simply cut from the center for those who prefer a more medium-rare serving and the end for those who prefer a more done cut.

What To Make With Leftover Prime Rib

If you have any left, extra prime rib makes a great next-day dinner.