This post is written in partnership with Hestan. Rest assured, all opinions are my own.
Hands down, my favorite cut of meat to cook for the holidays is a rib roast. Prime rib, rib roast, boneless rib roast, etc, regardless of what you call it it is the same cut of beef. You invested a lot of money on a great cut of beef and want to impress your guests. Learning how to cook a standing rib roast isn’t difficult once you know a proper method. Whether cooking a rib roast in the oven or on the grill, I have you covered.
Rib roast vs Prime Rib
The great debate. Inevitably I see people argue back about whether all rib roasts can be called prime rib even through the grade of meat might not necessarily be “prime grade”. In fact, you’ll see many different articles discussing this particular topic. The truth of the matter is, the. USDA grading system for beef was created many years after the phrase “Prime Rib” was created. Back before grading systems were in place, “prime” referred more to the fact that it was just a great cut of meat.
Despite the amount of marbling in a cut of meat, if a whole ribeye was cut into a roast as opposed to individual ribeye steaks it was called a “prime rib”. To further complicate things, some people claim that prime rib is when you only use a certain section of the whole ribeye into a roast, usually meaning the center. That’s not true either.
Whether the rib roast is boneless or bone-in, regardless of the grade of beef, it can be called prime rib. Think of it more as a style of cooking. Purists will say this isn’t true and to be honest, when I order one from a butcher and I want a specific grade such as “prime” I will order a “prime grade, rib roast”.
One should never expect to but a rib roast and have it be prime grade unless it is specifically noted on the label. Yes, even though technically I could have titled this article “How to Cook a Prime Rib Roast”, I tend to lean more towards being more precise personally.
Grades of Beef
Many people don’t realize that USDA grading of beef is a voluntary process. That’s right, purveyors of beef are not required to grade their beef. Often the grading process allows meat suppliers to command a higher price for better cuts. In cases where there isn’t a grade noted, look at the internal marbling of the meat to get an idea of what you are buying. More internal marbling generally equates to a better cut of meat.
Why would one want more internal flecks of fat in a steak? There is a big difference between external fat on a cut of meat as opposed to the internal fat that runs throughout the muscle fibers. Marbling or the white striations or flecks of fat within the beef creates more tenderness through increased moisture, enhanced flavor and a great mouthfeel. A number of factors go into trying to create higher grades of beef including what the animal eats, the breed, the cut, the age of the animal and the usage of the muscle and resulting cut of meat.
There are eight different grades of beef classified by the USDA. These are Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. If you are buying meat at a store, at a butcher or online, it will be one of the first three typically (Prime, Choice, Select). Prime will have the largest amount of marbling followed by Choice and Select.
For more information about beef, please refer to my article on purchasing beef grading and nutrition here.
Bone-in vs Boneless Rib Roast
Decisions, decisions. Should you buy a bone-in standing rib roast to cook or a boneless rib roast. One should not that even though the ribs have been removed in the boneless version, it is still referred to as a boneless rib roast. But which do you buy? I personally love to cook a bone-in or standing rib roast. But why?
I like to think of the bones or ribs that the meat sits upon as an extra bonus. The ribs for one are delicious to eat once the rib roast is finished cooking. But more importantly those ribs are a bit of extra insurance. Think of it as a shield protecting the meat from the heat on the outside. The meat which butts against the bone has less of a chance of getting overcooked. Choosing a bone-in vs boneless rib roast will also affect how long it takes to cook a rib roast.
How to Cook Standing Rib Roast: High Temperature vs Low Temperature Cooking
I have cooked an obscene amount of prime rib or rib roasts throughout the years. What can I say, beef is my favorite. I have also tried most of the methods out there. I’ll explain why I prefer cooking the meat at a low temperature over a longer period of time. First I will explain some of the other methods and why I don’t prefer them.
Now, before someone tells me one of “this is the method that has worked for them”, I am sharing the most reliable method I use. The beauty of cooking your own food is you can cook it however you like.
How to Cook Rib Roast in the Oven: My Preferred Method and Undesirable Methods
The Closed Oven Method
The rib roast is put in the oven for a calculated amount of time at 500°F then shut off. The meat then sits in the oven (without opening the door) for a couple hours. I don’t like this method because a simple miscalculation and you’ve ruined your roast. The outside of the roast (the ribeye cap or spinalis muscle which is the most tender part of the whole roast) tends to overcook compared to the rest of the roast. If your oven has a fan that cools down the oven after you’ve shut it off, this method won’t work.
High Temperature Then Low Temperature Method
The roast is cooked first in the oven at a high temperature (about 450-500°F) for 30 minutes to sear, then the cooking process continues at about 350°F until finished. As in example #1, the best part of the whole roast often over cooks. A half hour is a long time to blast the outside of a roast at a high temperature. Honestly, I rarely see a picture of one cooked by this method where the outer inch of the roast is not overcooked. Hard pass.
Roasting at Normal “Roasting Temperatures”
By this I mean roasting temperatures such as 325-350°F and searing at the beginning or end of the cook. Depending on the size of the roast the carryover temperature or degrees the roast will continue to rise after removing it from the heat is from my experience unpredictable. I had a roast rise twenty-five degrees on me after using this method. Heartbroken and disappointed is an understatement. I even pulled the roast from the heat earlier and still ended up with an overcooked roast for my liking. Some claim it will only rise 5-10 degrees and to that I say, maybe sometimes but that is no guarantee. For more great information on carry over cooking, this is a great article by Cooks Illustrated.
The Best Method to Cook a Standing Rib Roast: The Reverse Sear Method
This is my preferred method for how to cook a rib roast to create my ideal end result. In the reverse sear method, you cook the meat at a low temperature for an extended period of time then sear afterwards. Please note, the lower the temperature you cook the beef will result in a better result. By that I mean edge to edge pink, no overcooked ribeye cap, an ideal sear on the outside creating that beautiful brown exterior.
For the end sear itself, the goal is to only raise the exterior of the beef for the shortest amount of time so the inside of the roast doesn’t cook any longer or at least minimally. So make sure your oven or grill is nice and hot before doing the final sear on your rib roast.
IMPORTANT: Remove the rib roast from the pan you cooked it on initially and transfer it to another pan for the quick sear. If you don’t and you put your oven on 500°F, any fat from the roast on the bottom of the pan WILL SMOKE. If you are grilling this isn’t an issue because you are outdoors. Trust me, you don’t want to smoke out your house and set off the smoke detectors if it can be prevented.
If your oven has a convection function, definitely use that for the sear. On the Hestan range there is a setting for both roasting and convection roasting. The airflow around the meat helps to further dry the exterior and promote adequate browning. I love that this option has the option to do both. Elevating the roast beyond having it sit on the ribs really serves no purpose since you are doing a quick sear. Note, if you are cooking a boneless roast, then yes elevate it. Alternatively you can sear the roast on your stovetop if it is not too large.
Cooking the rib roast at a low temperature gives the exterior of the roast extra time to dry prior to searing. That means less time to get an adequate sear and you guessed it, a perfectly cooked inside.
Remember: The lower the temperature you cook the meat, the lower carryover cooking temperature rise
How Low Do I Go? The Test
To decide the best method I cooked two rib roasts in my Hestan range:
For the first, I set the Hestan Dual-Fuel Range on the roast function at 275°F until 120°F . I then removed the rib roast from the oven while the temperature of the oven was increasing to 500°F. Once at temperature, the roast went back in the oven and was seared for 10 minutes at 500°F with the convection roast function.
The second I roasted at 225°F until 120°F and then seared at 500°F. Some even prefer to cook a standing rib roast under 200°F but I don’t want to spend all day cooking if it isn’t necessary. I fully realize that both will work, I just wanted to see if there is any real advantage to one temperature over the other.
My goal again is to have edge to edge pink meat cooked perfectly all the way through. No outer band of medium well or well done on my medium rare rib roast. When I pulled the roast from the oven it was 120°F and the internal temperature rose to 135°F after resting for 30 minutes. Yes, I was still in medium-rare range which I wanted, but I was aiming for 130°F.
A 15 degree rise in temperature wasn’t too bad because I pulled the roast early just in case. Also, this was an approximately 4 pound roast. Please note, if this had been a larger roast, there is a much greater chance that the carryover rise in temperature could have been 20 degrees or more. I prefer a bit less variability in results if cooking an expensive cut of beef.
At this temperature, if the sear was prolonged due to an external factor such as an inaccurate oven temperature (too low), then the outer portion of the roast might overcook. A good rule of thumb is to periodically double check how accurate your oven temperature is with an oven thermometer. You can pick them up for under $10.
But how much carry over will there be at 225°F? Let’s find out.
The second I roasted at 225°F until 120°F then pulled it from the range until the Hestan range was preheated to 500°F. I then seared it for about 10 minutes. The result? After resting for 30 minutes, the final internal temperature was 130-131°F depending on where the probe was. This from now on will be my method for how to cook a standing rib roast or a boneless rib roast or prime rib.
Because the cooking temperature in the oven (or grill) is much lower than other traditional cooking methods, the carryover rise in temperature is considerably less. Think of this way. If you cook at 375°F, the outside of the roast will be a higher temperature than the inside. All of that heat tries to come to an equilibrium with the cooler meat on the inside. So the heat travels inward and up goes the temperature of the center of the roast. Lower cooking temperature equals less variables.
The more apt I am to reproducing the same results every time, the happier I am. Cooking at a lower temperature created less of a fluctuation in carry over cooking. I’m a fan of predictability. Especially when it comes to cooking a perfect roast.
Do Not Forget to Pull the Meat Out of the Oven or Grill at the Proper Temperature!
If cooking at 225°F whether in an oven or on the grill, pull the roast 10-15°F degrees under your desired finished temperature prior to searing. Please do not miss this step. If you do, your roast will over cook. My preference would be to pull at 15°F under as a buffer.
For medium rare pull at 115-120°F for end result of 130-135°F
For medium pull at 125-130°F for end result of 140-145°F
For medium well pull at 135-140°F for end result of 150-155°F
Should I Let The Rib Roast Come to Room Temperature Prior to Cooking?
Much like people in Texas arguing whether there should be beans in chili or not, this will forever be controversial. For many different reasons, this is not necessary. It creates no benefit despite what many might tell you. Can you leave it out for an hour to take the chill of of it? Sure. But at the end of the day, it won’t make a vast difference in terms of the final result.
It takes a substantial amount of time to increase the internal temperature of a large cut of meat at room temperature by any significant amount. One of the best in the business for evidence supported cooking is Meathead Goldwyn. He does a series of tests to prove that leaving a roast out on the counter for hours prior to cooking serves no purpose. Taking a roast out for an hour or so to take the chill off is acceptable. Leaving a raw 10 pound roast on your counter at room temperature for 4 hours is completely unnecessary. Check out his article here.
Different Methods to Cook a Rib Roast
There are a multitude of ways to cook really anything. If you prefer to grill or smoke your prime rib or standing rib roast the concept to cook is the same. I personally prefer my prime rib not smoked. Having said that, when cooking on any grill or pit which uses either wood or charcoal for fuel, it will pick up some of that flavor over an extended cook. It’s all about the preference of what you and your guests like.
Grilled Rib Roast (Grilled Prime Rib) and Smoked Prime Rib Roast
Regardless if you are using a kettle grill, a kamado, a traditional pit, a gas or propane grill, the basic method is the same. Cook low at 225°F with the lid closed until 15°F shy of your target temperature, increase the heat, sear fast then rest. However, the name of the game is using INDIRECT heat.
With pellet grills, the deflector plate on the bottom naturally makes the entire grill indirect heat. For a kamado grill, a plate which deflects the heat goes underneath the cook surface to grill indirect. On a kettle grill you can bank the coals to one side and keep the meat on the opposite side. For a gas or propane grill, turn the burners on one side of the grill only and place the meat on the opposite side where the burners are not lit.
Once you have your indirect heat set up, with some grills you have the option to add additional wood chunks for additional smoke. It’s a decision you have to make based off of your own liking. I prefer to keep it traditional especially on the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking other proteins on the grill as well as everything to side dishes and even dessert. Everything has a time and place.
How Long Will It Take To Cook A Standing Rib Roast?
The million dollar question that everyone wants an exact answer to. Problem is, you can predict a range of time, but an exact time is nearly impossible. There are too many variables such as:
- Bone-in vs boneless rib roast
- Inaccurate oven temperature (please check the accuracy of your oven with an oven thermometer)
- The diameter and weight of the roast. A larger diameter rib roast and heavier roast will typically take longer to cook.
- The shape of the roast (use butcher’s twine to tie the roast for more uniform cooking)
- If grilling, fluctuations in grill temperature causing variable results
- An inaccurate meat thermometer (leave in or instant read) will skew results. Invest in a good one.
A General Cook Time Guideline
I would rather have my standing rib roast finished considerably early rather than have my guests waiting to eat.
Remember, you can ALWAYS cook a roast longer and bring it up to a higher temperature but there is no going backwards if you overcook it.
I plan to have my roast finished an hour or two ahead of time. Hear me out. It’s one thing are casually making food or your family and a whole different situation if you are throwing a dinner party. Plus, getting the roast out of the oven early gives you time to cook side dishes. Having a time buffer does wonders for lessening stress levels when you are making a large meal.
Pull the roast from the oven at the proper temperature. For me, I’m pulling at 115°F. I loosely tent the roast with foil, and if it is done early I wait to sear it until my guests arrive. The internal temperature of the roast will increase then stabilize.
Preheat the oven or grill to 500°F then sear for about 10 minutes. If you find that the internal temperature of the roast is too low for your liking put it back in the oven or grill at 225°F until the temperature rises. Rest for a least 20 minutes then serve.
Say It Again For The People In the Back..
Again, these are GENERAL guidelines due to the many variables mentioned before. Do not use take these reference points as gospel. Do use a quality leave-in cooking temperature alarm to measure both the internal temperature of the meat as it cooks and preferably a quality instant read thermometer to double check the internal temperature once removed from the oven. Thermoworks has been my go to brand for cooking thermometers for years. I wasted a lot of money on sub-par inaccurate thermometers prior to using them.
NOTE: These guidelines do not include the time to preheat the oven or grill, time to sear, or time to rest. To cook a medium-rare standing rib roast generally speaking 30-35 minutes per pound is a good guideline. If you prefer your meat cooked more or less, adjust guidelines appropriately.
4 lb at 225°F- Medium-rare approximately 2 hours
5 lb at 225°F – Medium-rare: approximately 2 1/2 hours
6 lb at 225°F – Medium-rare: approximately 3 hours
7 lb at 225°F – Medium-rare: approximately 3.5 hours
8 lb at 225°F- Medium-rare: approximately 4 hours
9 lb at 225°F- Medium-rare: approximately 4.5 hours
10 lb at 225°F – Medium-rare: approximately 5 hours
How to Season a Standing Rib Roast or Prime Rib Roast
I’m a classic flavored prime rib kind of girl. I don’t like some crazy multi-flavor profile rub on my standing rib roast. Save that for another day and another cut of meat. The single most important thing you put on a rib roast is salt. Specifically, kosher salt and the sooner the better.
For the best flavored rib roast, after you tie the meat with butcher’s twine, salt the entire roast with kosher salt. Place the roast on an elevated rack uncovered in the refrigerator overnight the day before you plan to cook it. This process of salting the meat ahead of time is called dry-brining. Initially the surface of the meat will look wet but then the salt and moisture will be drawn into the interior of the meat. This process actually allows you to season the inside of the meat giving an accentuated flavor. In addition, the exterior of the rib roast will be more dry after you remove it from the refrigerator. During the cooking process, this will allow the roast to brown more efficiently.
For my standing rib roast, I salt at least a day ahead of time. As long as you season at minimum 4 hours beforehand the taste will benefit. Aim for at least 12 hours for even better results. The day of cooking I add some fresh ground pepper and possibly some dried thyme leaves or chopped rosemary leaves.
How Much Prime Rib Per Person Should I Buy?
For a standing rib roast (which is bone-in) plan on 1 actual rib for every 2 people. Now, if I’m being honest, I make a 3 bone roast for 4 people because I want leftovers. If the rib roast is the main course, a pound per person is my minimum. If you are having a variety of proteins for your main course feel free to buy less. But if you are a fan of a great French dip the next day, splurge on a bigger rib roast.
I hope that with my method for how to cook a standing rib roast you are no longer intimidated to make a perfectly cooked prime rib that will wow your guests. It is certainly magical how a piece of meat can transform purely by the method you cook it. Enjoy!
How to Cook Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib Roast)
- instant read thermometer
- Remote cooking thermometer
- Elevated cooking rack
- Roasting pan
- 1 standing rib roast (prime rib) 4-10 lbs *cook time will vary by size*
- kosher salt season liberally to dry-brine roast at least 12 hours ahead of time. Amount will vary depending on size of roast
- black pepper, freshly ground enough to lightly season outside of entire roast
- rosemary, fresh, minced or thyme leaves optional
- olive oil enough to lightly cover entire roast prior to cooking
- Defrost roast completely if frozen
- If roast is not tied, use butcher's twine to tie roast into uniform shape
Dry-brine standing rib roast a day ahead of time
- Place rib roast on an elevated rack and season liberally with kosher salt on all surfaces. Place roast in refrigerator uncovered preferably a day ahead of time until ready to cook
- Remove roast from refrigerator. Lightly coat entire roast with olive oil, ghee or vegetable oil.
- Season all surfaces with black pepper. If desired, lightly season with minced fresh rosemary or thyme.
Preheat oven or grill to 225°F
- Once oven or grill is preheated, place meat inside to cook on an elevated baking rack.
- Insert probe of a cooking thermometer to monitor internal meat temperature while it cooks. Reference approximate roasting times and monitor roast for cooking progress.
Remove roast from oven or grill
- When internal temperature of meat is within 10-15 degrees of your desired finished temperature, remove from oven.
- Increase temperature of oven or grill to 500°F. *Make sure meat has been removed prior to getting oven up to temperature*
- Remove roast from the roasting pan you initially cooked it on and replace with a clean pan. (Prevents smoking during sear)
- Place roast into 500°F oven and sear for approximately 10 minutes. *It may take less time. Pull roast if adequately browned*
Remove from oven and rest
- After the rib roast is seared, remove from oven and loosely tent with aluminum foil. Rest meat a minimum of 20 minutes prior to slicing to serve.
- Note: If roast is done well in advance of the time you would like to serve, wait to sear it until 30 minutes prior to desired serving time.