Prime Rib: How To Cook

A picture of roasted prime rib
This post is written in partnership with Omaha Steaks. Rest assured all opinions are my own.

There is a wide variety of ways to cook prime rib.  Whether you make it indoors in an oven or outside on the grill, it will be delicious either way.  This tutorial Prime Rib: How To Cook gives you all of the information you need to make perfect prime rib.  Whether you are firing up the grill, or the oven the basic concepts are the same.   It’s one of my favorites and the anticipation of waiting for it to finish cooking and cutting that first slice is thrilling.

What Is A Prime Rib?

There is often confusion over what prime rib actually is and it’s understandable why if you’ve never been told.  “Prime” usually is used to describe a grade of beef that is nicely laced with intramuscular fat.  That fat within the meat gives it great flavor and also commands a higher price at the butcher.

Prime rib is a cut of beef which is taken from the rib primal of a cow.  A primal cut just refers to one of large initial sections which an animal is broken down to upon butchering.  Primal cuts include: chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, plate, brisket and shank.

Specifically, the prime rib comes from the 6th through the 12th ribs of the cow.  A prime rib roast or standing rib roast can be anywhere from a two to a six bone roast.  It is possible that you can have a “choice grade” prime rib roast or a “prime grade” prime rib roast.  I would be lying if I said people did not argue that only a “prime grade” prime rib roast is technically “prime rib” but it’s not true.

A picture of a raw prime rib roast
An Untied, Bone-in Prime Rib Roast

For more in-depth information about prime rib/standing rib roasts, check out my article “How To Cook Standing Rib Roast”.  It’s a longer read but includes a lot of insight and detail.

Use A Reputable Meat Supplier

The lesson to be learned here, is regardless of grade, if you prepare and cook the meat to perfection, the grade won’t matter that much in the end.  Note, grading of beef is also a voluntary process by the USDA so not all meat suppliers do it.  Moral of the story, use a reputable meat supplier or butcher to assure you have a nice cut of beef.

For this “Prime Rib: How To Cook” tutorial, I am using a lovely Prime Rib roast from Omaha Steaks.  They have a large variety of Prime Rib roasts including boneless and bone-in versions of different sizes.  I’ve been lucky enough to try a number of them over the last couple years and they were all fabulous.

A prime rib roast tied to make more even
A Bone-In Prime Rib Roast Tied To GIve More Uniform Shape

Temperature To Cook Prime Rib And Approximate Cook Time

For all of the cooking methods mentioned, the same principle applies to each one.  Prime rib comes out with beautiful edge to edge pink color when cooked at a lower temperature (225°F) for a longer period of time vs cooking at a higher temperature for a shorter length of time.

If cooking in an oven, elevate your prime rib on a rack over a sheet pan or a roasting pan.  If cooking on a grill or smoker, set it up for indirect cooking at 225°F.

 

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

 

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.

 

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

Roasted Prime Rib

Roasting prime rib in the oven is my favorite method to cook it.  Truly, it is the easiest method because you don’t have to worry about fire management on a grill or drastic fluctuations in temperature.  The most important thing to note when roasting prime rib is to have air circulation around the meat.

If you have a roasting rack, that is ideal to elevate the meat.  I use a rack over a sheet pan because I don’t own a roasting rack.  Either method will work just as well.  If the meat is laying directly on the pan, the meat will not cook as evenly.

Roasting Prime Rib In An Oven
Roasting Prime Rib In An Oven

Prime Rib In A Roaster

Growing up, my Mother’s oven stopped working when I was really young.  So young in fact that I don’t remember when.  We didn’t have much money so she bought this giant roaster and that was how she cooked any large portion of meat.  Roasts, turkeys, you name it.  It all went in that roaster.  If you aren’t familiar with a roaster, imagine a huge crock pot that you can dial to a specific temperature.  Most have a range from around 200°F -450°F.

I will admit, it was good for what we used it for.  For a prime rib, you could roast it at 225°F and then crank the heat up at the very end to try to get some browning on the exterior.  That was where the roaster falls short.  Depending on the model, you could certainly take the meat out and wait for it to heat up to 450°F.  However, once you open that lid, out goes the warmth and it takes longer to get adequate browning.  You could easily overcook your meat in this time.

Moral of the story, if it’s all you have that is no problem.  Cook using the same temperature guidelines and if you can brown it at the end, great.  If not, I assure you the meat will still be excellent regardless.

Smoked Prime Rib

I have to make two differentiations here.  You can make a “smoked” prime rib, or you can just make a prime rib “in a smoker”.  By a smoked prime rib, I mean you are cooking it at lower temperatures thereby allowing the flavor of the wood or charcoal you are using to flavor the meat.  Lower temps over longer periods of time equal more smoked flavor.

If you aren’t a fan of smoked meat, then you have two options.  Cook the meat at a higher temperature (over 300°F) or cook your meat in your oven instead.  If you cook it at a higher temperature however, you might not get that beautiful edge to edge pink.  The meat will be delicious regardless.  If you decide to cook your prime rib at a higher temperature, you have to consider the different rise in carryover temperature.

Carryover is the rise in temperature of the meat after you have finished cooking it.  For example, a piece of meat cooked at 225°F for a longer period of time, will rise less in temperature after you have removed it from the oven or grill compared to one cooked at 325°F.  If you are cooking at a higher temperature, you should remove the meat from the oven or grill sooner than if you cooked at a lower temperature.

Medium Rare Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib)
Medium Rare Standing Rib Roast (Prime Rib)

Prime Rib On The Traeger Or Other Pellet Grill

Cooking on a pellet grill is as easy as using your oven indoors and that is why so many people love them.  Most pellet grills have a heat deflection plate beneath the grill grates.  This plate naturally creates indirect heat for your cook.  You can cook the prime rib directly on the grill grates or place it on an elevated rack above a drip pan if you prefer.

Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F then place the prime rib on the grill.  When the prime rib has reached your ideal temperature, remove it from the pellet grill and set it aside.  Turn up the heat on the grill to at least 450°F.  Once the grill is up to temperature, place the meat back on the grill and sear the outside for 5-10 minutes or until browned adequately.  Once browned, remove the meat from the grill and set it aside to rest.

Not all pellet grills are capable of reaching ideal searing temperatures.  If this is the case with your pellet grill, you can sear the meat in a preheated oven indoors on an elevated rack over a sheet pan.

Cooked Prime Rib On A Plate
Prime Rib Cooked Medium-Rare

Cooking On A Charcoal Grill

When cooking on a charcoal grill, set up your grill for indirect grilling.  If grilling on a kettle grill, you can bank the coals to one side of the grill and cook on the opposite side.  If cooking with charcoal on a kamado style grill, a heat deflection plate beneath the grill surface creates indirect heat.  Once your grill is stabilized at 225°F, add the meat to the grill.

Continue to cook the meat until the ideal temperature then remove the meat from the grill temporarily and set aside. Open the vents on your grill and increase the temperature of the grill to at least 450°F.  Place the meat back on the grill and sear the prime rib for 5-10 minutes until the exterior is browned.  Remove the meat from the grill and set aside to rest.

In Summary

As you can see, regardless of the heat source you choose, the principles remain the same for every method.  Indirect heat at a lower temperature (225°F) then searing afterwards produces great results consistently.  If you learn the basic concepts of cooking prime rib, you can execute the cook easily regardless of what you choose to cook on.

A picture of roasted prime rib

Prime Rib: How To Cook

How to cook prime rib in the oven, on the grill, or in a smoker
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword standing rib roast, prime rib, prime rib roast, rib roast recipe, beef
Prep Time 12 hours
Cook Time 3 hours
Author Melissa Reome

Equipment

  • instant read thermometer
  • Remote cooking thermometer
  • Elevated cooking rack
  • Roasting pan or sheet pan
  • Oven, grill, or smoker

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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

Season roast

  • 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, grill or smoker 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 or smoker

  • When internal temperature of meat is within 10-15 degrees of your desired finished temperature, remove from oven.

Sear meat

  • Increase temperature of oven or grill to 450-500°F. *Make sure meat has been removed prior to getting oven or grill 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 450-500°F oven and sear for approximately 5-10 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.

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