Prime rib, also known as a standing rib roast, is the undisputed crème de la crème when it comes to a large cut of beef. I remember going to the steakhouse with my family on prime rib night for special occasions and celebrations, savoring every bite of a slice of rosy, juicy meat with some tasty jus.
Prime rib isn't something you can only eat at restaurants, and it's actually the perfect cut for a holiday dinner or large dinner party. Where does it come from, what makes it so special, and why is it so darn expensive?
Where Is Prime Rib Cut From?
Prime rib is cut from the primal rib section of the animal — ribeyes are actually steaks cut from the prime rib. A whole prime rib is composed of 6 ribs (ribs #6 to 12), which can weigh anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds.
Buying Prime Rib
If such a large roast is too much for you to handle or eat, just ask the butcher to cut it down for you by asking for a certain number of ribs instead of a whole roast. Ribs 6 to 9 (also known as the chuck end, second cut, or blade end) are closer to the shoulder and contain more big chunks of fat, whereas ribs 10 to 12 (also known as the loin end, small end, or first cut), are leaner but more tender.
Prime rib can be sold bone-in or boneless, and you can always ask the butcher to cut the meat off the bones and tie it back on, which helps in the carving process once the roast is cooked. You'll need about one pound of bone-in meat per person.
Don't confuse prime rib with the USDA prime grading — prime rib doesn't have anything to do the quality of meat but just the cut itself, whereas prime grading refers to the actual quality of the meat.
What Makes Prime Rib So Special?
Prime rib has a large "eye" of meat in the center, which is juicy, tender, and marbled with fat. This eye has a fat-marbled muscle around it, and the whole thing is surrounded by a thick cap of fat.
All this means that prime rib is tender because the muscles aren't heavily used, stays juicy because of all the fat, and is extremely flavorful and beefy, all contributing to its high price.
Seasoning Prime Rib
Since prime rib is such a large, expensive cut of meat, proper care has to be taken when seasoning and cooking it. The thickness of the cut means that a generous amount of seasoning is important. My favorite way of cooking prime rib is to cut the meat off the bones (I like bone-in prime rib since I love gnawing on the bones and the bones protect the meat form losing too much moisture and overcooking), season with salt, chopped garlic, and dried herbs, and then tie the meat back onto the bones before roasting.
Cooking Prime Rib
Grilling or roasting are both good cooking methods that will brown and melt the tasty fat on the outside on a prime rib, but take care not to overcook the inside. Prime rib is at its best cooked rare or medium rare — it should not be cooked past medium (140°F) or all the fat will melt out of the meat, leaving it tough, dry, and chewy.
After the prime rib is cooked, make sure to let it rest for a few minutes for the meat to reabsorb all the delicious juices before carving. Since the meat is already precut from the bones, just separate it from the bones again and slice away with ease. I can't think of a more impressive and delicious main dish that will impress the socks off those sitting at the dinner table.
Prime Rib Recipes
- Prime Rib — Simply Recipes
- Slow-Roasted Prime Rib au Jus — CHOW
- Prime Rib with Roasted Garlic and Horseradish Crust - Epicurious