How To Make Classic Prime Rib: The Simplest, Easiest Method

How To Make Classic Prime Rib: The Simplest, Easiest Method

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Meghan Splawn
Dec 14, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Here's how to fall in love with prime rib roast: Cover the whole thing in salt and let it slowly perfume the whole house as the interior cooks to juicy, rosy perfection while the exterior develops a deep mahogany crust. Let it rest a while out of the oven while you pour wine and welcome friends and family. Serve slices of the roast with a swipe of homemade horseradish cream and a platter of golden roasted potatoes. Then take a moment to relish what you've just accomplished: a restaurant-quality holiday dinner prepared with ease in your home kitchen.

Why You Should Make Prime Rib

Prime rib roast's promises cannot be understated. Standing tall on a serving platter ready to be carved, its dark, crisp exterior promises a tender, rosy interior full of intense beefy flavor. Partner this special-occasion cut of beef with good wine and classic sides and you're on your way to a classic holiday meal.

If you're investing your time and money into making a prime rib roast at home, you'll want some reassurance that your efforts will be rewarded. This simple, easy method is just that: a straight-forward promise of perfection.

What Is Prime Rib Roast?

Prime rib roast is sometimes called standing rib roast and refers to the 6th to 12th rib section of the rib primal from a beef cow. There's some confusion as to whether prime rib can only be called "prime" if it is graded as such using the USDA grading standards of "prime," "choice," or "select."

For our purposes, prime rib roast refers specifically to this cut and not the grading. Although for fun you could spend a pretty penny and get yourself a prime prime rib roast, but most are bought and served by restaurants.

Read more: Prime Rib, the King of Roasts

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For Your Information

  • This method can be used for a smaller 3- to 4-bone roast or a larger 6- to 7-bone roast, with times adjusted accordingly. Plan on one pound of bone-in prime rib per person.
  • The roast cooks for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours depending on its size, but be sure to remove the roast from the fridge two hours before roasting.
  • Prime rib is best served rare to medium. Aim for an internal temperature of 115°F for rare and 120°F to 130°F for medium.

Buying Prime Rib

Prime rib can be sold bone-in or boneless, with the price per pound varying widely depending on the preparation. Talk to your butcher about how many people you'll be serving and how much you'd like to spend. Most will recommend one bone for every two diners, or about one pound of bone-in meat per person.

You can also ask your butcher to prepare your roast with "the ribs cut away and tied back." This makes the roast easier to cook and carve. The butcher will trim some fat, cut the ribs away and secure them under the roast (in lieu of a roasting rack), and tie the roast for you.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Oven-Sear for the Simplest, Easiest Prime Rib

The method for creating a mahogany-colored crust on the roast is the classic oven-sear, meaning we start the roast in a very hot oven and reduce the temperature for the duration of the roasting process. If it sounds familiar, that's because it's the same method we use for our favorite roast turkey recipe. Oven-searing is by far the easiest method for cooking rib roast, and it reduces the risk of overcooking.

Read more: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Making Prime Rib

Key Steps for Making Standing Rib Roast

  • Take the chill off the roast. Remove the roast from the fridge at least two hours before you plan to roast it. Don't worry — the raw roast won't be sitting long enough to hit the danger zone of time/temperature. This just takes the chill off the roast and later helps it cook a bit faster in the oven.
  • Season the prime rib early. Season the rib roast right after removing it from the fridge. This seasoning will draw some moisture from the exterior, making for a better sear in the oven.
  • Oven sear the roast for 15 minutes at 500°F. Put the prepared roast in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes. Be prepared: During this time, the roast is going to release a fair amount of fat and there will be smoke. Turn on your oven's vent hood and open a few windows. Don't worry — your kitchen will be smoke-free long before guests arrive for dinner.
  • Reduce the heat and cook to desired doneness. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and cook for 13 minutes per pound. Continue to cook the roast for at least another hour before you begin checking the roast's temperature. Larger roasts can take a total of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cook the prime rib to 115°F for rare and 120°F to 130°F for medium. Remember that there will be carryover cooking as the roast rests.

Your Prime Rib Roast Needs a Sauce

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to serving a sauce alongside a prime rib roast, but you should absolutely plan on one of three: horseradish cream, gravy, or au jus. Horseradish cream is my personal favorite because it can be made the day before and I love the juxtaposition of cool, spicy cream with the rich beef. You can also turn the pan drippings from the roast into a gravy while the roast rests, using a combination of flour and butter to thicken the drippings.

Need gravy advice? Start here: How To Make Gravy

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Resting and Carving Prime Rib

Prime rib's juiciness is only made better by a leisurely rest after roasting. Personally, I find this the perfect time to welcome guests and get them a cocktail, so that you can bring the whole roast to the table for carving. If you've had your roast trimmed and bones tied underneath, carving will be as easy as trimming away the twine and slicing the roast. For a bone-in rib roast, this is the ideal time to use your electric carving knife.

Need a Prime Rib Dinner Plan? A Menu for a Prime Rib Holiday Dinner

Classic Prime Rib: The Simplest, Easiest Method

Makes 6 to 8 servings

What You Need

Ingredients

3- to 4-bone prime standing rib roast, about 7 pounds (see Recipe Note)
1 tablespoon kosher salt (you might not need all of this)

For the horseradish cream sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

Equipment
13x9-inch metal pan
Probe thermometer
Chef's knife and cutting board

Instructions

  1. Remove the roast from the fridge 2 hours before cooking and season with salt. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and season generously with the salt, being sure to coat the sides, ends, and the ribs below. Don't worry about using all the salt. Place the roast in a roasting pan or 9x13-inch metal baking pan with the ribs in the pan and the fat cap up. Leave at room temperature for about 2 hours.
  2. Make the horseradish sauce (optional). Combine the cream, sour cream, horseradish, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Heat the oven to 500°F. Center a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 500°F.
  4. Oven-sear the roast for 15 minutes. Put the prepared roast in the hot oven and roast for 15 minutes. Be prepared — during this time the roast is going to put off a fair amount of fat and there will be smoke. Turn on your oven's vent hood and open a few windows and the roast will be done with any smoking and your kitchen will be smoke-free long before guests arrive for dinner.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 °F and cook for 13 minutes per pound. Drop the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to cook the roast for at least another hour before you begin checking the roast's temperature. Larger roasts can take a total of 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cook the prime rib to 115°F for rare and 120°F to 130°F for medium — remember that there will be carryover cooking as the roast rests.
  6. Rest the roast before carving. When the roast has reached your desired temperature, remove the roast from the oven and move to a cutting board for carving. Cover in foil and rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Carve the roast. Use a pair of shears or a knife to cut away the twine, pull the prime rib roast away from the bones, and slice the rib roast to order in 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with plenty of horseradish cream or gravy.

Recipe Notes

  • Ask your butcher: Order your prime rib roast with "the ribs cut away and tied back," which makes the roast easier to cook and carve. The butcher will trim some fat, cut the ribs away and secure them under the roast (in lieu of a roasting rack), and tie the roast for you.
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