How to Cook Prime Rib

updated Nov 27, 2023

Here's how to buy, prepare, and roast prime rib, the most iconic beef roast.

Serves6 to 8

Prep15 minutes

Cook2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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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, a swipe of homemade horseradish cream, and a platter of golden roasted potatoes 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, especially for the holidays, you’ll want some reassurance that your efforts will be rewarded. This simple, easy method is just that: a straight-forward promise of perfection.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

What Is Prime Rib Roast, Exactly?

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.

Is Prime Rib the Same as Ribeye?

Ribeyes are steaks cut from the prime rib, while a whole prime rib is composed of six ribs. A whole prime rib roast can weigh anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds.

Buying Prime Rib: Bone-In or Boneless?

Prime rib can be sold bone-in or boneless, with the price per pound varying widely depending on the preparation. 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 meat off the ribs, then tie it back together. This makes is much easier to carve later.

How Much Prime Rib Do You Need?

Prime rib roast size is dependent on the number of bones you want. 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.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The Best Way to Cook Prime Rib: Oven-Searing

Once you have the prime rib, it’s time to cook. Oven-searing is by far the easiest method for cooking rib roast, and it reduces the risk of overcooking.

Oven-searing means to start cooking the roast in a very hot oven, then 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. This method helps to create a mahogany-colored, flavorful crust on the roast while the inside cooks evenly. It’s also easy – just put it in the oven. In fact, it’s easier than cooking a steak!

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How to Roast Prime Rib

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Rest Prime Rib After Cooking for Extra Juiciness

Prime rib’s juiciness is only made better by a leisurely 30-minute 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.

The Best Sauces for Prime Rib

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 these three:

  • Horseradish cream: 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.
  • Gravy: 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.
  • Au jus: Au jus also starts with the pan drippings, but is thinner than gravy.

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.

How to Cook Prime Rib Recipe

Here's how to buy, prepare, and roast prime rib, the most iconic beef roast.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 2 hours to 2 hours 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    (about 7-pound) prime standing rib roast (3 to 4 bones, see Recipe Note), preferably cut away from the bones and tied back on

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt (you might not need all of this)

For the horseradish cream sauce (optional):

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • 1/4 cup

    prepared horseradish

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper (optional)

Equipment

  • Roasting pan or 9x13-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 1 (about 7-pound) standing rib roast dry with paper towels and season generously with 1 tablespoon kosher 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. Let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

  2. Make the horseradish sauce (optional). Place all the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

  3. Heat the oven to 500°F. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F.

  4. Oven-sear the roast for 15 minutes. Place the roast in the oven 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 stove or oven's vent and open a few windows. Don't worry, the roast will be done with smoking after this 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. Roast until the center of the prime rib registers 115°F for rare and 120°F to 130°F for medium on a instant-read thermometer — 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 transfer to a clean cutting board for carving. Loosely cover in aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes.

  7. Carve the roast. Cut off the twine or cut the meat away from the bones in one piece. Cut crosswise into 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.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.