Prime Rib


Prime Rib is a favorite of most meateaters; our family certainly does.   This expensive cut of beef requires tender and focused preparation to avoid overcooking or producing a bland roast.

While not the most difficult thing to cook, some thought and planning is required.  Prime Rib generally has side dish accompaniments, so consideration of needed oven space, oven temperature settings and cooking times, often limited to one oven, for those accompanying dishes can dictate rib roast preparation.

Other considerations — exhaust fan capacity and oven temperature integrity — can be important as some methods of cooking require high heat, producing a fair amount of smoke. If you kitchen cannot handle the smoke, skip the high heat recipes.

If you are entertaining family or friends some might prefer meat cooked beyond medium rare, the standard for Prime Rib.  For those preferring the roast be cooked more to a medium or well done status, the roast will need to return to the oven after resting and being carved.  

Rib roast cooking methods share a few things in common.

  • The meat should be room temperature before going into the oven.
    • But even here, chefs disagree.  Some say 15-30 minutes out of the refrigerator, some suggest up to 4 hours.  Personally, I go with “at least an hour.”  With the outer layer of the roast at room temperature, that promotes browning, while the center can still be cool when the roast goes into the oven.
  • Proper seasoning is important to produce the perfect outcome .  Always use salt (liberally) and pepper.  Other suggested seasonings include garlic, rosemary, oregano, shallots, herbs de provence. There is no right or wrong here, use what you like.
    • Again, chefs have differing opinions.  Some say season a day or two early with salt and pepper and add additional seasonings while bringing the rib to room temperature..  Some say sprinkle the herbs on, others say make a paste using olive oil and herbs, and perhaps even bread crumbs, to coat the meat.
  • All agree that beef should be roasted until it reaches an internal temperature of 120 – 125 degrees.  Allowing the roast to rest, will produce the perfect medium rare finish.
    • Use a meat thermometer.  Whether inexpensive or fancy, it is required.
  • The roast should rest, loosely covered with foil, after being removed from the oven.  This allows the fats and juices to stabilize and be absorbed.  Don’t be in a hurry, let it rest – that enhances the flavor!

There are three basic roasting methods:  high heat, low heat and “no heat”.  

High heat begins with 450 degrees,  or more, for 20-30 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 until the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees.  One to two hours depending on roast size, oven accuracy and the cooking gods. It is a quick way to cook the roast,  but will initially produce lots of smoke.  The cook must pay close attention to the time!

Low heat methods roast the beef for a longer time in a 200-250 degree oven.  The idea is that the roast cooks evenly and results in very tender servings.  After the roast achieves temperature (120 degrees), remove it from the oven and let it rest for approximately one hour.  Before serving, return the roast to a very hot oven (500 degrees) for 10 minutes to brown and crisp the crust. Then cut the roast immediately.  This method produces smoke during the last ten minutes but also frees up the oven for side dishes for an hour or so.

The “no heat” method starts by placing the roast in the oven at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then the oven is turned off.  Two hours later, a 4# rib roast will be medium rare and ready to carve.  This method requires that the oven stays closed the entire time.  No peeking.  A thermometer connected to the oven is extremely helpful to know the internal temperature without opening the oven.  As unlikely as it seems, this method always works but, there is no time to heat side dishes. And it is a bit smoky the first 20 minutes at 500 degrees.

 I prefer the high heat method.  I can open the oven if needed and I can slide in side dishes. And this method produces the least amount of smoke which fully dissipates by the time I serve dinner.