Just as in cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving, there's a lot riding on turning out a beautiful, perfectly-cooked prime rib roast for Christmas dinner. It's an expensive cut of meat, and not always the easiest to cook -- the bigger the roast, the more finesse it takes to cook it through without overcooking it. Luckily, plenty of cooks before you have worked out the kinks and developed clever, easy ways to ensure a perfect roast every time.
Buying a Rib Roast
A beef rib roast, also called a standing rib roast, is cut from the upper rib of the steer, either from the loin end or the chuck end. The loin end, or first cut, is smaller, but has more meat and less fat; the chuck end, also called second cut, is bigger, but has a smaller rib eye and more fat. The USDA grade available at most butcher counters is Choice, one step down from Prime but less expensive and still very good. To calculate how big a roast to buy, figure one rib for every two people.
Seasonings: Keep It Simple
Purists would argue that the flavor of a prime or choice cut of rib roast needs little help from seasoning -- salt and pepper should do just fine. One interesting seasoning is coffee, which augments the deep, earthy flavor of the beef. Just mix finely ground coffee with salt and pepper and rub it all over the roast before it goes in the oven. Prior to serving, though, be sure to scrape off any excess coffee rub. Other classic flavorings are a garlic-herb or horseradish rub.
Choose a Roasting Method
One of the safest ways to prepare a rib roast is to cook it slowly in a low oven preheated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, ideally with a leave-in probe thermometer that will alert you when the internal temperature hits 130 F for medium-rare. This should take about 30 minutes per pound. Another method is to start the roast in a hot oven, 500 F, for 20 to 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 F for the remainder of the cooking time. You could also the roast in a 375 F oven, then turn the oven off after an hour and let it coast to doneness for another three hours; the problem with this method is you cannot open the oven during this time, which means you have to find other ways to heat up your side dishes.
The classic accompaniment to a rib roast is Yorkshire pudding, made with flour, milk, eggs and drippings from the roast beef. The same ingredients can be used to make individual popovers instead. The rest of the drippings can be served along with the roast -- au jus -- either as-is or thickened into a gravy with the addition of a flour and butter roux. Include a traditional dollop of cool horseradish cream sauce -- ideal not only for dinner, but for roast beef sandwiches the next day.
- FineCooking: How to Buy and Carve a Prime Rib Roast
- America's Test Kitchen: Perfect Prime Rib
- Food & Wine: Christmas Roasts
- The Pioneer Woman: Prime Rib
- PaulaDeen.com: Foolproof Standing Rib Roast
- Saveur: Yorkshire Pudding
- LA Times: Regal Beef Roast for Special Dinner: Yorkshire Popovers Make a Perfect Accompaniments
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images