Prime rib might be the most celebratory, decadent and tasty cut of beef there is. Also known as a standing rib roast, this large, tender, juicy, flavorful marbled meat is often reserved for holidays and special occasions — whether you're celebrating at a steakhouse, a fancy restaurant or at your own dinner table.
Of course, ordering prime rib at a restaurant can be a bit expensive, but preparing it at home can be intimidating — just because it's not an everyday cut of meat. Not to worry, though. Cooking either boneless prime rib or bone-in prime rib isn't much more difficult than roasting a chicken, as long as you know a few tips and tricks.
What Is a Prime Rib Roast?
A prime rib roast is a primal rib cut of the steer, usually ribs six through 12 of the 13 ribs. A whole roast can weigh up to 22 pounds and feed a crowd. More commonly, however, the prime rib is in two cuts: the first cut, consisting of ribs 10–12 and the rib-eye muscle, and the second cut, which consists of ribs six through nine and more marbled, fatty meat. The first cut is usually preferred because of its more uniform shape and tasty rib-eye, but the fatty second cut sometimes has more juice and flavor.
Do You Really Need to Tie a Prime Rib Roast?
You aren't absolutely required to tie your prime rib roast, but tying it is a simple preparation that will likely improve both your cooking experience and the final outcome. Tying your roast properly ensures:
- Your roast cooks more evenly in the oven.
- Your roast retains a uniform shape.
- Your roast is easier to carve.
- Your roast is easy to transport to and from the pan.
In other words, tying your prime rib roast will make the process of cooking your prime rib easier, and it will also make the result tastier for you and your guests. It's not completely and utterly necessary, but it's a good idea.
Things You'll Need
A prime rib roast
Kitchen shears or scissors
How to Select a Prime Rib
When you're talking to your butcher about selecting a prime rib roast, first discuss the number of people you plan to feed as well as your budget. Generally, you need about a pound of raw meat per guest — and generally, one rib will generously serve two guests. A first cut or second cut roast, consisting of three ribs each, will likely serve six diners along with providing some leftovers.
Next, decide on which grade to choose: USDA prime is best, USDA Choice is next best, and USDA select is after that. All are serviceable and delicious, and some diners prefer choice over prime because prime can have too much fat/marbling.
Just because prime rib has "prime" in its name doesn't mean that it's a prime cut of meat. It could be prime, choice or select. Ask your butcher!
Finally, choose bone-in or boneless rib roast. Boneless is easier to handle, cook and cut, while bone-in can be more flavorful and more dramatic to serve. Some cooks cut out the bone, tie it to the roast, and then remove it again before serving for the best of both worlds, but that is by no means necessary.
Asking for a Pre-Tied Prime Rib Roast
You'll want to buy your prime rib roast from the butcher. You can ask them a variety of questions to help you get the right roast for your needs, such as how big of a roast you should buy for the number of people you're serving, whether you should select a bone-in roast or a boneless roast, and about the age of the roast you're purchasing.
Also let the butcher know your budget, as the price per pound of rib roasts can vary significantly depending on age, quality and preparation.
Your butcher will likely be happy to cut away the ribs and tie them back, which makes the roast easier to prepare at home. You can also ask the butcher to tie the roast for you — or it may come pre-tied!
How to Tie a Prime Rib Roast
Step 1: Cut excess fat from the rib roast.
After unwrapping your roast, cut away any large, thick or hanging sections of white fat. Don't bother to cut all of the fat, though, as the cooking fat will create juices and add flavor to the meal. Most butchers have probably already trimmed the fat from the roast.
Don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly with soap both before and after working with raw meat.
Step 2: Place your roast on a clean kitchen surface.
You can tie your roast on a large cutting board, a wiped-down kitchen counter, or even on the roasting pan you'll use to cook your prime rib.
Step 3: Cut several pieces of kitchen twine with kitchen shears.
Each piece of kitchen twine should be a little longer than the circumference of your roast. The number of pieces you'll need depends on the length of your roast. For a boneless roast, plan to tie the roast at 2-inch intervals. For bone-in roasts, cut a piece of twine to tie between each rib.
Some cooks also cut a final, longer piece of twice, more than twice the length of the roast, to tie lengthwise around the piece of meat.
Step 4: Tie each piece of twine at 2-inch intervals around the roast.
Run each piece of twine under the roast, leaving 2 inches between each piece. Use a square knot for security and simplicity, although almost any type of knot will work as long as it's tied snugly. There's no reason to tie the twice especially tight, which may make the twine harder to remove after cooking.
After you've finished tying, cut off the excess ends of twine with your kitchen shears.
Step 5: Tie a final piece of twine lengthwise across the roast.
For larger pieces of meat, you may wish to tie a final piece of twine along the middle of the roast after you've finished with the shorter pieces. For extra security, you may weave the long piece of twine over and under the shorter pieces of twine as you run it around the roast.
Again, this final piece of twine simply makes the roast easier to transport, more compact and easier to cook evenly.
How to Cook a Prime Rib Roast
Step 1: Season your prime rib roast
A day or two before you plan to cook your prime rib roast, salt it generously with kosher salt and let it sit in your refrigerator. The salt will not only season the meat, it will also tenderize it, making your roast both more tender and more flavorful.
Step 2: Bring roast to room temperature
Remove your roast from the fridge a few hours before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Place it in a roasting pan — there's no reason for a rack, especially if you are using a bone-in roast (that's why it's sometimes called a "standing" roast: It traditionally gets balanced on its rib bones to cook).
Step 3: Cook your roast in the oven
Cook your roast on low heat (200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit), checking the temperature regularly (see prime rib temperature chart at the end of this article).
Step 4: Let your roast rest
Cover your roast with an aluminum foil tent and let the meat rest for 20 minutes. This lets the juices redistribute and the meat cook evenly.
Step 5: Broil for a crisp, brown crust
To create that delicious brown crust on your prime rib, stick it under the broiler for just a few minutes before serving. You also can use, if you have one, a blowtorch (this is what a lot of fancy steakhouse restaurants use).
Alternatively, you can get that brown crust by oven-searing the roast at the beginning of your cooking time — just turn the oven up to 500 degrees for 20 minutes. One warning, though: This might result in smoke.
Your Prime Rib Temperature Chart
For the best results, don't cook your prime rib based on a time and weight chart. Instead, invest in a food thermometer so you can ensure that the resulting steaks are cooked to your liking and that of your guests.
Here's a basic prime rib temperature char:
- Rare: 120F
- Medium-rare: 125F
- Medium: 130F
- Medium well: 140F
- Well-done: 150F
To help you keep an eye out for doneness, some very general cook times (but seriously, use the thermometer) are:
- 2 ribs (5 pound roast): 50–60 minutes
- 3 ribs (7 pound roast): 90 minutes
- 4 ribs (10 pound roast):110–130 minutes
- 5 ribs (12 pound roast): 140–180 minutes
- 6 ribs (16 pound roast): 200-240 minutes
Remember: The temperature of your roast will actually increase between 5 to 10 degrees while it's resting.
What About Cooking Prime Rib in a Convection Oven?
Prime rib roasts will get hotter faster in convection ovens, so the cooking time will be shorter. Either lower your cooking temperature or shorten your cooking time, *always checking the meat regularly with a thermometer. *
Remember that your meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven and that it will increase in temperature 5 to 10 degrees while it rests.
Cutting and Serving a Prime Rib Roast
After your prime rib roast has finished resting, it's time to eat! First things first: Remove the twine that you've tied on so carefully. Next, get out your best carving knife. If you're serving a bone-in prime rib, simply slice between each rib. If not, you can slice it so that everyone gets a serving, or at about an inch per person.
You can serve prime rib on its own, but it also goes well with gravy, au jus or a creamy horseradish sauce. You can get creative with your sides as well, but traditional sides include potatoes (baked, mashed or roasted) and green veggies (asparagus, green beans, or Brussels sprouts).
Serve a dry red wine instead of white to complement the rich, deep flavors of the beef.
And remember: Prime rib is a special meat for special occasions. Don't hesitate to take some extra time to pull out a tablecloth and your special dinnerware and put on some background music and mood lighting. You'll be surprised how these little details can make the food taste even better.
Reheating a Prime Rib Roast
If you're reheating a large portion of prime rib roast, place it back in the oven at 250 degrees F, and, as always, check it regularly with a thermometer until it's back up to 110 or 120 degrees. Heating time depends on the weight/size of the roast as well as your type of oven.
If you're heating a leftover slice of prime rib roast, stay away from the microwave. Instead, oil a heavy pan, heat it on medium-high, and sear the sliced roast for about 90 seconds on each side. If you're eating leftovers for breakfast, we suggest serving it with a couple of over-easy eggs and your re-heated potatoes (just fry them in the before your steak).