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Prime Rib Roast: The Correct Method

Posted Dec. 10, 2013 by John Woltman

This is a codification of my family's prime rib recipe.  It has been refined over the years and produces great results.  This recipe is very expensive, but don't let that intimidate you, because it is also very simple.

Ingredients

These ingredients may seem basic, but if you decide to substitute something, you're probably doing it wrong.

  • Kosher salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Prime rib roast (4 to 5 ribs)
  • Optionally an herb to mix with salt & pepper: sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic
  • A1 Steak Sauce - Just kidding, if you put steak sauce on the roast you should re-evaluate the life choices that brought you to this point.

Obtaining the Roast

This meal is somewhat expensive to make, so here are some notes for purchasing the roast:

  1. Plan the meal at least a week in advance because not all butcher shops and grocery stores carry prime rib roasts all year.  If you plan on dry aging the roast, 2 to 3 weeks in advance should work.  I have never done this, but videos are available (part 1, part 2) if you're interested.
  2. The number of ribs depends on the number of people.  A 4-rib roast will serve 6 people, and each person will get a nice, thick steak.
  3. Have the butcher cut the meat off of the bone and tie it back together.  This makes the roast easy to cut when it's finished, but you still get the flavor of cooking it with the bone.
  4. The butcher should trim the roast for you, but there will still be some fat on it because that's the way it's supposed to be.
  5. You can ask the butcher for specific ribs.  For the highest flavor and fat content, start at rib #12 and work backwards.  If you're ordering 4 ribs, ask the butcher for ribs #9, 10, 11, & 12.  If you want a leaner roast, start at #6 and get #6, 7, 8, & 9.
  6. The quality of the meat affects the tenderness and fat content, so be sure to buy actual prime rib.  If the roast is too expensive, I recommend inviting fewer people to eat it.

Cooking the Roast

The key to getting a tender roast is low heat for a long time.  This process will take awhile - about 25 minutes per pound.  Some recipes call for 180°F, which can take 8 to 10 hours for a large roast.  I'm impatient, and so I cook at the roast between 205 and 220°F, which I think balances tenderness and speed.

  1. Take the beef out of the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature before cooking.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 205 or 220°F.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 2 parts kosher salt to 1 part coarsely ground black pepper, enough to completely cover all sides of the roast.  Add an herb if you want (I like a small amount of rosemary), but the salt & pepper can stand on their own.  This dish has few ingredients because the beef's flavor is the main attraction.
  4. Coat the entire roast in canola oil.
  5. Rub the seasoning all over the roast, starting on the bone side.  Make sure to get the ends, as this will result in a beautiful crusty bit of steak.
  6. Put the roast in a roasting pan, bone side down.  If you have a stand you can use it, but the bones are usually good enough for keeping the meat off the bottom of the pan.  You are not cooking the roast in its own juices.
  7. Put the roast in the oven and wait patiently.  Knit a sweater, or learn and perfect a magic trick.
  8. Check the temperature after several hours.
  9. When the roast reaches an internal temprature between 124°F and 126°F, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes.  Use this time to make some of your side dishes.
  10. While the roast is resting, raise the oven temperature to 500-550°F. 
  11. After the roast's nap, throw it back in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  This will make the roast crust up beautifully.
  12. Cut off the twine and remove the roast from the bone.

The Aftermath

Cut into thick steaks and serve.  The end-cuts will be on the medium side of medium-rare, and the inside will be medium-rare, which is correct.  Serve the steak with a high class vegetable, such as grilled asparagus or sauteed brussel sprouts.  Potatoes go well with prime rib, but the steak is filling enough by itself.

The bones have a lot of good meat.  You can eat them straight, or use them for making beef stock.  Do not throw them away unless you hate good things.

If you have left-over steaks or ribs, reheat them in the oven (or toaster oven).