Pretty Perfect Prime Rib

Prime Rib: the end all-be all in celebration food.  It’s expensive, tender, tasty, and—well—expensive.   No one wants to mess up a prime rib, even if you did get it on sale because, face it, even on sale you probably forked over almost forty dollars for a single cut of beef.

This very reason is why I searched high and low for the perfect recipe, reading innumerable comments on every food site and blog post I encountered.  One comment kept showing up over and over and over voiced by hundreds of different commenters: use the Cook’s Illustrated method. And I thought, Why not? So I pulled out the most used cookbook on my shelf, did a little adjusting for personal taste, and used their basic method for roasting the perfect prime rib.  And it turned out to be pretty perfect.

Prime Rib

Basic roasting instructions from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes From 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine



5 lb. standing rib roast, cut & tied*

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. freshly ground steak seasoning (I used McCormick’s Steakhouse Seasoning grinder)

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

1 bulb garlic, cloves separated, but not peeled

½ onion, unpeeled & quartered


Remove the roast from the refrigerator 3 hours before you plan on cooking it.  Do NOT remove the fat.  You want it for moisture and flavor.

Mix together the oil, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl.  Rub the mixture over the meat.  Let the seasoned roast rest in a container on the counter.  You want it to be room temperature before cooking to allow for even cooking and reduced cooking time.

After 3 hours, heat a large skillet on high.  I used cast iron, but any skillet should work.  Dry the meat by blotting moisture from its surface with paper towels.  This allows you to caramelize the exterior of the roast rather than steam it.  Caramelized meat = brown = delicious.  Steamed meat = gray = yuck.  Sear the meat on all sides—2 to 4 minutes per side.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.  That is not a typo.  It’s a low temperature that, as Cook’s Illustrated writes, allows the roast to cook completely evenly.  Make sure the oven rack in in the lower third of the oven.

Place the garlic and onion in the bottom of a roasting pan.  Put the rack in the roasting pan and the seared prime rib on the rack, rib side down.  No roasting pan?  I’ve used a cake pan with a cooling rack resting on top of it before.   Some recipes say you can even skip the rack, using the ribs as a natural rack.  Sprinkle chopped rosemary over the top of the meat.

Roast the meat for approximately 30 minutes per pound until the meat registers approximately 130 degrees F (medium), approximately 2-1/2 to 3 hours.  A digital thermometer is your friend.  It is one of the best kitchen investments I’ve made so far.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Yield: 5 lbs of roast fed 6 adults and 2 children with no leftovers



*Cutting & Tying the Roast:

Most grocery stores have taken this step for you, especially during the holiday season.  It doesn’t have to be done before cooking, but it helps when it comes time to slice the meat for serving.  If you don’t know how to do this part, my best suggestion is search for a video on You Tube.  I’ve tried typing the directions three times and without visuals it’s just plain confusing, so video is your friend in this case.


*For the Rare-Meat-a-Phobic*

My family (except for my husband, brother-in-law, and me) prefers their steak to live in the realm of well done, which, yes, is sacrilege when you are talking about a cut like this.  However, to cook this in the oven to that degree of doneness means to risk dried out, tough meat.

So what to do?

My solution, which may not be to every one’s liking, but it worked well for us, was:

  • cook the meat to a medium rare to medium state—127 degrees
  • allow it to rest under foil for 20 minutes
  • heat a packet of au jus mix in a skillet (I used McCormick’s Au Jus mix, following package instructions)
  • remove the string and ribs, and slice the meat thinly (1/2 inch)
  • lay the slices in the simmering jus just until heated through—a minute  was enough to lose the offending (to the family) color, but retain the moisture and tenderness that the meat should have
  • I did pour all of the juices on the cutting board into the simmering jus


*Prime Rib is a Fatty McFatty*

Yes, I said not to remove the exterior fat before cooking.  And you shouldn’t because you need the moisture and flavor.  However, once the roast is cooked, removing the interior fat is the way to go.  I don’t like fat on my steak when I’m eating it, and I’m pretty sure others don’t either—especially if this is a cut you aren’t used to eating often and don’t realize just how fatty it really is.

The answer for my family was to carefully cut the fat from the meat while I was slicing the roast for its hot jus dip in the skillet.    Yeah, that bowl of fat on the counter is a little unappetizing, but it is certainly better than having all of that fat piled up on your guests’ dinner plates.


*A Question of Timelines*

I know this recipe seems a little on the late side since Christmas is over.  However, locally our grocery stores have these guys on sale for that very reason and New Year’s Day is right around the corner.  And if that doesn’t happen, bookmark it for next year.  You won’t be  sorry.


*What, No Photos?*

That’s right; I took no photos.  It was Christmas Day, and I was working in the kitchen with my Dad—which has happened not very often, so photos were not my top priority.  One day, I hope to add some photos for you.  For now, trust me, as odd as the recipe sounds—it totally worked.

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