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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Prime" Rib

I can't believe that the holidays are basically over! Where is the time going? I'm sitting here in my in-laws house in Illinois, enjoying a beautiful white Christmas (never mind that it only became white Christmas day). What I love about spending the holidays with my husband's family is the splendid chaos of so many family members packed in one home on Christmas day. Going along with that is the cooking. Because we live so far away, my husband and I can never host Christmas day, which I would very much enjoy, but at least I can help with the fixings.

A couple of years ago, my in-laws decided they wanted to try a prime rib for the first time. I was charged with figuring out how to cook this expensive piece of meat without ruining it. Since that initial attempt, I have since made this dish four or five other times, always with great success. For a large meal, you can't beat it. It can be a bit pricey, but - if you can afford it - I recommend giving it a try.

Now, if you noticed, I put prime in quotes in the title of this post. That was not an accident. Meat is graded by the USDA as prime, choice, or select. A rib roast (basically uncut rib eye steaks) that you find in the grocery store will typically be choice graded. Prime is usually reserved for restaurants and the like. If you can manage to arrange to get an actual prime rib from your butcher, all the better, but choice (or even select) are still fine cuts of meat.

The other thing that I think is especially important for prime rib is the spice rub on the outside of the meat. It wasn't until I got married and moved east that I first came across restaurants serving prime rib without any kind of herb or seasoning rub. It just ain't right, let me tell you. Now, I like the taste of the meat itself as much as the next gal, but prime rib really is all about that outer edge of flavoring. That's why - in my experience - the end cut is such a highly requested cut in restaurants.

The good news is that the seasoning rub is so easy to put together. You can either rub the garlic into a paste like I show in my creamy garlic salad dressing post or you can use a food processor. Either way, the idea is to end up with a nice, thick garlic and herb paste that you can then smear all over the meat. It doesn't have to be a heavy coat to grace your roast with fabulous flavor.

Place the meat in a pan, fatty side up. If the roast has the bones still in it, it is best to leave the bones on for even cooking. However, I like to cut the meat off the bones before roasting and then tying them back to the meat for cooking; it makes it much easier to serve once done. In this case, we had a boneless roast.

Be sure the meat is at room temperature (or close to it) before placing it in the oven. This step also helps the meat to cook evenly. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Just as a warning here: if your oven is dirty, it may smoke a bit. Also, be prepared for the potent aroma of garlic! When this baby gets in the oven, the air will be perfumed...

Roast at 450 F for 15-20 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 350 F and continue cooking until the roast reaches 130 degrees in the very center. This will mean that the meat in the very middle will be rare and the meat will be increasingly done as you work toward the outside. Everyone can have the meat at the doneness they want! Be prepared to provide 20 minutes per pound of roasting time.

If no one at your table appreciates rare meat, then leave it in longer and shoot for an internal temperature reading of 145. If you want to reheat the meat or change its doneness like the restaurants do, then cut a slice and dip it into hot au jus. A good restaurant never puts its prime rib on the grill or griddle.

Here's what it will look like when you pull it out of the oven. This was an eight pound roast. If you compare the before and after pictures, you can see just how much the meat shrinks up. But, you see all that browned crust on the outside? That's food paradise, there. As the cook, be sure to take your commission and savor the first few bites by yourself.
Let the roast stand for 10-15 minutes before slicing. This is a great time to use all those fabulous juices (and, yes, maybe even some of the fat) to make some gravy, but that is a posting for another day. Slice and serve! Be prepared for your guests to think you should be elevated to sainthood!

"Prime" Rib
Yield: Variable, herb rub below will easily cover an 8 pound roast

2 TBS minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried whole thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried parsley
3-4 TBS olive oil

rib roast (minimum 4 pounds), prime, choice or select grade

Mince garlic and add salt and smear with the edge of your chef knife to form a paste - OR, use a food processor to blend all ingredients. If you use a processor, try not to over process as having a blend with small pieces of the ingredients is preferred over a smooth paste. Mix the remainder of the ingredients with the garlic paste and stir to mix.

Place roast in a shallow pan (pan with 1 inch sides is best), fat side up. If the roast has bones, cut the meat away from the bones and then use kitchen twine to tie the roast back together. This process allows for even cooking and then easy serving when the roast is done. Smear the meat evenly with the herb paste. Be sure to coat the ends of the meat, too.

Place roast in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue roasting until reaches desired doneness inside. Measure in the middle of the thickest part of the roast with a thermometer. I like to pull it at 130 degrees F for rare. Pull at 140-145 for medium rare. Allow 15-20 minutes per pound cooking time.

Remove roast from the oven and let rest on the counter for 10-15 minutes before serving.


  1. excellent post! I'm going to try it!!

  2. I am seriously drooling over your post!!!!

    I did not know that the cut of meat was not called Prime Rib. Thanks for the info!


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