Cooking with Alison

How to Cook a Prime Rib Roast

In How-To, Red Meat and Eggs on December 4, 2013 at am

Roasted prime rib (or standing rib roast) is one of my family’s favourite things to eat for special occasions and family gatherings.  It’s a beautiful, tender, flavourful and expensive cut of meat that would be completely wasted if overcooked.  Once you get the hang of achieving the right doneness, you’ll discover that it’s actually very easy to cook a prime rib roast.  Below, I have shared a few tips for how to select a prime rib roast as well as two simple methods that I use to cook prime rib.  Note that I don’t normally pre-season my roasts, so the cooking methods would differ slightly if you wanted to use a flavour crust on the outside of your meat.  Next time, I’ll share my favourite recipe for seasoned prime rib roast.

How to Select a Prime Rib Roast

  1. First off, I want to address the price of prime rib.  Prime rib can be expensive, but several times a year, especially around the time of national holidays, it goes on sale.  Where I live, I can get them for as little as $3.99 CAD / pound.  Keep your eyes open for sales in the grocery store flyers.  Although meat has the best texture when cooked fresh, I will often stock up on prime rib at this price and freeze them.  Sometimes I freeze them whole, but most of the time I cut them up into a few large pieces and freeze the pieces separately.  Then I use the meat for steaks, jerky, stir fries, fast cooked Indian curries, etc.
  2. Prime rib roasts are often sold as “chef style” or “cap off”.  The cap of the prime rib roast is a bit tougher in texture, so the price for chef style prime rib is usually less than a prime rib roast that has had the cap removed.  I prefer to purchase prime rib with the cap off and, like I said above, sometimes I can buy this on sale for only $3.99 CAD / pound.  If you do purchase a chef style prime rib, you always have the option of removing the cap yourself and reserving that for stir fries or other dishes.  The cap is separated from the rest of the roast by a layer of fat and it is very easy to remove with a knife.
  3. The meat should be bright in colour, the fat should be white, not yellow, there should be at least some marbling, and try to avoid packages that have liquid in the tray.
  4. The grading standards for meat in Canada are, starting with the best:  Prime, AAA, AA, A.
  5. Cuts of prime rib that have a smaller bone, larger rib eye, and less fat were likely cut from the loin side.  Larger overall cuts that have a smaller rib eye with layers of fat dispersed between layers of meat were likely cut from the chuck end.  Some would say that prime rib cut from the loin side is more desirable, but I enjoy both cuts, especially the larger rib bones from the chuck end.

How to Cook a Prime Rib Roast


Although most recipes recommend seasoning the outside of the meat (ie. with salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, various flavour crusts, etc.) prior to cooking, I usually prefer to cook the meat without any seasoning at all.  Then, once cooked, I serve it with flavourful gravy, high quality sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  But if you would like to encrust your meat with seasonings, note that you should use a slightly different cooking method than what I’ve listed below.  Next time I will share my favourite season encrusted rib roast recipe.

Cooking Methods:

I use three different methods for roasting prime rib.  All methods will yield a caramelized crust, and moist and tender meat.

    1. The first and preferred method uses low heat to cook the meat very slowly.  This method is great for roasts of all sizes, but especially for the larger cuts.  It will result in an impressive, evenly cooked, roast.  Although this method requires more time, your roast will be consistently medium or medium rare all the way through.
    2. The second method uses a standard roasting temperature.  It does not require as much time and is great if you are serving people that have different preferences for doneness.  The outer parts of the roast will be closer to medium and well done, whereas the centre of the roast will be rare.                                                            
    3. The third method is used specifically for season encrusted rib roasts.  This recipe will be posted separately.

Prime/Standing Rib Roast Recipe:

Three hours prior to the start of your baking time, remove the rib roast from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.

For method 1:  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

For method 2:  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Rinse the prime rib well under cool running water.  Then pat the entire roast dry with paper towels.  Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat.  If you do not have a skillet that is large enough for the roast, you can use the actual roasting pan.  Add several light drizzles of vegetable or olive oil to the hot pan.  Sear each side of the rib roast until nicely browned and caramelized, up to 2 minute per side.  Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan.  Pour 1 to 2 cups of water into the roasting pan and set aside.  Ensure that the water will not reach the meat.  Alternatively, you could use whole carrots, whole ribs of celery, and halved onions to create a roasting rack.  If you are using vegetables, you could use 1 or 2 cups of chicken stock instead of water if desired.  Stand the rib roast up, bone side down, on the roasting rack.  Place the rib roast into the preheated oven.

Bake until desired doneness has been achieved.  Prime/standing rib roast is best enjoyed cooked to medium rare, rare, or my personal favourite, very rare.  Determining the doneness of the meat is the most difficult part of this process, but luckily, it gets easier with practice.  It is important to rely more on the touch test or internal temperature than suggested roasting times.  If you use a meat thermometer, the appropriate temperatures for beef can vary, but typically you want a temperature of 140 – 150 degrees F for medium, 130 – 140 degrees F for medium rare, and 125 – 130 degrees F for rare.  Although using a meat thermometer will give you precision, you end up losing some of the meat juices when you poke it into the meat.  So I prefer to use the touch test (see here for How to Determine the Doneness of Meat Using Touch Test.)

When the prime rib is close to being ready, the meat will shrivel away from the bones.  Depending on your oven, the size of your roast, and the ratio of meat to bone, the cooking times can vary greatly.  It can take anywhere between 10 minutes and 45 minutes per pound, depending on how rare you want your meat to be and which cooking method you are using.  Keep in mind that after you’ve removed the roast from the oven, the meat will continue to cook further as it rests.

For Method 1, it can take around 6 hours for an 8 to 10 pound rib roast to be cooked to medium.  Using my oven, the 6 pound prime rib shown in the photo needed approximately 15 minutes per pound for medium rare and 18 minutes per pound for medium.

A 6 pound prime rib roast cooked using Method 1

A 6 pound prime rib roast cooked using Method 1

For Method 2, it can take approximately 2 1/2 to 4 hours for an 8 to 10 pound rib roast to be cooked to medium.  Using my oven, the 5 pound prime rib shown in the photo needed approximately 10 minutes for very rare, 12 minutes per pound for medium rare, and 14 minutes per pound for medium.

A 5 pound prime rib roast cooked using Method 2

A 5 pound prime rib roast cooked using Method 2

When deciding when to first check your roast, always check earlier than when you expect the meat to be done, because you want to avoid overcooking the meat at all costs.  Once again, keep in mind that after you’ve removed the roast from the oven, the meat will continue to cook further as it rests.

Once the rib roast has been removed from the oven, transfer the rib roast from the roasting pan to a cutting board.  Allow it to rest for 10 to 30 minutes prior to carving.  To carve the rib roast, start by using a large, sharp knife to slice the meat along the bone.  This will separate the rib eye from the bone, but be sure to leave the meat attached to the bone at the larger, meatier end.  Then slice the rib eye vertically from the top of the roast straight down to the bone in the thickness of your choice.  Plate the slices of meat and serve with gravy, freshly cracked sea salt and black pepper.  Don’t forget to cut the meat between the ribs to separate the ribs.  I love gnawing on the rib bones when no one’s around.  In fact, the rib bones are my favourite part of the prime rib.

  1. mmm is this what you’ll be serving for dinner on the 24th? 🙂

  2. Great recipe! I’m bookmarking it to try myself!
    BTW, $3.99 is really a great price!

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