A cut above the rest: Prime rib makes the most out of roasting

By Jodi Liano | November 02, 2015
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prime rib

If you’ve followed my column over the year, you’ve mastered roasted chicken, roasted veggies and even roasted fruit. Well, I saved the mac-daddy of them all for this issue: prime rib. This is roasting at its finest—creating a mahogany, crusty exterior while achieving a perfect medium-rare on the inside. 

Difficult? No. Time-consuming? A little bit but, hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Trust me, it’s worth it.

First to understand what a prime rib roast is. “Prime” refers to the grade of meat, and it is the highest and best you can get. For meat to be graded prime it needs plenty of marbling, the laces of fat you see running through the meat. Most supermarket meat is “choice,” one grade down. This can still do the job, but if you are splurging for a special occasion, seek out a real prime cut.

The roast itself comes from the rib section of the cow. It is usually a rack of seven ribs, which, when cut individually, become rib eye steaks. When you order a rib roast at the meat counter, it is typically done by number of bones versus weight, and my general rule is one bone for every two eaters. You’ll likely find the roast is about three pounds per rib, so a two-rib roast will weigh in right around six pounds. 

Ask the butcher to trim off the ribs and fat cap, then tie them back on. When you get the roast, it will look fully intact but the trick is you can untie the twine and generously season under the ribs. Tie the bones back on before cooking—they add tons of flavor—and then remove them just before slicing. This makes carving a breeze.

I keep seasoning simple. For a two-rib roast, I combine 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon granulated garlic. Yes, there is a place for dried garlic and this is one of them. Fresh garlic will burn during the roasting process so the dried version is the ideal way to season without charring (don’t be tempted to substitute fresh minced garlic). Combine the spices and carefully remove the rib bones. Rub the spice mix on every side of the meat, then tie the bones back on. This is best done the night before, or the morning of, the day you are cooking it. This way the seasoning has a much better chance of penetrating the meat. It can sit, uncovered, in your refrigerator during this time.

About two hours before cooking, remove the roast from the refrigerator to bring it closer to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 500° and place the meat, fat side up, in a roasting pan just big enough to hold it snugly (too big and all the meat juices will burn). The fat will not only crisp and look amazing, but as it renders, it will baste the meat underneath, keeping everything nice and juicy.

Roast your meat at 500 until it is golden brown and seared all over, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325° and continue cooking until, well, until the meat is done. This is where a well-calibrated meat thermometer comes into play—it’s a must. You’re going for about 120° in the center of the roast, which, after resting, will yield nicely pink rare to medium-rare meat. It takes about 15 minutes per pound to get there, but temperature trumps time here. Every oven is different and you need to keep an eye on your meat as it gets close to temperature. I make a case here for the type of thermometer that you put in the meat before it goes in the oven and then has a wire probe to a readout that you can view on the counter. It gives you a peek into what’s happening without your constantly having to open the oven (and let out the heat).

When 120° is achieved, take out your meat and carefully transfer it to a cutting board. A big roast like this should rest for 15–20 minutes. Before carving, remove the twine and the rib bones (don’t throw those bones out—Fred Flintstone would agree that gnawing on them may be the best part of this whole process). Slice your meat to your desired thickness and plate it up. You can pour any meat juices, discarding the fat, over the top and be sure to serve it with a generous side of your favorite horseradish. Holidays or not, a well-roasted prime rib is a carnivore’s dream come true.

{Photo by Brent Hofacker}

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