Cooking prime rib is way easier than you think.

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slice of Chef John's Prime Rib plated with arugula salad, dressing, and bread
Credit: Meredith

Prime rib is an extremely tender, unbelievably juicy cut of beef with a bold flavor that needs no dressing up. In fact, cooking prime rib is one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen. Here's all you need to know to make the perfect prime rib, along with tried and beloved prime rib recipes.

What Is Prime Rib?

A cow has 13 ribs on each side. Ribs six through 12 are classified as the "rib primal section." So prime rib refers to the bone-in roast from the rib primal section. Prime rib is sometimes also referred to as the "standing rib roast." But note that "prime" here doesn't refer to USDA Prime beef. More on that below.

Shopping for Prime Rib

Shopping for a roast can be confusing because the very same cut of meat goes by several different names. "Prime rib" is the most famous term, but the word "prime" can actually describes the grade of the meat as well. (The top three grades of beef are Prime, Choice, and Select.)

Meats graded "Prime" are sold almost exclusively to restaurants, so you probably won't find it at the grocery store. Instead, look for roasts labeled "rib roast," "eye of the rib roast" or "standing rib roast."

A boneless rib roast may be called "eye of the rib" roast — or if the ribs are still attached, a "standing rib" roast. The meat will be more flavorful if you roast it with the ribs still attached, but a boneless roast is definitely easier to carve. If you buy a roast with the ribs attached, have the butcher remove the the backbone, or the roast will be difficult to carve.

How Much Prime Rib to Buy?

Allow at least 6 ounces of cooked, trimmed meat per adult. A boneless roast will give you about two servings per pound, and a bone-in roast will give you one to one-and-a-half servings.

How to Season Prime Rib

Adding Garlic to Prime Rib_resized
Photo by Meredith

Most prime rib recipes call for very simple seasonings. Prime rib roast doesn't need a marinade or any complicated preparations; the meat speaks for itself. If you like, prepare a simple seasoning rub: Fresh herbs, lemon zest, garlic, pepper and Dijon mustard are all excellent matches for prime rib. But don't salt the roast until right before cooking.

To infuse even more flavor, sliver the garlic, make tiny slits in the roast and insert the garlic bits.

How to Cook Prime Rib

This method for cooking prime rib is based on Chef John's Perfect Prime Rib recipe.

Prime Rib in the Pan_resized
Photo by Meredith

How Long to Cook Prime Rib?

Chef John uses a simple formula to determine the cooking time. With an oven temperature of 500 degrees F, all you have to do to determine the cooking time is multiply the weight of your roast by five and round to the nearest minute. So this means a 4 pound roast will take 20 minutes (4x5=20), a 6.25 pound roast will take 31 minutes (6.25x5=31.25), and so on. Keep in mind that you'll need to let the roast come to room temperature for at least 4 hours prior to cooking, and you'll need to let it rest in the oven for 2 hours after cooking, so be sure to factor these into your cooking time as well.

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds prime rib roast (For smaller or larger roasts, refer to the formula above.)
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
  • kosher salt

1. Bring the rib roast to room temperature.

Place the rib roast in a roasting pan and allow it to come to temperature for at least 4 hours. This will ensure it cooks more evenly.

2. Preheat oven.

Preheat an oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C).

3. Season.

Combine butter, pepper, and herbes de Provence in a bowl; mix until well blended. Spread butter mixture evenly over entire roast. Season roast generously with kosher salt.

4. Roast.

Roast the 4-pound prime rib in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

5. Let it rest.

Turn the oven off and, leaving the roast in the oven with the door closed, let the roast sit in the oven for 2 hours. The roast will continue to cook during this time. Once 2 hours are up, remove roast from the oven, slice, and serve.

How to Temp a Prime Rib Roast

A thermometer is the absolute best way to guarantee the roast turns out exactly the way you want it. For an accurate reading, push the thermometer into the middle of the roast, making sure the tip is not touching fat or bone (or the pan).

Medium Rare = 130-140° F (55-60 C)

Medium = 145-155° F (63-68 C)

Remember that the roast's temperature will rise at least 5 degrees after you remove it from the oven.

With prime rib, it's easy to satisfy everyone's preference for doneness. The slices taken from the ends of the roast will be the most done, and the middle will be the least done.

How to Serve Prime Rib

Serve with pan drippings transformed into a simple Au Jus with some Horseradish Sauce on the side. To make it a meal, check out our collection of side dishes for prime rib.

Prime Rib with Horseradish Sauce
Prime Rib with Horseradish Sauce | Photo by Meredith

What to Do with Your Leftover Prime Rib

Prime Rib Sandwich_Photo by Meredith_resized
Photo by Meredith

One of the best things about a big roast of beef is the possibility of leftovers. Check out our Best Recipes to Make with Leftover Prime Rib & Roast Beef. And don't toss out the meaty bones! Add them to the slow cooker and make this hearty Calico Bean Soup. Or use them to make beef stock. Be sure to read up on how to reheat prime rib, which does require patience!

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