Prime Rib has such an intimidating reputation. It actually couldn’t be simpler! In response to Nisha, a Secret Life of a Chefs Wife follower, who asked for some pointers on great prime rib, here is a broken down Prime Rib Primer to boost your confidence. I can’t think of a more impressive meal to serve guests for any dinner party than one that includes a delicious, perfectly cooked prime rib.
If you are wanting to produce an excellent quality roast for your special dinner, you need to understand a few things about grades of beef.
The USDA grades of beef include:
1. Prime–This accounts for less than 2% of the beef produced in the US. The quality is measured by the amount of marbling which gives the flavor and tenderness, and the age of the animal, which accounts foe the texture of the meat. It’s usually purchased by upscale restaurants and isn’t readily available to the average consumer.
2. Choice–This is the second highest grade of beef. It will have lees marbling than Prime, but if taken from the more desirable areas of the animal, such as the loin and rib section, could very closely equal the quality of Prime cuts.
3. Select–This accounts for most of the meat found in the grocery stores. It will have much less in the way of marbling and will come from older animals. It is not nearly as tender as choice or above, and is therefore much less desirable as a meat cut.
As you shop for meat, you need to look for the USDA shield accompanying the label on the meat. It will signify the grade of the meat. Supermarkets will include the words “prime” and “choice” on their label to confuse you when in reality you are really buying a select grade of beef. Unless the words “Prime” and “Choice” are combined with the USDA shield, they aren’t actually referring to the grade of beef.
I would assume you could order a USDA Choice piece of meat from the supermarket if you talked to the meat counter manager, and I have always been able to find USDA Choice meats at Costco. It runs about $9–11 per pound, where a select cut from the supermarket will be about $6–8. It’s worth the extra price for USDA Choice if you’re going to go to the trouble to cook a Prime Rib, which really isn’t all that much trouble.…you just don’t want to advertise Prime Rib on your menu and then serve your guests semi-yukky beef!
This is a section of USDA Choice prime rib. See the beautiful marbling? That equals YUM! Most prime rib roasts run about 13–15 pounds. This one was 15 pounds and wouldn’t fit into my roaster, so I cut it to fit. A 15 pound prime rib will feed about 25 people with a 1/2 inch cut each. Bigger “prime-size” cuts will serve about 12.
I season my prime rib with a rub made from chopped, fresh rosemary, thyme, garlic, and olive oil. There’s also kosher salt and ground black pepper. It’s about 1/4 cup chopped up rosemary and thyme combined, 10 cloves of garlic, 2–3 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon black pepper, and enough olive oil to make a paste when combined. Pulse the herbs, garlic, and salt and pepper in a food processor, and then add the oil.
Instead of using my roasting rack, I lay down a bed of aromatics: carrots, celery, onions, and the stems left from the rosemary and thyme. This lifts the roast up off the bottom of the roaster, and adds great flavor to the drippings. You don’t need to peel the carrots.
Cover the prime rib with the rub, starting on the underside, then placing it on the bed of aromatics, and then continuing covering the remaining surface.
If you are strapped for time, you can cook the prime rib for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F., and then turning down to 225–250 degrees F. for the remaining time. If you have the time though, just roast it at 225 degrees F. the entire time. The lower and slower you roast, the juicer and more tender the prime rib will end up. It’s worth the extra time.
Tent the prime rib with foil for the first hour and 30 minutes, uncovering for the remainder of the time.
Start checking the temperature after 2–2 1/2 hours. You’re looking for about 130 degrees in the center of the roast. You will need a reliable meat thermometer to check the temp. I calibrate mine regularly to make sure it’s behaving. The prime rib will rise a few degrees after you remove it from the oven, and 130–135 is a medium-rare temperature. This is the temperature that suits the cut of meat the best. Still very juicy, and reddish in the center. An over-cooked prime rib defeats the purpose of the extra special cut of meat.
The ends of the roast will be cooked a little further along than the center, for those guests who insist on a more well-cooked slice.
Let the prime rib rest for 15–20 minutes to allow the juices to distribute through the roast.
Slice and serve with horseradish sauce and aus jus.
Here is my prime rib resting. See the beautiful crust that forms from the rub? Drool-worthy!! This roast will serve about 12–16 people depending on how thick it’s cut. I like a nice 1″ slice myself!
Prime Rib is fabulous with a sour cream/horseradish sauce. I usually use 1 part horseradish to 3 parts sour cream. Some of you might like it stronger, some creamier. Use your own judgement.
The aus jus is made using the drippings from the prime rib mixed with a little water and thickened slightly (not like a gravy, just a littler thicker than broth) with a cornstarch/cold water slurry. You will need to adjust the taste of your aus jus depending on how strong your drippings end up being. You might add more water than me, you might need to add a little beef base to bump up the flavor, just be careful to watch the salt content.
**As a response to some comments from below, I want to add that you may prepare your prime rib with the bed of aromatics and the rub ahead of time to save time. Just be sure to pull the prime rib out of the refrigerator at least a half-hour before placing it into the oven to roast. Letting it sit at room temperature that long or even a little bit longer (as much as 1–2 hours) won’t be a food safety hazard. **