When the holidays arrive bowls and platters of mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels Sprouts and pies of every kind will overrun tables and kitchen counters across the globe. This year at the center of my holiday table will be a glorious roast of prime rib dressed in garlic herb butter and served with dripping gravy.
Beef, butter, garlic, thyme, rosemary and shallot are life-long friends. Make this prime rib for dinner and you’ll see why. Garlic and shallot gives a roasted sweetness and fullness of flavor, while thyme and rosemary provide a woodsy and floral background note.
Prime Rib with a perfectly roasted exterior browned and glistening; its interior reflecting the rosy red of a movie star’s lipstick, and an aroma that pulls everyone to the table and beckons, “Let’s eat!”
How to Shop for Prime Rib
Prime rib is, without question, a splurge. It’s an expensive cut of meat but it goes a long way in terms of flavor and leftovers. Right about now, I think we could all use a little indulgence and a dinner that feels extra special.
I recommend asking your butcher how far in advance to reserve a prime rib. Some supermarkets have them on hand, but some smaller, independent butchers may need close to a week’s notice to ensure they have one in the manner you’d prefer. Most cut them to order.
Tell your butcher: How many people you’re serving (account for 1 pound per person), and whether you prefer bone-in or boneless, choice or prime cuts. Talk to them, they’ll be thrilled to guide you. For this recipe, I opted for boneless.
● Prime and Choice: These are the most common grades of beef. The classifications measure quality, based primarily on the leanness and marbling of the meat. Prime is higher quality than Choice but both perform exceptionally in this dish. Prime can cost approximately 40 percent more than Choice, so budget is a factor to consider.
● Boneless Roast: I used a boneless roast for this recipe. A boneless roast makes it easier to serve because you don’t have worry about cutting around the bones.
● Bone-In Roast: For bone-in, the butcher will trim the bones from the roast, and then tie the roast with the bones in-place. A bone-in roast will add some additional flavor to the roast, but primarily to the drippings for gravy. The meat nearest the bone will cook at a slightly lower temperature than other parts of the roast, which is not an issue, but something to note.
● Fat Cap: The amount of fat on your prime will vary based on the technique of your butcher. You really don’t need more than 1/2-inch fat cap. Ask them to trim it if there’s more.
How to Make Perfect Prime Rib Every Time
Personally, I do love, love, love a medium-rare prime rib. The outside is colored like deep caramel, while the edges have a gentle crust. The outside contrasts well with the inside of the roast, with its fat softened and rendered, leaving the meat moist and melting. All those in favor of medium-rare? And, the ayes have it.
To get perfect prime rib every time, I recommend cooking the roast in two stages: 500°F to brown the outside of the prime rib, then lower the oven temp to 325°F to finish. This will coax out the beefy aroma and its rich, intense flavors giving you caramelization on the outside while keeping the inside tender and pink.
If you cooked prime rib all the way through at the lower temperature of 325°F, the taste would be flat and monotone. Think of it like choosing elevator music over Dixieland Jazz. If you’re spending money on prime rib, you’re gonna want a party in your mouth.
The moral of the story is: Keep your oven clean to prevent smoking and don’t be afraid of the high heat.
Resting the roast after cooking performs double-duty, both of which are essential: it makes the meat easier to carve, and minimizes the moisture lost when carving.
When it comes to Prime Rib don’t trust time; trust the temperature. It’s too expensive of a cut to risk oven and human variables (like how often someone opens the door and peeks in).
Get a good meat thermometer and shoot for the internal temperature listed below. Let it sit for 20 minutes before carving. As the prime rib rests the temperature of the meat will climb by 5 to 10 degrees. Meaning the final temperature after resting for a rare prime rib will be around 120°F.
Keep in mind, overdone can’t be undone! Prime rib is best served rare or medium rare. If you slice it and it’s too rare for you, put it back in the oven for a few minutes.
In order to calculate cooking time, provide 10 to 12 minutes per pound for rare and 13 to 15 minutes per pound for medium-rare. In general, an 8 pound prime rib roast cooked to rare will take about 112 to 120 minutes to cook.
- Target temperature 115°F
- After resting: 120°F
- Target temperature 120°F
- After resting: 125°F
- Target temperature 125°F
- After resting: 130°F
- Never cook prime rib well done.
What to Serve with Prime Rib
It really comes down to what you and your family like, period. There’s tradition, yes, but someone had to be the first to bring that weird Jell-O recipe to the family dinner, so you really can’t fall short on any choice you make. Here are a few tasty and ideas:
- Green Beans with Almonds and Thyme
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts
- Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
- Glazed Carrots
I’m nearly tempted to make this just for the leftovers. Sandwiches are a favorite of mine and having your own roasted lunchmeat on-hand is quite the treat.
- Cheese Steak Sandwich. The “roastiness” (yes, it’s a word) of the thinly shaved beef sits in ribbons atop a hoagie bun with melted cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar), and caramelized onions. It may not be a Philly cheese steak, but it’s yours — indulge yourself and do as you please.
- Roast Beef Sandwich. Thinly sliced beef, a bit of hearty iceberg lettuce, a swoosh of mayo, and horseradish sauce. It’ll warm you through and through.
- Tacos or enchiladas. Again, slice the beef thinly, spread out your favorite toppings, and make it a no-cook lunch or dinner for yourself. You deserve it.
More Holiday Main Dish Recipes
- Roast Beef Tenderloin
- Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin
- Roasted Leg of Lamb
- Beef Wellington
- Classic Rack of Lamb
- Prime Rib
Garlic Herb Butter Prime Rib
An 8-pound roast cooked to medium-rare will take between 112 to 120 minutes in total. Begin to closely monitor the internal temperature of the roast 30 minutes before the expected finished cooking time, checking every 10 minutes until your desired temperature has been reached. You can't undo an overcooked prime rib.
- For the roast
- 8 pound boneless prime rib roast
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- For the garlic herb butter
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces; 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 10 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 shallot (slightly larger than a golf ball), minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- For the dripping gravy (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or cornstarch
- 1/2 cup fat prime rib roast drippings
- 4 cups beef stock or water
- salt, to taste
- Special equipment:
- Kitchen String (unless your butcher ties the roast)
- Instant-read or Probe-Style Oven Thermometer
- Roasting pan, at least 14”x12”x3”
Salt the prime rib:
Rub the entire prime rib with salt and set on a platter at room temperature for an hour.
Salting the prime rib will draw out extra moisture from the meat leading to better browning on the outside. Letting the surface come up to room temperature will make it easier to spread the herb butter over the roast.
Make the garlic herb butter:
In a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, shallot, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt and lemon juice. Mix until all of the ingredients come together. The butter mixture will taste saltier than store-bought salted butter, but it is required to properly season the roast. Leave it out at room temperature.
Preheat the oven and the roasting pan:
Place the roasting pan on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F (or the highest setting if that is below 500°F). A hot roasting pan will lightly sear the roast when it is set in the pan.
Tie the prime rib:
Once the oven is up to temp and the roast has been on the counter for an hour, pat the prime rib dry with a paper towel. Place it fat side down and tie the roast with the kitchen string in 4 to 5 places spaced about two inches apart. This will provide an even shape and ensures even cooking.
Season the prime rib:
Rub the entire prime rib with the garlic herb butter. Use all of the butter as it will both season the roast and flavor the drippings for the gravy. Start with the fat side up.
If the prime rib is still cool, the butter might clump together a bit as you try to rub it over the roast. That’s OK. Just do your best. It will cook up fine, if all else fails pile it on top so it drips down as it cooks.
Brown the roast:
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and set on a stable heat-proof surface. Place the prime rib in the hot roasting pan with the fat side facing up.
The bottom of the prime rib will sear slightly, adding additional flavor to both the meat and the drippings. If using an oven safe thermometer, insert the probe into the center of the prime rib.
Place it in the oven and cook for 30 minutes at 500°F.
Finish cooking the prime rib:
After 30 minutes, the prime rib should be deep brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 115°F for rare or 120°F for medium-rare.
Remove from the oven and rest:
Remove the prime rib from the oven and place it on a cutting board. Loosely cover it with aluminum foil and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. The residual heat within the prime rib will cause it to cook an additional 5°F to 10°F. Therefore, if you remove the roast at 115°F, the internal temperature of the roast will rise to 120°F to 125°F.
Make the gravy:
Keep about 1/2 cup of fat in the roasting pan and as many brown bits as possible. If your roast produced more than 3/4 cup of fat scoop some out, cool and discard.
Place the roasting pan on the stovetop on medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the fat in the roasting pan, and whisk for a minute or two to cook out the raw flour. It will look chunky. That’s OK.
Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan (that’s the gold) with the whisk and incorporate the roasted flavors into the gravy. Increase the heat to medium high, and whisk in the beef stock. It should thicken within a minute or so.
If you want it thinner add more beef stock or water. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and or pepper to your liking.
Slice and serve the roast:
Once the roast has rested for 30 minutes, cut and remove the strings to the roast. Slice the roast against the grain 3/4-inch thick slices, this is not the time to skimp.