It’s the holidays, and that means parties and good food. Let’s face it, we all want to impress our friends and family with our amazing skills in the kitchen and on the grill. Nothing is more impressive than Prime Rib. Relatives you haven’t seen in years will arrive promptly for Christmas dinner if word gets out that Prime Rib is on the menu!
Well, this year we did something we always dreamed of doing at the ThermoWorks demo kitchen—we smoked our Prime Rib. Was it good? Let’s just put it this way, properly prepared Prime Rib alone is spectacular; but smoked Prime Rib is something you have to taste to believe.
Prime Rib is not a cheap cut of beef to play around with. You’ll have to invest a little in this cut of meat; but it will more than pay you back. And with the right tools (like the ThermoWorks DOT®) and a few key temperatures firmly in mind, you can feel confident smoking your holiday meal this year.
Let’s start with defining some terms. Just exactly…
What Is Prime Rib?
There is a lot of confusion about what Prime Rib is. We think our friends at primesteakhouse.com explain it best!
Most people think that the word “Prime” in Prime Rib means it is USDA Prime Grade. But unless the official USDA designation is attached to the rib roast, it is not USDA Prime certified. The word “Prime” by itself only describes the most desirable part of the rib section of the beef regardless of the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Grade.
A Prime Rib Roast is also often referred to as “Standing Rib Roast”. It is cut from the rib section, which is one of the eight primal cuts of beef, and is comprised of ribs 6 through 12; and a standing Prime Rib Roast can be 2 to 7 ribs. Once roasted to the desired temperature, it is sliced into portions which are called “Prime Rib”.
The top grades of beef are USDA Prime, USDA Choice and USDA Select with Prime being the most superior. See how the USDA Grades Beef here .
There is only a limited supply of USDA Prime Beef on the market and it is generally reserved for the finest upscale restaurants or sold directly to consumers via express shipping. Generally speaking, you will not find USDA Prime cuts of beef in your local supermarket.
Prime Rib rated USDA Choice is widely available, and it is what we are using here, and it’s plenty delectable.
J. Kenji López-Alt of SeriousEats.com has put together the three commandments of Prime Rib. We agree completely and thought we would pass on these words of wisdom.
The Perfect Prime Rib must have a deep brown, crisp, crackly, salty crust on its exterior.
In the Perfect Prime Rib, the gradient at the interface between the brown crust and the perfectly medium-rare interior must be absolutely minimized (as in, I don’t want a layer of overcooked meat around the edges).
The Perfect Prime Rib must retain as many juices as possible.
Let us teach you how to keep these commandments while preparing your Prime Rib.
What You Will Need:
1 Prime Rib Roast 7-15lbs, depending on the size of your party (We cooked two, one about 7/1/2 pounds and another about 8 pounds)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup Montreal Steak Seasoning
Cotton kitchen twine
Apple and cherry wood chips
Step 1: Tie Your Prime Rib
• First you will want to tie your Prime Rib. This will pull everything together into a uniform shape and density for a nice even cook. Tying also helps you keep commandment number three, which is to retain as many juices as possible. When you don’t tie your Prime Rib Roast, the meat can separate allowing for an uneven cook and juices to spill out.
• Wrap the twine around the roast, and loop it through itself every 1 ½ to 2 inches, creating tight wraps down the length of the roast. Finish by wrapping the roast lengthwise and tying another secure knot. Snip off the excess twine. (watch the video above to see step by step how to tie the meat)
Step 2: Season Your Prime Rib
• You will want to heavily season your roast. A Prime Rib Roast is a large piece of beef and therefore needs a great of seasoning to penetrate the meat. Our seasoning mixture that we used will help us with commandment number one. It will help you get a crisp, crackly, salty crust. The crust may be the best part of the whole Prime Rib!
Step 3: Refrigerate the Prime Rib Overnight
• After your meat is seasoned with the rub mixture, we suggest letting it sit in the fridge overnight. The salt in the rub will draw out some moisture and end up dissolving in the meat. During this time the salty liquid will molecularly alter some meat proteins, loosening its structure, allowing your meat to become better seasoned and able to retain juices during the cook.
Step 4: Thermometer Probe Placement
• To avoid the gray overdone outside of the roast, and to get a nice deep smoke flavor, you will want to smoke your Prime Rib at a low temperature. We suggest your smoking temperature be set between 150°F (65°C) to 215°F (102°C). We smoked ours at 200°F (93°C). This method of cooking it low and slow will turn the interior of your roast to look like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine, and the flavor unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.
• An accurate oven alarm thermometer can help make sure you hit your temperatures and get the results you want! While your smoker is heating up, it’s time to place the thermometer probes. We’re using two ThermoWorks DOTs; one with a Pro Series penetration probe and one with a Pro Series Air probe.
• Insert the penetration probe into the center of the Prime Rib. This DOT will help us track the internal temperature of the meat.
• Next, use a grate clip to attach the air probe to your smoker grate. This second DOT will help us track the ambient temperature in the smoker surrounding the meat, so we can respond to sudden spikes or drops in temperature.
Step 5: Smoke Your Prime Rib Nice and Slow!
• Move your Prime Rib from the fridge into the smoker and set the alarm on your meat DOT to 110°F (43°C). This will leave us some wiggle room at the end of the smoke to make a delicious crust in a hot oven without overcooking the meat.
• Set the alarm on the smoker DOT to 210°F (99°C). This will alert you if you need to close vents and lower the heat of your smoker—remember, keep it low and slow!
• Now it’s time for the waiting to begin. Our 8 pound Prime Rib took 4 hours to reach 110°F (43°C).
Step 6: Finish Cooking in the Oven
• When the meat’s internal temperature reaches about 108°F (42°C), begin preheating your oven to 500°F (260°C).
• When the DOT alarm sounds signaling 110°F (43°C), remove your meat from the smoker and pop it into the preheated oven with the fat side up.
• Leave the Pro Series penetration probe in place, but change the alarm to sound at 117°F (47°C). (This is SUPER easy to do on the DOT.) Continue cooking your meat under the heat watching all the while to make sure it doesn’t scorch. We rotated our Prime Rib twice during the ten minutes or so it took to reach our target temperature of 117°F (47°C).
• When the DOT alarm sounds, remove your Prime Rib from the oven.
Step 7: Tent and Rest Your Prime Rib
• Tent the roast loosely with foil and let it rest before carving to get that perfect medium rare rosy hue throughout. Remember, your roast will continue to rise by 5 to 10°F (2-3°C) as it rests. Leave the DOT probe in while it rests to monitor the internal temperature as it continues to rise.
• Let it rest for 20-30 minutes, or until it’s at the internal temperature you desire. We want those juices to redistribute making the juiciest and most flavorful Prime Rib you’ve ever had.
After you’ve let your beautiful roast rest, and it has hit its target temperature. Spot check it with your Thermapen Mk4® to make sure it’s at your desired temperature throughout.
Step 8: Carve and Enjoy!
• Last but not least: carve that hunk of meat! We carved ours once the internal temperature reached 130°F (54°C) for rare to medium rare. Now you’re ready to carve. Make sure to have all the family ready, because the Prime Rib will continue to cook and you don’t want to serve it overdone!
By following the three Prime Rib commandments above, you should have a Prime Rib fit for a king…or your family and friends.
Merry Christmas from all of us here at ThermoWorks!
ThermoWorks Tools We Used:
The two ThermoWorks DOT’s worked perfectly to measure both the temperature of our meat and smoker.
The Thermapen Mk4 came in handy as we spot checked our prime rib to make sure it was at our desired temperature.