Every year my mother makes a prime rib roast for Christmas dinner. It’s tradition. And, every year that prime rib causes some kind of drama. That’s tradition too. Apparently, prime rib is fickle. There’s something about it that just seems to defy consistency. My mother always prepares it the same way, and while it often turns out great, sometimes it’s overdone, and other times it just doesn’t seem to want to cook at all. The rest of the family has started an annual “prime rib pool”, taking bets each year on which way the prime rib will sway. Let me tell you, having a prime rib roast that misbehaves on Christmas doesn’t make for pleasant dinner conversation – especially at my mother’s table. The rest of us couldn’t care less. Overdone or underdone, it always still tastes good. But, Mom spends the rest of the meal obsessing over it and analyzing every little thing that could have gone wrong. That’s how she rolls. And, that’s why I’ve never attempted a prime rib – until now.
The supermarket where I shop has one of those butcher display cases. This is where you’ll find the organic, grass-fed, dry-aged and generally “fancier” cuts of meat. A real live meat guy works the counter, and you can ask him for special cuts or just bombard him with meat-related questions. Last week as I was strolling by, I saw some standing rib roasts in the case. This was a rarity. Usually, these have to be ordered in advance. You almost never just find them like that. They were gorgeous, too! Plus, they were were the perfect size for a small family – about three or four ribs each. Those fleshy, beautifully-marbled slabs of beef were were strutting their stuff, begging be taken home – daring me to break the prime rib curse that had plagued my family for years!
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I bought a five pound roast and went on my merry way. Now, all I had to do was figure out the best way to cook it.
While doing some research, I found a rather lengthy and detailed treatise on cooking a perfect prime rib at Serious Eats . Usually, I pass those types of articles right on by. I mean, who has the time to even read one, much less follow all of the numerous painstaking steps involved? But, we were talking about prime rib here. PRIME. RIB. With the holidays looming, I owed it to my family to conquer that sucker. Besides, if I pulled it off I would be a hero – a cooking ninja – a kitchen goddess! Instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, I saw accolades.
The SE article promised a deep brown, crispy, crackly crust on the outside, with a consistently juicy, deeply pink, medium-rare interior. It eschewed searing and embraced a “low and slow” method of roasting, followed by a blisteringly hot blast at the end. Hmmm. Interesting. I didn’t have anything to lose, except a ridiculously expensive piece of meat, so I decided to give it a try.
As recommended, I let my roast “air dry” uncovered in the fridge overnight. I seasoned it very simply with salt, pepper and some dry mustard. Then, I set it in a 200 F. degree oven and went shopping with Mini SGCC for about four hours. When I came home, the roast’s internal temperature was 125 F. – exactly where I wanted it to be. I removed the meat and let it “rest” for half an hour while I let the oven fire up to to a toasty 550 F., and prepared the rest of the meal. The final step towards prime rib nirvana involved sticking the roast back into that oven inferno and praying that it didn’t incinerate.
So, what do you think? Looks pretty close to perfect to me. And, it was so tender that you could almost cut it with a fork! Like buttah!
I’m volunteering to make the prime rib for dinner this Christmas. I just hope that Mom doesn’t feel too badly when I knock everyone’s socks off.
Now, if I could only come up with a way to deal with all of that icky fruitcake we end up with every year!
The Perfect Prime Rib Roast
adapted from Serious Eats 
Note: I’ve listed the basic recipe here, but I do encourage you to read the original article . It has much more detailed information and a lot of helpful tips.
- 1 4-6 pound standing prime rib roast
- 2-3 tablespoons dry mustard
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Rub the roast all over with dry mustard and generously season with salt and pepper. Place roast, fat side up, on a rack set in large roasting pan. Place in the oven and cook until center of roast registers 120 F on an instant-read thermometer for medium-rare, or 135 F for medium. This should take approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours for a 5 pound roast.
- Remove the roast from oven and tent tightly with aluminum foil. Place in a warm spot and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour and a half. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 500°F.
- When the oven comes up to temperature, remove the foil tent and place the roast back in the oven. Cook until browned and crisp on the outside, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven, carve and serve immediately.