Learn how to cook the perfect Prime Rib with step-by-step instructions and photos. This prime rib recipe will be the star of your holiday table, and it's even better with a drizzle of mustard cream sauce.
Serve Prime Rib with all the trimmings: the Best Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus, snappy Green Beans with Bacon, and fluffy Soft Yeast Dinner Rolls. For more essential holiday dinner menu ideas, have a look.
Steakhouses would certainly have you think that choice prime rib can only be found in a restaurant. But the best prime rib roast recipe ever is actually easier than you might think, as long as you have the right guide
Consider this your Prime Rib 101.
All the standing rib roast details are here:
- where to buy the best roast
- what to ask your butcher for
- a temperature cooking chart that will keep your meal on track (as long as everyone arrives on time.)
Above all, don’t be intimidated by a giant roast; the slow roasted prime rib cut just needs a little extra babying to become unbelievably tender. Most of the active cooking is spent in the oven or resting, so you have lots of time to see to all the other details of your delicious dinner menu.
What is Prime Rib?
A Prime Rib roast, also known as a standing rib roast, is cut from the back of the upper rib section (primal cut) of the steer. A full roast usually comprises a total of about seven ribs. This portion of the rib has a thick "cap" of heavily marbled meat that gives this cut all the flavor and richness.
Traditionally, butchers tend to cut a whole rib roast into two separate rib roasts: first cut (ribs 10-12) and second cut (ribs 6-9) roasts, splitting up that sweet section.
Prime Rib vs Ribeye:
Is prime rib ribeye? A ribeye, sometimes called a Delmonico Steak, is indeed cut from part of the Prime Rib.
While a ribeye is a steak meant to be cooked to order, browned on both sides, Prime Rib is a juicy roast that is carved and sliced up at the table.
Where to buy Prime Rib:
More than ever, a good, trustworthy butcher is going to be your best friend when looking for prime rib for sale nearby. At the very least, you need someone in the meat department of a grocery store who can answer your questions.
Here's where a lot of shoppers slip up: The term Prime Rib is a little confusing, because in this case, the 'rib' refers to the cut of beef, while ‘Prime’ is the actual grade of beef. Prime is the best USDA grade available. It has the most marbling (flecks of fat throughout the meat) which gives the roast its flavor and tenderness.
The grade below that is Choice, which is the grade most supermarkets carry. So it really does depend on where you buy prime rib!
When you ask for a Prime Rib at a supermarket or grocery store, most likely the employee will assume you’re referring only to the cut, not the grade. The chances are good that you will receive a "Choice" grade Prime Rib.
Which cut of prime rib to buy? Ultimately, the grade of meat—Prime or Choice—is up to you and your dinner budget. The quality of "Choice" grade beef is still very good, and will make a fine roast, since a rib roast has more fat than other cuts of beef to begin with.
But if you're willing to spend a little (okay, a lot) more money, Prime grade rib roast is the closest thing to Heaven on earth there is.
Where is 'Prime' Rib for sale?
Look for Prime grade rib roasts at trusted specialty butchers. People do find Prime Rib at Costco, too, so it never hurts to shop around. The per pound cost of Prime Rib can definitely vary from store to store, and season to season, depending on the fluctuating price of beef.
Finally, shop wisely, because Prime grade beef can add as much as 25 percent to the sticker price. If something is too good of a deal, it might not be prime grade.
So, what do you look for when buying Prime Rib?
Once you narrow down what grade of beef you're comfortable with, and you've found a place to shop, ask the butcher for a small-end (or first-cut) three-bone rib roast. That should feed 6 to 8 people comfortably.
If that doesn’t ring a bell with the meat person, ask for the roast to be cut from the loin end. It’s smaller in overall size, but it has a larger rib eye, meaning more meat and less fat.
The chuck end (also known as the large end or second cut) is bigger in size, but it has a smaller rib eye, with several thick layers of fat interspersed between portions of lean meat.
How much Prime Rib per person?
When buying a large prime rib, figure on one pound per person. a 10-pound prime rib can feed 10 to 12 people when part of a complete holiday feast.
- A one-bone roast will feed two hungry people (or three as part of a large meal).
- One 3-bone roast serves 6 to 8 people generously.
- A 4-bone prime rib will feed 8 to 10 people.
- Cooking for a crowd? Get the whole 7-rib roast.
Preparing Prime Rib for cooking:
- Prepare the meat. First, cut the meat off the bone. You can have your butcher do this for you, of you can do it yourself with a sharp boning knife. Using a knife, run the blade down the length of the first bone, following the curve of the bone as closely as possible.
- Flip the roast and repeat the steps with the remaining bones, taking them off in one large piece. Hold on to the bones, though--they'll need to go back on the roast.
- Score the fat layer. Take a sharp knife and cut a crosshatch pattern in the surface of the fat layer, with the slits about 1-inch apart. Keep it shallow here; try not to cut into the meat.
- Season the prime rib. You can use a trusted prime rib rub, Montreal Steak Seasoning, or just take 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt and rub it all over the roast.
At this point, you can place the bones back on the roast and move the roast into the refrigerator, uncovered, for 24 hours or up to 96 hours. Yep, you can get prime rib roast started up to 4 days in advance!
How to make oven roasted Prime Rib:
- Set the cooking temperature for prime rib. Turn the oven to 200 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
- Sear the meat. Prime rib won't brown properly when cooked a low temperature, so heat a large skillet with some oil and sear top and sides of the roast (without the bones) until browned. Don't sear the side where you took off the bones.
- Tie the bones back on. Next, place the seared roast back on the bones and let cool for a few minutes. Then take kitchen twine and tie the bones back onto the roast. Two lengths of twine wrapped around the roast between each rib should keep them in place.
- Roast the prime rib. Place the rib roast, fat side up, on a wire rack that's set over a rimmed baking sheet. Season the roast with freshly cracked pepper, then place in the oven and roast until the meat registers 110 degrees. For a 7-pound roast, this should be 3 to 4 hours.
- Turn off the oven. Turn off the oven but leave the roast inside to continue to cook. Resist the temptation to open the door, doin so only when absolutely necessary. The prime rib will finish cooking in the oven, even though it's off.
- Remove when at desired temperature. Depending on the size of the roast and what temperature you're aiming for, this could be 30 minutes to 90 minutes longer. After the initial roast, how do you know what temperature Prime Rib is? The best way is to use a good quality meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of the roast.
Pull the roast from the oven when it hits the temperature you desire below. (Carryover cooking will continue to cook, so don't worry if these temps look a bit low.)
Cooking temps for Prime Rib:
- 120 degrees for Rare prime rib
- 125 degrees for Medium-Rare prime rib
- 130 degrees for Medium prime rib
- 135 degrees for Medium-Well prime rib
- 140 degrees for Well Done prime rib
Let the meat rest. Tent the roast with heavy-duty aluminum foil and let the meat rest again, for 30 to 90 minutes. That gives you time to do other cooking and the oven is free.
Worried about prime rib too rare? Don’t forget, once you slide it under the broiler in the next step, the Prime Rib will hit medium or medium-well at the ends for anyone who likes their beef a little more well done.
Finishing Prime Rib:
Once the prime rib is roasted and resting, the rest is smooth sailing. There are only a couple steps left, and one of them is eating.
- Get ready to broil. Adjust the oven rack to about 8 inches from the oven's broiler element, and turn on the broiler. Then remove the foil from the roast and wad it up into a 3-inch ball. Then place the foil ball under the ribs to raise up the fat cap.
- Next, broil until the top of the roast is brown and crisp. Depending on your broiler, this could be anywhere between 2 and 8 minutes. Keep an eye on it!
Carving Prime Rib:
Move the prime rib roast to a carving board and slice the meat as you see fit, or into 3/4-inch slices. Sprinkle the slices with a little Kosher salt if desired.
The secret(s) to the best Prime Rib:
- Great quality meat. The cost of Prime Rib can be on the high side, but splurging on this beautiful cut of meat is absolutely worth it.
- Brown the meat first. The roast cooks at such a low temperature, so it’s important to brown the exterior before you begin. All sides (except for where the bones were) get seared on the stove before the bones are reattached and the roast goes into the oven.
- Elevate the meat. Use a baker’s rack inside the roasting pan to cook the Prime Rib evenly, for good air circulation.
- Let the meat rest. Don't rush this step! You won’t need Prime Rib au jus if you wait a bit and give the meat time to rest. As with almost all meats, allowing the roast to rest helps the muscle fibers relax. Resting helps hold onto all that flavorful liquid. Slicing too soon may result in all the juices escaping onto your carving board and drying out the roast.
- Make a great sauce. This Mustard Cream Sauce is the end all, be all of beef sauces. No you don't need it, but you'll want it! There's a pretty perfect horseradish sauce here, too, for the old-school diners.
How to make Mustard Cream Sauce:
- First, in a small saucepan, whisk together the sour cream, heavy cream, egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, salt, and sugar together.
- Then cook the sauce over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens and turns silky. How do you know you're headed in the right direction? It should coat the back of a spoon when ready.
- Pour into a gravy boat or other bowl, garnish with chives, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
How to make Horseradish Cream Sauce:
Prime Rib and horseradish is a classic combination. Here's an easy, breezy recipe for a quick horseradish cream sauce.
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Using a hand mixer or a standing mixer, whisk the heavy cream until thickened, just to the point of soft peaks.
- Then gently fold in the sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.
What can you do with Prime Rib leftovers?
Lucky, lucky, you! If that's the case, pile thinly sliced leftover meat on Soft Yeast Buns with caramelized onions and mustard cream sauce or a dollop of horseradish for the most decadent sandwich ever.
Prime Rib with Mustard Cream Sauce
For the Prime Rib:
- 1 (7 pound) first-cut beef standing rib roast (about 3 bones) meat removed from the bones, bones reserved (see instructions below for removing bones and recipe notes for tips on buying prime rib)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper coarse
For the Mustard Cream Sauce:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chives minced
To cut the meat off the bone:
- Hold the meaty lobe in one hand and a sharp boning or chef's knife in the other hand, run knife down length of first bone, following contours as closely as possible to separate it from meat.
- Flip roast so uncut portion faces you. Holding bones back with your hand, cut meat from remaining ribs. Once meat is removed, proceed with seasoning and tying as directed in recipe.
To make the Prime Rib:
- Using sharp knife, cut slits in surface layer of fat, spaced 1 inch apart, in crosshatch pattern, being careful not to cut into meat. Rub 2 tablespoons Kosher salt over entire roast and into slits.
- Place meat back on bones (to save space in refrigerator), transfer to large plate, and refrigerate, uncovered, at least 24 hours and up to 96 hours.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat until just smoking. Sear sides and top of roast (reserving bone) until browned, 6 to 8 minutes total (do not sear side where roast was cut from bone).
- Place meat back on ribs, so bones fit where they were cut, and let cool for 10 minutes. Tie meat to bones with 2 lengths of kitchen twine between ribs.
- Transfer roast, fat side up, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and season with pepper. Roast until meat registers 110 degrees, 3 to 4 hours.
- Turn off oven, leave roast in oven, opening door as little as possible, until meat registers about 120 degrees (for rare) or about 125 degrees (for medium-rare) 30 minutes to 1 1/4 hours longer.
- Remove roast from oven (leave roast on baking sheet), tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 1/4 hours.
- Adjust oven rack about 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Remove foil from roast, form into 3-inch ball, and place under ribs to elevate fat cap. Broil until top of roast is well browned and crisp, 2 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer roast to carving board. Slice meat into 3/4-inch thick slices. Season with Kosher salt to taste, and serve.
To make the Mustard Cream Sauce:
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together sour cream, heavy cream, yolks, mustard, vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until sauce thickens and coats back of spoon, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Immediately transfer to serving bowl, stir in chives, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 3 cups.