I have never understood the obsession some people have with prime rib. I’m guessing it’s because the only time I’d see it was when I was a kid and my parents would take our family to some buffet restaurant and prime rib would be the main feature. And it usually wasn’t that great. As an adult I’ve had the desire to buy one to cook, but the price tag has been too high for me to try (especially with no prior experience cooking it before). Since I like to expand my horizons and try new things, I decided the Christmas holiday season was the time to give it a shot and do a smoked prime rib. And I’m so glad I did because it was AWESOME!
What’s the difference between prime rib and rib roast?
If you go to the butcher or meat department at your local grocery store, you may see a lot of rib roast or bone-in rib roast, but no cuts called prime rib. This is because the rib roast is usually described as the most desirable part of the rib section on a cow, or the “prime” portion. Hence, the name “prime rib”.
But doesn’t it have to be USDA Prime to be considered “prime rib”?
Nope. As described in the paragraph above, the term “prime rib” refers to the beef ribs in the “prime” section for meaty goodness, usually between ribs 6 through 12. But if you can find a USDA Prime rib roast, then it will have better flavor due to the increase in marbling (interwoven fat in the meat that renders when cooked).
To summarize, the rib roast IS prime rib.
Selecting a roast
I picked out a bone-in rib roast that had three bones and was a little over eight pounds. It came bound together with two strands of butcher’s twine (underneath the shrink wrap, of course). I asked the butcher to french the bones for me and they did it free of charge (keep in mind some butchers may charge a fee, so you may want to ask beforehand).
The “frenching” of the bones means to trim down some of the fat and meat around the bone to expose it and give it a more enticing look when cooked. This doesn’t affect the flavor of the meat, but it sure does look pretty.
Note that I got an eight pound prime rib (aka-rib roast) because I was feeding 10 adults and some kids (also note that I had some left over, too).
Before I started prepping the prime rib I set my grill/smoker to 225F over indirect heat using pecan wood. You may want to allot about 10-15 minutes to get up to temps. Once I tended to the meat, the first thing I did was cut off the butcher’s twine because I wanted to trim the fat off the outside portion. Some folks like to keep it there but I decided to trim if off as a personal preference. Either way, I applied a simple rub comprised of kosher salt, ground pepper, and garlic powder on the rib roast.
After that, I smothered the roast in a compound butter comprised of garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese, and butter. I like to place a couple of sprigs of rosemary on top because I love how it pairs with beef. Then I take a couple of strands of butcher’s twine and tie it back up how it was before, tying the twine over the rosemary sprigs, too.
Once the smoker is up to temp, I place the roast on the grill bone side down. I like to use a digital meat thermometer, such as the Thermoworks Smoke, to gauge the internal temps throughout the process, making sure I don’t overcook it. I put the probe in the middle of the thickest portion of the roast.
Keep in mind the cooking time will vary per roast. This eight pound roast took just over four hours at 225F to get to an internal temp of 120F. When it hit that temp, I took the roast off, got the grill up to a roasting temp of 400F, and wrapped the roast loosely in foil while the grill gets up to the desired temp.
Now that the grill is at 400F, I unwrap the roast and place it back on the grill for another 15 minutes until my Thermoworks Smoke shows I’ve reached an internal temp of 132F. I expect there to be a little bit of carry over temp after the meat is removed, meaning the beef will continue to cook internally for a few degrees more. I like my steaks and roasts at 135F internal, which is good enough for medium rare.
Finally, I let the smoked prime rib rest for about 10-15 minutes before I slice. I do this to let the meat rest and build up juices inside for a better bite. Some like to slice the bones off at this point, but I like to make things difficult on myself and kept the bones on there while slicing. Didn’t matter. It tasted amazing anyway!
In closing, I’m happy I took the chance and did this smoked prime rib. I hope you take my advice and go for it, as well. Follow this recipe and I’m pretty confident you’ll find it better than your local buffet. And if you want to smoke something else to pair with this smoked prime rib, I recommend my smoked buttery shrimp recipe.
- 1 rib roast (5-8 lbs.)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp rub
- 2 rosemary sprigs
- 1 Cup garlic herb butter (recipe in notes)
- Preheat grill/smoker to 225F at indirect heat. Use pecan wood (or whichever smoking wood you prefer) for smoke flavor. While getting to the desired temp, prep the rib roast by removing twine and trimming off fat on top (optional). Apply rub (or salt and pepper) to rib roast, then spread garlic herb butter all over the meat surfaces. Add two sprigs of rosemary on top and tie two strands of butcher's twine over meat.
- Place rib roast on grill and smoke for about four hours or until internal meat temp reaches 120 degrees. Remove from grill, placing roast in loosely wrapped foil while getting heat up in grill to 400 degrees. Place meat back on grill, roasting for 15 minutes or until internal meat temp reaches around 135 degrees for a medium rare finish.
- Remove meat from grill, let rest uncovered for about 15 minutes. Slice and serve.
- Cooking times vary per cut of meat due to variables such as weight of roast
- Trimming fat cap is optional, as is removing the butcher's twine
- You can remove the bones prior to serving slicing along top of bones and following the shape down to the bottom under the hunk of meat
- If you can't find a pre-made garlic herb butter, then use this simple compound butter recipe:
- 1 Cup butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped herbs (parsley, basil, and/or oregano)
- Combine ingredients in small to medium-sized bowl. Mix well.
Serving Size:4 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 450 Total Fat: 38g Saturated Fat: 16g Cholesterol: 96mg Sodium: 73mg Carbohydrates: 0g Protein: 25g