How to Cook Prime Rib to Perfection

Prime rib is a fine meat to serve guests at your next dinner party as long as you know how to cook it. Here's advice on how to select the cut of meat, season it, cook it and carve it.

What Is Prime Rib?
The prime rib consists of the ribs of beef. The name may be misleading because the word "prime" does not necessarily indicate that the meat is prime-quality meat. It does refer to a particular cut of meat. The rib roast is naturally tender and cut from the rib section starting behind the shoulder and running along the backbone to where the ribs end.

How to Buy a Rib Roast
Remember there are two ends of this roast: the loin end, which is nicer, and the shoulder end, which has more sinew and fat. The small loin end is the better cut. A full standing roast has seven rib bones, but you can buy smaller roasts that have two or more ribs. The smaller, less meaty ends of the ribs are usually trimmed off or left on and "Frenched" for an elegant effect when serving.

Each rib will feed about two people. You will need to buy a roast with at least two rib bones and weighing four to five pounds to serve four to six people. A three-rib roast will serve six to nine. A 4-rib roast will serve 8 to 12. Each additional rib will provide two or three more servings.

It is extremely important that you have the butcher trim the chine bone (or backbone), which can only be done with a meat saw. If this chine bone is not trimmed off, or at least scored with vertical cuts, you will be unable to carve the meat when the time comes.

If the chine bone is scored, you will be able to carve the roast, but having the butcher completely remove the bone promotes more even cooking. The cap fat, which is a layer of fat covering the top of the roast, should be left on, but trimmed to a thin layer that covers the outside of the roast.

Also available are boneless, trimmed rib roasts, referred to as rolled roasts. They are not as elegant when roasted but they are considerably easier to carve and serve. Buy a rolled roast wrapped in a layer of fat and tied. The bones may be purchased tied to the roast to roast with it, as a rack to set the roast on in the baking pan and for seasoning.(Remove these bones with the ties and the fat before serving.) When serving a boneless roast, you will need about eight ounces of trimmed meat per person.

Equipment for Roasting Prime Rib
Select a roasting pan that is large enough for the meat, but not so large that the meat drippings will burn. A heavy, high-sided (five to six inches) roasting pan with sturdy end handles is the best choice. Higher sides will work for a standing rib roast, but the pan should not be so large that it is taller than the roast.

A rack is not needed for a prime rib roast because the rib bones act as a rack and hold the meat up out of the drippings.

Season and Cook the Roast
Season the rib roast with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow it to sit at room temperature for four hours before beginning to roast.

Preheat your oven to 500º F. For extra jus, spread fat trimmings and a few cloves of garlic and quartered shallots in the roaster. Precook these for 20 minutes. Put the roast in the pan with the trimmings and vegetables, and insert a meat thermometer into the roast so that the tip reaches the center of the thickest part. Do not add water or cover. Continue roasting for 20 minutes.

At this point, turn the oven down to 275º F. Cook for 23 minutes per pound for rare, 27 minutes per pound for medium and 32 minutes per pound for well done. Use a meat thermometer to check temperatures by the chart below. Keep in mind that the temperature inside the roast can actually rise 10 degrees after the roast is taken from the oven.

Take the roast from the oven at these temperatures for desired doneness:

  • Rare 110º F to 115º F
  • Medium Rare 120º F to 125º F
  • Medium 130º F

Cover the roast loosely with foil and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before you attempt to carve it.

Ways to Carve the Roast

  1. Separate the meat from the rib bones as you go, separating one rib at a time. The roast should be positioned with rib side to the left and cut side up. Slice the rounds of meat from the outside toward the bone. Use a nine-inch blade to slice the meat and a meat fork to help hold the ribs apart while slicing. (Allows for the most dramatic presentation at the table.)
  2. Cut the meat away from the ribs all at once and then transfer the boneless roast onto a cutting board to cut into round slices. (The simplest method.)
  3. Slice the roast lengthwise by standing it on end vertically. (Lets you serve more well-done portions to those who prefer them.)
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