Smoking Prime Rib is a unique way to tackle this traditional holiday meal. We all know that beef takes on smoke better than most foods, and what better way to cook one of the most expensive beef cuts.
I’ll be using my Yoder YS640S pellet grill for this recipe but you can use whatever you have that emits some smoke. I like to do prime rib on my Weber Kettle as well, but in the middle of winter, I opt for the pellet grill because I don’t want to freeze to death. Weber Kettles are best used from spring through to fall.
This recipe is very simple and turns out perfect every time. Just make sure you plan ahead for this as the preparation can take some time.
What Is Prime Rib?
Everyone calls it ‘Prime Rib’, but that isn’t the actual name for this cut of beef. What you are purchasing is a ‘Standing Rib Roast’. Prime just represents the USDA grade of the meat and odds are you will not be finding a prime grade standing rib roast at your local butcher, because they are hard to find. It doesn’t really matter, I’ve never had a tough standing rib roast yet. This area of meat is known to be very tender and marbled heavily which is why you pay a King’s ransom for it.
Ribeye and Tomahawk steaks are found in the same region as the Standing Rib Roast.
How to Cook Prime Rib
Prime rib is easy to cook or smoke, you just need to plan ahead and get organized. If you want to do this right, you need to be aware of these 4 key items.
- Purchase your Standing Rib Roast a couple days before the cook day. You will want to wrap the prime rib in cheese cloth and let is sit in the fridge for a couple days. This will draw out some of the moisture/water content and will increase the flavor profile when it comes to the big day to cook.
- Buy a Bone-In Standing Rib Roast. The bone-in lets the roast cook a little slower which I believe creates a more tender meat. Don’t buy too big. I find a 3-bone weighs about 7-8 lbs. and that easily feeds 6-8 adults.
- Season the roast with salt and pepper a couple hours before the cook. These roasts are large and the salt needs time to penetrate the meat. I like to season about 6-8 hours before the cook.
- Cook/Smoke slow at about 250F. That gives the smoker some time to embed a smokey flavor and slowly renders the fat inside the roast.
If you follow these four tips, you are 95% of the way there to a fantastic prime rib.
How Long to Cook/Smoke Prime Rib
I cannot simply state a specific formula of how long to exactly cook a prime rib but there is a general rule of thumb. These calculations are based on a cooking temperature of 250 Fahrenheit.
- 3-bone (7-8 lbs.) standing rib roast cooked at 250F will take about 3 hours
- 4-bone (9-10 lbs.) standing rib roast cooked at 250F will take about 4 hours.
I never cook based on time, I cook based on meat temperature readings so PLEASE get yourself a good temperature probe and just monitor the internal temp of the roast. Why buy a $130 standing rib roast to only overcook it because you were to cheap to buy a internal meat temperature probe.
I cook my prime rib to 119F, pull it, let it rest for 20-30 mins (temp will keep rising during the rest) and then sear it with high heat for 10-15 mins. This gives the outside of the meat a nice barky texture while the inside is medium/medium-rare. This method works every time.
How Much Prime Rib Per Person
This calculation is based with bone-in standing rib roasts. Typically 1 lbs. of uncooked bone-in standing rib roast will feed one adult after the cook is complete and the bones are removed. A typical 3-bone standing rib roast weighs approximately 7-8 lbs. I can easily feed 7-8 hungry adults with that size of prime rib and there will be some leftovers.
Where to Buy Prime Rib
You can find a standing rib roast at most large chain grocery stores and local butcher shops. Availability can depend on the time of year. Prime rib is very popular at Christmas, so plan ahead. I put my order in about 10 days before the day of cooking.
Wagyu Standing Rib Roast
If you really want the best quality marbled beef, look for some Wagyu prime rib. Snake River Farms offers Wagyu standing rib roasts and they are melt in your mouth tender. They deliver right to your door and are packaged to stay cold.
Smoking Prime Rib
Alright, now that you have a better understanding of prime rib, let’s move on to the actual recipe.
Read more: Smoked Chuck Roast Recipe (Texas Style)
- Preparation Time: 7 hours
- Smoking Time: 3 hours
- Rest and Sear Time: 45 minutes
- Total: 10 hours, 45 minutes
- 3-Bone Standing Rib Roast
- 3 TBSP Kosher Salt
- 3 TBSP Coarse Black Pepper
- 4 TBSP Vegetable Oil
- Smoker: Pellet, Charcoal, Offset (whatever makes smoke and holds a temp)
- Temperature Meat Probe
- Sharp Knife
- Cheese Cloth
- Butcher Block
- Baking Pan with Rack
- Aluminum Foil
- Once you’ve selected a beautiful cut of standing rib roast. Wrap it in cheese cloth and place inside your fridge for a couple days. If you do not have time for this step, don’t worry, you can proceed. This step of aging the prime rib in the fridge aids in flavor. The extra moisture in the meat is expelled which gives you more flavor after the cook.
- About 7 hours before the cook, remove any excess exterior fat from the roast before we start to season. Leave the top fat cap on.
- Once the trimming is complete, rub some vegetable oil over the complete roast, bones and all. Apply the kosher salt and black pepper generously to the roast. This is a large roast so it can take a lot of salt and pepper. Place into the fridge uncovered for 6 hours. This allows the salt to penetrate deep into the roast.
- Remove the roast from the fridge one hour before the cook. This allows it to come closer to room temp before being put in the smoker. This is a good time to fire up the smoker to 250F.
- Place a meat probe in the center of the roast. Make sure it is centered and not beside the bones. We want accurate temperature readings. Place the roast on the baking sheet with rack.
- After the roast has sat one hour, place it into the smoker. Smoke until the roast reaches 119F.
- Once the roast hits 119F, pull it from the smoker, remove the temp probe and wrap with Aluminum foil. Rest for 30 minutes. Internal temps will continue to rise so do not worry that it is too rare.
- Crank your smoker to 500F while the roast rests for 30 minutes.
- After the 30 minute rest, remove the foil from the roast and place it back in the smoker for 15-20 minutes. This will sear the roast exterior and give you a nice brown color and bark.
- Remove from the smoker and serve.
For more information, please see more information about How to smoke a rib roast on a pellet grill