Prime rib roast is probably the most luxurious piece of meat, and when it’s cooked following the below technique, it melts in your mouth.
Why is it so good? The spinalis dorsi (rib eye cap) blankets the eye of the roast, providing beefy, fatty flavor throughout, while crisping up to add an impressive texture.
I highly recommend choosing a prime rib that carries a USDA grade of choice or prime. If you’re going to pay a little extra for this special cut, you might as well invest in one that will be undeniably incredible.
Prepping the Prime Rib
There are just a few steps to follow to prep the prime rib.
The peel and trim steps are optional and depend on how fancy you want to get, but I highly recommend following the rub and rest technique before grilling your prime rib.
Remove the Silver Skin
If you’ve cooked ribs before, you know how important it is to remove the silver skin from the back of the bones. It’s a tough membrane that can ruin a good bite. The rib roast has this membrane, too.
Whether or not you want to remove the silverskin is completely optional. When you eat pork ribs, you pick them up and bite right into the meat. That silverskin can create a tough bite.
With prime rib, however, you eat it with a knife and fork and usually don’t bite right down near the bone. I just like to remove it so the rub has more contact with the meat in between the bones.
To do this, flip the roast upside down and grab the membrane with a paper towel. Then, peel it off and toss it in the trash.
Frenching the bones
Some fancy restaurants scrape the meat away from each bone, leaving them connected to the roast.
This creates a really pretty presentation with the bones clean and protruding from the big hunk of beautiful meat.
My family likes to gnaw on the leftover prime rib bones, so personally, I don’t french them, but if you’d like to try it, you can view a step-by-step demonstration of this technique over at my pork prime rib post.
The secret trim
Okay. It’s not really a secret to the world, but there is a nice little special trim you can do to add more flavor to the prime rib.
Run your knife between the bones and the meat and continue slicing down until you almost reach the bottom. Make sure not to separate the two.
Now, when you add your rub, you can add rub down through that trimmed area. See nice little secret.
If you follow this technique, you may want to use some butcher’s twine to secure the bones back to the roast – especially, if you’re cooking this on a rotisserie.
When it comes time to slice your grilled prime rib, you can quickly remove the twine and remove the bones so they’re not in the way. Then, slice the meat into thin or thick slices, depending on what your diners prefer.
Rub + Rest
Unlike turkey that gets a wet brine in the fridge, this prime rib gets a dry brine and is left out on the counter.
The counter. What? Is that safe? Yep. It sure is, so long as you don’t exceed four hours.
You want to leave it on the counter, so it gradually comes to temp before it hits the grill. If you put the prime rib on the grill at a 40F-degree fridge temp, it’s not going to cook evenly. The center will take longer to warm while the outside overcooks.
I leave it on the counter for 2-3 hours, and while it’s sitting around waiting, I slather it with robust herbs mixed with my Brisket Rub, garlic, olive oil and my signature ingredient – allspice. While the beef is adjusting to room temperature, it’s breathing in the herbs like an aromatherapy treatment.
Grilling the Prime Rib
The cooking method has 3 stages: slow cook, crust creation and rest.
Step 1: Slow Cook
For an uber-tender prime rib, you want to keep that slow warm-up going by grilling it at a low heat over indirect heat. I like 250F. Be sure to set the prime rib on the grill fat side up. This way, any fat juices will render back into the center of the roast.
You don’t want to cook it all the way at this temp. Instead, aim for an internal meat temperature of 110F degrees. I recommend using a digital thermometer, like the ThermoWorks Smoke. It will alert you when your meat reaches 110F degrees.
A 6-pound rib roast will take about 2 hours.
Step 2: Crust Creation
The best part of a rib roast is the herbaceous crust. To create this, you need to crank the grill heat up to 400F degrees.
Then, just keep on grilling over indirect heat until the internal temp reaches 135F. Remember to change your digital thermometer, so it alerts you when it’s ready.
Step 3: The Rest
Once you roast reaches 135F, pull it off the grill and let it rest for 30 minutes while you get the rest of dinner finished.
This step is so important. If you cut the prime rib right away, all of those magical juices will be lost on the cutting board. By resting the beef, the juices will reabsorb back into the meat, which means every bite will juicy.
If you’re worried about your meat being cold when you serve it, don’t. Your meat is actually going to continue to rise in temperature 5-10F degrees during the resting period. If you’re still skeptical, serve it on heated plates.
How to Please Everyone
I like my beef medium rare, but I respect that there are those who prefer their meat cooked longer. If everyone eating the roast likes their meat medium or medium well, go ahead and cook the meat longer.
If there are just a couple of folks who like their beef extra dead, cut their slice and throw it back on the grill, and cook it to their doneness preference.
Here are the cooking temps to help you out
Medium Rare 135F
Medium Well 150F
Well Done 160F
How to Grill Prime Rib with Your Grill
This is by far the easiest grill to use because you adjust the temp just like you would an oven. What makes it better than an oven though is that the heat is generated by wood pellets that add a smoky flavor. I use a combo of cherry and oak pellets.
I adjust the temp just like I described above, and I use the grill’s included thermometer to monitor the meat temp.
To create an indirect heat zone, turn on one burner and adjust it from low to medium until your grill registers at 250F degrees. To get the smoky grill flavor, use an Amazen Pellet Tube Smoker with cherry pellets or create a wood chip foil pouch. Place your meat on the opposite side of the grill and rotate it halfway through the cook.
When it’s time to raise the heat, turn the one burner to high. If the grill doesn’t quite reach 400F, turn on another burner. You may need to rotate the meat during the hot part of the cook to avoid one side of the roast cooking faster than the other. However, try to keep it over the indirect heat to avoid flare-ups.
Light your coals until they have a gray ash. Push them to one side of the grill. Adjust your grill vents, until your grill registers at 250F degrees. Add your meat to the side without coals. You can add wood chips to the coals for smoky flavor, or use hickory charcoal briquettes. When it’s time to increase the heat, adjust your vents. You may need to add more briquettes.
Big Green Egg
Light your coals and add the plate setter to diffuse the heat. Adjust the bottom and top vent, until the grill registers at 250F degrees. Add wood chips for added smoke. When it’s time to increase the heat, open both vents to increase air flow. You can also use a device like the Flame Boss to control the heat automatically.
I realize I may not have converted all of you to the grill yet. So good news – you can roast this in the oven, too. You just won’t get that same smoky flavor that you get on the grill. Follow the steps above, adjusting the temp from 250F to 400F and monitoring the meat temp.
Answers to your most common questions
Several of you have left comments and asked questions below. To help others so they don’t have to read through all of the comments, here are the most commonly asked questions.
How large of a prime rib do I need?
When cooking a bone-in prime rib, plan on one pound per person or one bone for every two people. A three-bone prime rib will usually weigh about six pounds and will serve six adults.
If you plan to serve additional meats and a lot of sides, you can slice the meat thinner and get three servings per bone.
How long does it take a prime rib to cook?
This recipe is for a six-pound prime rib, which will cook in about three hours (2 hours on low, 30 minutes on high and 30 minutes for the resting stage)
If you’d like to grill a larger prime rib, plan to cook it on low for 20-30 minutes per pound. Then, cook it on high for 45-60 minutes, until it reaches your desired doneness. The resting stage is still 30 minutes.
How to make delicious gravy to go with your prime rib
If you’re a gravy-lover, I recommend roasting some veggies under the prime rib to create a rich, flavorful broth.
Take a pan that is 1-2 inches deep and add a sliced onion, 2 sliced carrots, 2 stalks sliced celery and some fresh herbs. Pour in a cup of beef broth, a cup of water and a 1/2 cup of red wine.
Place a rack over the pan and add the prime rib right on top for the first part of the cook. Once it’s time to crank up the heat, remove the veggie pan from the grill.
At this point, you can strain the broth and set it aside. Make a roux in a sauce pot by cooking down 2 tablespoons flour and two tablespoons butter. Then, add in the broth and stir until thickened.
Grilled Prime Rib Roast
Prime rib roast is probably the most luxurious piece of meat. When it's cooked following our technique, it melts in your mouth with an herbaceous crust.
Combine the oil, garlic and spices in a bowl. Rub all over the meat. Let rest on the counter at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
Heat the grill to 250F degrees with indirect heat.
Place the roast on the grill, fat side up. Cook until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 110F degrees, about 2 hours.
Keep the meat over indirect heat, and raise the grill heat to 400F degrees. Grill until the internal temperature reaches 135F degrees, about 30 minutes. Remove from the grill. Let it rest 30 minutes before slicing.
Slice and serve. For those who like their rib roast well done, throw their slice back on the grill until it reaches their preferred doneness.
I revised the herb rub for this recipe in July 2021, because some people commented that it was too salty. If you were a fan of the original recipe, it’s below.