So now you know how to shop for a prime rib and how to French it, tie it, and season it. There are at least three ways to cook this hunka-hunka roast on the grill or in the smoker—all of them excellent.
Spit-roasting: Spit-roasting is my hands-down favorite method for cooking prime rib. Thanks to the slow gentle rotation, the meat cooks evenly and bastes in its own melting fat. Extra points if you spit-roast on a charcoal grill because you can toss wood chips on the coals, giving the you benefits of smoking and spit-roasting. Spit-roasting also shortens the cooking time and not incidentally, a rotating joint of meat looks cool as all-get-out.
Smoke-roasting (indirect grilling): Nothing brings out the sanguine flavor of beef like a fragrant blast of wood smoke. Set up your grill for indirect grilling, preheat to medium, and throw a handful of soaked, drained wood chips on each pile of coals. If using a gas grill, enclose the chips in a dedicated smoker box or a foil pouch with holes poked in it. Place the roast directly in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat. Cover the grill. Grill the roast until done to taste, replacing the wood chips as needed.
True smoking: Yes, you can cook prime rib in a smoker working “low and slow” (at a low temperature—250 degrees for a long time—4 to 6 hours depending on the size of the roast). True smoking is an exquisite ménage a trois of spice, meat, and smoke flavors, and thanks the low temperature and long cooking time, you can bring the center of the beef to the precise temperature you desire (130 to 135 degrees for medium-rare), without overcooking the exterior. The challenge is how to brown and crisp the exterior. The solution: finish with a quick blast of heat in a grill set up for indirect grilling, quick direct grilling, or even a blast in a hot (450 degrees) oven.
Is it done yet? You’ve spent a lot of time prepping and grilling your prime rib. The last thing you want to do is overcook it. Happily, there’s an easy way to check for doneness: use an instant read meat thermometer. Besides my Flip-Tip Digital Thermometer, another good brand is the Thermapen. A remote digital thermometer is a third option. In any case, know exactly what your target temperature is before lighting your grill or smoker. An internal temperature in the deepest part of the meat should be 120 to 125 degrees for rare and 130 to 135 for medium-rare. Check the temperature in several places. And remember, the meat will continue cooking even after the roast comes off the grill. If someone at your table likes their prime rib medium-well or well-done, give them an end cut or sear their portion directly over the fire.
Give it a rest: One of the most important steps in grilling a perfect piece of meat is to give it time to rest after you remove it from the grill and before serving. Heat drives juices toward the center of the meat, and a rest gives them the chance to redistribute themselves. In the case of prime rib, loosely tent with foil and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. Notice I say loosely. Drape the foil over the roast, but do not bunch the foil tightly. (This will make that gorgeous crust soggy.)
Carve it right: Transfer the prime rib to a large cutting board—preferably a board with a well (channel) around the periphery to catch the juices. If you’ve tied the roast—and I hope you have—remove any strings. Using a sharp carving knife or an electric knife, carefully slice off the rib bones following the curvature of the meat. Slice the boneless roast crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices and serve. Spoon any juices that accumulate on the cutting board over the meat. Horseradish cream sauce makes great condiment. Finally, cut the rib section into individual bones. Muster every bit of diplomacy you possess to determine who gets a bone. (Or who can pay you back the best.)
Last of all, breathe a sigh of satisfaction and relief. You’ve just grilled one of the world’s most magnanimous cuts of meat. All of us at Barbecue Bible are proud of you!
Try different cooking methods with these recipes and techniques:
Don’t forget to share your own advice, recipes, and photos on the Barbecue Board. We want to hear from you!