This prime rib recipe uses the reverse-sear method to create mouth watering, medium-rare, tender meat throughout the entire roast. It doesn’t get better than that.
Prime rib is one of my top 3 favorite meals on the planet. It’s the king of holiday roasts.
I’ve been making prime rib (roast beef) my entire adult life using the more typical method of high heat for the first 15 minutes then lower heat for the remaining time.
My new favorite way is the reverse sear method. It simply makes the best prime rib ever.
What is prime rib?
Prime rib is a high-end cut of beef that has considerable marbling (fat) which adds amazing flavor. The bone-in cut is called a standing rib roast. The boneless cut is called a ribeye roast or boneless prime rib.
The “prime” on the package is a USDA designation that tells you the meat is of high quality.
A prime rib cut is very expensive, but worth it for a special occasion if you can splurge.
4 methods to cook a prime rib roast
There are several ways to cook a prime rib roast
- Regular oven roasting (typically the high-low heat method)
- Slow roasting
- Sous vide method – try our sous vide prime rib with this method, and
- Reverse sear method (this recipe). The method may not be as popular, but it definitely should be. I discovered this method from author and chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Serious Eats.
Why the reverse sear method is great
I’ve tried this method many times now and I am totally sold. It’s as close to a perfect prime rib as you can get. Here’s why:
- The meat is cooked evenly throughout the roast instead of pink/red in the middle and medium to well done on the two inches toward the outside.
- You can make the roast more than an hour ahead and do the last step of high heat roasting right before serving. This increases your chance of getting warm meat to your guests – a huge plus for anyone who agonizes about keep a prime rib warm without overcooking it (like me). If you’re interested, here’s more on how to keep foods warm.
The long roasting time for the reverse sear method can be seen as a downside, but if you’re having a dinner party and have lots of other things to do while the beef is roasting (who doesn’t), it makes a lot of sense. If you have the time, I find it the best way to roast a prime rib.
What kind of meat to buy
Labels to look for
Of course, the best way to get an outstanding end result is to begin with an outstanding piece of meat, meaning a well marbled Prime rib. Look for:
- USDA Prime, AAA or Certified Angus Beef (best and most expensive)
- ‘USDA Choice’ – not as good as Prime (a bit less marbled), but still good.
- ‘Select’ will be cheaper, less juicy and less tender.
Best prime rib cut to buy
To some extent, this comes down to personal preference.
- Food Network and America’s Test Kitchen suggest buying the first cut (also called the small end or the loin end). Ask for ribs 10-12. This cut is generally regarded as the best cut because it contains the large, single rib-eye muscle, has less connective tissue than the second cut and therefore is more uniform and tender.
- Chef Steps recommends the second cut, ribs 6-9, as it has more fat and flavor as well as a larger and very tender cap of meat on the top. I am actually in this camp.
With bone or without bone?
The classic prime rib roast presentation is “with bone”. It’s pretty, very flavorful and the bones help insulate the meat while cooking for a juicy tender result. Some people (like me) love the bones!
A prime roast without the bone is called a ribeye roast or boneless prime rib. The advantages of this kind is more even seasoning and ease of carving. Both cuts are excellent. Some chefs cut the bones off the prime rib, season the roast, then tie the ribs back on. Er, not me.
What to serve with prime rib
My favorite side dish with prime rib is our Basic Mashed Potatoes and beef gravy. I also love fried potato and onions, best instant potatoes and carrots or crispy oven roasted potatoes with roast beef.
3 steps to roast a prime rib reverse sear
- Low temperature: Initially roast the beef in the oven at a very low oven temperature of 250F/121C (or even 200F/93C),
- Rest the beef for 30-90 minutes, and then
- High temperature: Blast the beef at high heat in a 500F oven for the final 6-15 minutes, depending on the size of the roast.
A 3 pound roast takes about 2 1/4 hours for the low-heat part of the roasting. A much larger roast could take 3-4 hours.
Tailor To Your Taste
- Seasoning: Many chefs like to let the flavor of prime rib shine through and only use salt and pepper as seasoning. I’ve always added the garlic slivers (which in my opinion add sensational flavor), a bit of mustard and sometimes a sprinkle of thyme – and I think the flavor of the meat is still the star, but it’s up to you.
- Pre-seasoning option: To add even more flavor and a crustier darker exterior, there’s an optional step you can try. A day or two ahead, pat the roast dry with a paper towel, salt it, then place it in the fridge on a rack, uncovered, to dry out and allow the flavor of the meat to develop. Bring the roast to room temperature (1-2 hours) before roasting. I often skip this extra step since I always serve my prime rib with gravy which also adds to the flavor.
- Exterior Crust: You can also dry the roast in the fridge without the salt. This won’t add flavor, but it will give you the crustier exterior.
- Buy the right kind of meat (see above)
- Leave the fat cap on. Trim it if it’s very thick as it will splatter in the oven during the high heat step at the end.
- Use a good instant-read thermometer to ensure the temperature you want.
- How much meat to buy per person:
- Generally figure 1 rib will serve 2 people.
- I go by weight. For a bone-in prime rib roast, figure about 1 pound/0.54 kg per person. For a boneless rib roast, figure a bit more than 1/2 pound/0.28 kg per person.
- 4-5 ribs will serve 8-10 people
- 2 ribs will serve 4-5 people
- The reverse sear method allows you to make the roast 30-90 minutes ahead. The final high-heat roasting should be completed 6-15 minutes before serving, depending on the size of the roast.
Love the reverse sear method?
Then try our boneless pork roast with gravy (reverse sear).
Classic Prime Rib (Reverse Sear)
- 3 pounds (1.36 kg) prime rib of beef, well marbled, Note 1 (2 ribs or bones)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced into thin slivers
- Optional: 2 tsp Dijon mustard and fresh or dry thyme
- kosher salt and black pepper
- Preheat oven to 250F/121C.
- PREPARE ROAST: Pat roast dry with paper towel. Insert garlic slivers into roast all over between meat and fat (separate with fingers and slip in garlic). Leave the fat cap on the top of the meat for great flavor. If using Dijon, smear it all over roast. Season roast liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Sprinkle on thyme if using. Place roast, bone side down, in shallow pan lined with foil (for easier clean up). If you have a temperature probe, insert it in the center of the roast. If not use an instant-read thermometer.
- START ROASTING AT LOW TEMP: Roast in oven, fat side up, at 250F/121C for about 2 to 2 1/4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 120F/49C for medium rare on instant thermometer (you'll be cooking it longer later on). Or 130F/54.4C for medium. Remove roast, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes.
- FINISH ROASTING AT HIGH TEMP: While roast is resting, increase oven temperature to 500F/260C. 10 minutes before you're ready to serve, place roast in hot oven. Roast for 6-10 minutes (or a bit longer if roast is bigger) until exterior browns nicely. Insert meat thermometer to check temperature of meat – it should rise to 130F/54.4C for medium rare. Or 140F/60C for medium measured with an instant-read thermometer. Note 2 for internal temperatures.
- SLICE AND SERVE: On cutting board, turn roast on side and slice off bones. Then turn meat, cut side down, on board and slice. Remove garlic slivers. Serve immediately with gravy or au jus.
- What is a prime rib cut: Look for USDA Prime on the package. Other markings (in Canada, for example) are AAA and Certified Angus Beef. USDA Choice is not as high end as Prime, but it’s still good.
- Doneness (internal temperature). Here’s how What’s Cooking America measures doneness using an instant-read thermometer:
- Rare – 120 to 125 degrees F (49-51.7C) – center is bright red, pinkish toward the exterior portion
- Medium Rare – 130 to 135 degrees F (54-57C). – center is very pink, slightly brown toward the exterior portion
- Medium – 140 to 145 degrees F (60-63C) – center is light pink, outer portion is brown
- Medium Well – 150 to 155 degrees F (65.6-68C) – not pink
- Well Done – 160 degrees F (71C) and above
- Pre-seasoning option: To add even more flavor and a crustier darker exterior, there’s an optional step you can try. A day or two ahead, pat the roast dry with a paper towel, salt it, then place it in the fridge on a rack, uncovered, to dry out and allow the flavor of the meat to develop. Bring the roast to room temperature (1-2 hours) before roasting. I often skip this extra step since I always serve my prime rib with gravy which also adds to the flavor. Alternatively, you can also dry the roast in the fridge without the salt. This won’t add flavor, but it will give you the crustier exterior.
- Make Ahead: The reverse sear method allows you to make the roast 30-90 minutes ahead. The final high-heat roasting should be completed 6-15 minutes before serving, depending on the size of the roast.
This prime rib recipe (reverse sear), originally published in 2017, has been updated with new information and tips.