During the holidays or any time you want to put something stunning on the table, I’m not sure it gets better than a standing rib roast.
Casually referred to as prime rib, “prime” actually refers to the grade of beef. You can get a standing rib roast in a variety of grades (I would stick to choice or prime though). Some places like Whole Foods or small butchers or farms might use an entirely different system of grading, so just ask for a standing rib roast.
These are impressive (and expensive) cuts of meat so it’s very important to treat and cook them well.
For starters, when picking a standing rib roast, try to find one with good marbling (fat) in the meat. Ask your butcher if you have any doubt. Also, shoot for about 3/4 to 1 pound per person you are serving. Your butcher will be able to cut down the full rib roast by the rib to fit your needs. Generally, one rib will easily feed two people.
There really isn’t a recipe for this sort of thing, because the only thing I would ever recommend putting on this beauty is salt and pepper. It needs nothing else. The first rule of standing rib roasts is: Do no harm!
Season the entire rib roast all around with salt and pepper. Use kosher salt and a fresh ground, coarse pepper. Season it well and at least an hour ahead of cooking. (It’s best to season it the day before you intend to cook it, though.)
Before getting this thing near a hot oven, let it slowly come to room temperature. Cover it loosely to keep it clean and let it rest for about three hours. This will slowly take the chill off the meat and lead to more even cooking later.
FIRST STEP: High Heat
Set your standing rib roast in a roasting pan, rib side down, and crank your oven up to 500ºF. When it’s heated, cook the rib roast for 20 minutes at this high temperature. This will give the roast a nice golden brown base.
The rib roast is nowhere near cooked at this point. If you were to cut into it, it would be cool to the touch still on the inside. Mine registered about 80ºF after this high heat cooking.
STEP TWO: Low and Slow
Now it’s time to very slowly roast to evenly cook it. Turn the oven down to 300ºF and return the roast to the oven. At this point, if you have a remote meat thermometer, by all means use it.
There is absolutely no way to cook this without a thermometer. Don’t even try it! The roast could take anywhere from 12-18 minutes per pound to get to the right temperature. Guessing is a recipe for disaster.
If you have a remote thermometer that you can leave in while it cooks, set it for 123ºF and insert it into the thickest part of the roast. If you only have an instant read thermometer, start checking the temperature after about 10 minutes per pound has gone by.
A nightmare scenario: seeing 140ºF in the thickest part of the roast. OOPS.
Keep in mind that because the roast is so thick, some areas will register that high. The ends will be hotter than the center, but measure the center. You want to make sure the whole roast is cooked. The ends will be slightly more cooked than the center, which is actually good. Some people prefer more rare meat and they can take their slices from the center.
For my rib roast, it took about an hour and 45 minutes to hit my desired temperature of 125ºF.
After you’ve nailed the temperature on the roast, remove it and let it rest (covered loosely with foil) for 20 minutes. The roast will continue to rise in temperature during this time. Generally, the thickest part of the roast will gain another 10 degrees during this resting process.
Now for the technical part! You need to cut the ribs off the roast! This isn’t actually that hard if you have a sharp carving knife. Just stand the roast on end and slice as close as possible to the ribs.
Whatever you do—WHATEVER YOU DO—don’t throw away these bones. You can grill them and eat them as-is, or use them to make the best beef stock of your life, or make a number of beef-based soups. They are expensive and delicious, so use them!
When you have the ribs cut off, slice the roast into portions for people. Some guests might like thicker pieces or more cooked pieces. You should be able to find a perfect piece for any eater, which is the best part about cooking a big roast like this.
No matter what, people will be happy!
Have you ever cooked a standing rib roast? Leave a comment with your best leftover ideas!
Nick thinks he should open a fancy buffet! Check out his blog, Macheesmo, and follow him on his Tablespoon profile.