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From Bob Cratchit's Christmas roast to the Whos of Whoville's roast beast, a roast is a wonderful centerpiece for a traditional holiday meal.
But cooking a prime rib roast — especially for company — can be intimidating. Impress without the stress with this no-fail guide to putting a perfect prime rib roast on the table. With three simple tips, you're on your way to serving the best roast of your life.
And when you've got prime rib that looks and tastes fantastic, you don't need to overdo the rest of the meal. Serve it with classic holiday sides like creamed spinach or green bean casserole, your favorite mashed or scalloped potatoes and a basket of hot dinner rolls for soaking up the jus.
Step 1: Befriend your butcher
While prime rib can be sold bone-in or boneless, a bone-in roast is the best bet for guaranteed juicy succulence. Estimate that your guests will eat about 1/2 pound per person when the roast is part of a holiday buffet, or 3/4 pound per person if it's the main course to a smaller holiday dinner.
Have your butcher order a roast in the weight range you need. If you ask for your roast trimmed and tied, your butcher will also be happy to prep the roast so you won't have to: He or she will cut the bones away from the roast, french them (i.e., trim off the meat around the edges to make that classic "handle" shape) and remove excess fat before tying the bones back to the roast. There will still be about one inch of fat on the roast after it's been trimmed and tied.
Step 2: Get your rub on
Whether you want to go classic with salt and pepper or bring extra flavors to the party, rubbing the meat with salt, spices and herbs is the key to giving your roast that traditional crackling, seared and delicious crust.
Either the night before or at least 2 hours prior to cooking your prime rib, rub the roast all over with olive oil, and generously sprinkle it with one of the following seasoning blends:
- 1/4 cup black pepper and 1/4 cup kosher salt (Grab a canister of Morton's or Diamond kosher salt; the larger salt crystal size will make for a better crust on the meat than you'd get from regular table salt.)
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence and 2 large minced garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 1 tablespoon dry mustard and the zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary and 2 large minced garlic cloves
If you're seasoning it in advance, place the roast uncovered in the refrigerator overnight, then let it come to room temperature for two hours before you put it in the oven.
Step 3: Take the roast's temperature
When it comes time to cook the roast, don't just follow your nose or rely on time alone to judge when the meat is cooked properly. For a perfectly cooked prime rib, buy a digital meat thermometer. Whether it's a probe version that stays inside the meat as it roasts, or a removable stick version, it provides complete accuracy and prevents overcooking.
To cook: Preheat your oven to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes while the prime rib comes to room temperature.
Place the roast in a high-sided roasting pan bone-side down. The bones create a natural roasting rack for the meat, so don't worry if you don't have one.
Cook the roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue to cook the roast until your meat thermometer reads 120 degrees. Estimate about 15 minutes of cooking time per pound of prime rib.
Once the thermometer hits its target temperature, remove the roast from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. The roast will continue to cook as the juices inside settle, raising the internal temperature to 130 degrees for a perfect medium-rare prime rib.
Snip the tied bones off the roast, slice and serve to appreciative friends and family!