Holiday Entertaining

Lynne Curry's Prime Rib with Mustard and Herb Butter

December 17, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A foolproof prime rib recipe with a multitasking herb rub -- plus a technique that you can use on just about any hunk of meat for beautifully even roasting.

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The standard protocol for cooking big slabs of meat has always been to sear first, and then slow everything down in the oven to finish cooking through. This genius method will do precisely the opposite, and will give you juicier, more evenly-cooked meat with almost no possibility of failure. And it can be out of the oven up to two hours before dinnertime.

This technique, called reverse-searing, is so much more relaxed -- and has so many other perks -- it makes me wonder why we've always done it the other way. Because of the rumor that searing seals in the juices? (Denied.) Because we get anxious when we see un-browned meat, to the point we compulsively apply Maillard reactions? Or because we assume that this order protects us from overcooking, if we're not adding a sear on top of something that's already, ostensibly, done?

Luckily we have Lynne Curry, the author of grassfed beef cookbook and manifesto Pure Beef, to show us how much better we could have it. This recipe first appeared in the December issue of Fine Cooking magazine in an article called "Sear Genius" (on the site, "A Genius Method for Cooking a Holiday Roast") -- it's almost like they were daring me not to cover it. (By the way, if you are the kind of person who is dedicated to always becoming a smarter cook, you should be subscribing to Fine Cooking.)


Here's how it works: You roast it slowly until it gets within throwing distance of your desired doneness (about 15° F below). Then, with full USDA approval, your almost-done roast can sit for up to two hours while you use the oven for baked potatoes and kale gratins and chocolate cakes. Only just before serving, you sear it -- at full blast in the oven, or on the stovetop, or even on the grill -- for a crisp, handsome crust over rosy, juicy meat, edge to edge. No resting necessary.

How does this method make for such even cooking? The answer is twofold: First off, slow cooking gives the whole thing more time to come up to temperature gently, without overcooking the exterior. But moreover, since the surface is already warm, you can brown it for less time and still get the same caramelization -- which means you won't end up cooking the meat below the surface to well-done in the process.

Over on Fine Cooking, Curry offers recipes for 3 different cuts -- top loin roast, beef tenderloin, and boneless rib roast -- with 3 different rubs and sauces. You can mix and match, which makes sourcing easy: If you can't find one cut (or if you realize that your local store charges $40/pound for grassfed boneless rib roast) you can pivot.

I chose this one because you don't need to make an extra sauce. It doubles down on a mustardy compound butter -- half is rubbed on before cooking, half gets served at the table (and if any is leftover, it gets smeared on cold roast beef sandwiches the next day).

But the usefulness of this technique goes well beyond these three recipes. Curry told me it can be used "across the board, across species" for any lean, tender cut of beef, pork, or lamb -- so long as you trust the thermometer and not time (so be sure you have a good one).

Because the method is so flexible (and searing can be hands-off), the recipe can also be halved, or scaled up exponentially. "I once cooked prime rib this way for 200 people," Curry wrote in Fine Cooking. "And there was only one problem: I didn’t have enough well-done pieces because even the ends of the roast were pink."

But everyone you're serving will appreciate medium rare, right?

Lynne Curry's Prime Rib with Mustard and Herb Butter

Adapted slightly from "Sear Genius" by Lynne Curry (Fine Cooking, December 2014)

Serves 8 to 10

For the Mustard and Herb Butter:

4 ounces (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 medium cloves garlic
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Prime Rib:

One 5- to 6-pound boneless beef rib roast, patted dry
Mustard and Herb Butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, if needed for searing

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • KariPK
  • doug
  • ljcreighton
  • CookOnTheFly
  • Jo Pomeroy
    Jo Pomeroy
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


KariPK April 6, 2015
I made a small 4.5 bone-in roast and it was just incredible. This was hands down the most perfect beef I have ever made in terms of doneness, tenderness and flavor. Can't wait to make this for a crowd!
doug January 14, 2015
Quite often I slice and sear each slice.
ljcreighton December 28, 2014
This worked perfectly for our 7 lb. boneless roast. Great flavor with the herb crust. What I loved about this method was that we could cook the sides in the oven while it rested before searing. Truly genius! Will use this method from now on. Thanks.
CookOnTheFly December 28, 2014
Instead of making the version above, I went to the Fine Cooking site and made "Beef Filet with Porcini and Roasted Shallot Sauce" instead - using this same method. It turned out AMAZING and the sauce is to die for. Yes, you must rely on a thermometer, and yes, you can get the ends a bit more well-done for those who like it that way. This recipe/method is a "keeper".
Jo P. December 27, 2014
My Christmas evening 9.25 pound prime rib was delicious following this recipe. I used a remote cooking thermometer with an alert function to bring the roast to medium rare. My roast was out of the oven for approximately an hour before it was finished off at high heat. It smelled fabulous almost from the minute it started cooking and it was cooked perfectly. My only issue is my own oven and I just used an oven thermometer to get it to the right temperature. This will be my go to recipe from now on. Thank you!
NancyK December 25, 2014
Should it BE covered with foil or the slow roasting?
Kristen M. December 26, 2014
Hi Nancy --no, it should be uncovered the whole time.
NancyK December 25, 2014
Should it covered with foil for the slow roasting?
Anna K. December 24, 2014
Made a bone-in roast using this recipe - it was fantastic! Relied on a thermometer rather than time to determine done-ness. I will use this technique in the future as it provided such a beautiful result.
GordonW December 18, 2014
this technique works beautifully for bone-in roasts as well. The slow cooking time lets the temperature really equalize.
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Thanks, Gordon.
NancyK December 18, 2014
If you do it "bone in" do you increase the cooking time?
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Don't rely on time -- have a good thermometer and go by temperature. The beauty of this technique is you can start early and it can hold for up to 2 hours, so you don't need to time it perfectly.
noons December 18, 2014
I have the same issue as Lisark. I was wondering if one cut the large roast in half could you just let one half cook a little longer and then sear both pieces simultaneously.
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Midnite B. December 18, 2014
Yum!! Must try. Have made Prime Rib and served the ends to the medium people and the center rare for all those who liked the moo.. And I will not serve a prime rib to someone if they want it well done. They can have a burger or a pork chop or a chicken breast.
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Way to take a stand, Midnite Baker.
Lisark December 18, 2014
As amazing as this method sounds, I question how to deal with different guests- some might want their meat rare, while some might want their meat medium. I get the impression that this method actually results in the entire roast being cooked fairly uniformly- which usually is a good thing, of course. Is that the case here and how do you deal with different guests' cooking preferences?
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Someone mentioned cutting the whole roast in two to have more end pieces for this reason, which sounds like a brilliant idea. There is a slight gradation -- the middle slices were a bit more rare for me, so people will have options. (If anyone is unhappy, you could sear their slice like a steak to get it to the right doneness for them -- but hopefully your guests will not be quite so needy!)
NancyK December 17, 2014
The method sounds great, but doesn't it become very difficult to carve without any bones?
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Only a bit! A sturdy fork helps.
Lynne C. December 17, 2014
Everything Kristen said is true. You can use this technique on bone-in cuts, too. Any tender cut suited to high-heat methods loves this treatment.
Ashley C. December 17, 2014
Do you think this will work with an eye round roast?!
Kristen M. December 18, 2014
Yep! Any lean, tender cut that's good for roasting.
Jo P. December 17, 2014
Just in time for my yearly internet search on how to cook the beast. Thank you!
Kristen M. December 17, 2014
My pleasure!
mrslarkin December 17, 2014
I love this method. I learned about the reverse sear from FudeHouse a while back, and use it for steaks. Perfection. Adding this to the Christmas collection. Thanks, Kristen.

P.S. This would go so well with some biscuits....
Kristen M. December 17, 2014
What *wouldn't* go well with some biscuits? p.s. Griddled the last 3 in butter today -- oh my stars.
AmyBolger December 17, 2014
The rub sounds divine, but I'm also wondering about the standing rib roast as I have already purchased a frozen one grass-fed one from Trader Joe's - which, by the way, is delish cooked exactly as directed on the package (from frozen!)
Kristen M. December 17, 2014
Amy, see my response to Rose below -- and so good to know about cooking from frozen! What's the method TJ's recommends?
Nancy F. December 17, 2014
I hope we get an answer to the bone-in question. Also, since we are making a larger standing rib roast, I hope we can find out cooking time based on weight (e.g. 15 minutes per pound).
Kristen M. December 17, 2014
Nancy, see my response to Rose below!