For prime rib to be prime rib, it needs to be at least a 3-rib roast—anything smaller isn’t really prime rib, but just a rib roast. I normally roast a 5-rib roast, but a 4- or 3-rib roast will work just as well (and taste just as good).
As your butcher to cut you a roast from the “small end,” meaning cut from the loin end (not the chuck end). This will give you a larger eye of meat, less cap meat, and fewer pockets of fat—not only will your prime rib be more photogenic, but it'll be meatier, too.
27 hours 30 minutes
1 hour 15 minutes
one prime rib; a 4-rib roast will serve 8 to 10 people
to 4 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon per pound of beef)
Freshly ground black pepper
4-rib prime rib roast
In This Recipe
At least 1 day (and up to 3 days) in advance:
Combine salt and pepper in small bowl. You can also add other seasonings to this blend; I like dry mustard and rosemary. If adding other seasonings, use about 1 tablespoon of each.
Season the roast all over with salt and pepper, including the bones, making sure to get the seasoning in the spaces between the bones. Don't neglect the bone side!
Set the roast, rib side down, on baking sheet or tray, and refrigerate, uncovered for 1 to 3 days. This will allow the roast to dry, so you'll get a nice crust when it roasts.
Prepare to roast:
Remove the roast from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature about 3 hours before you plan to roast it.
Heat the oven to 425°F convection. (If you don't have convection, heat to 450°F). Be sure to let the oven preheat fully (this often means waiting longer than when the oven tells you it's ready). The only real test is to rely on an oven thermometer.
Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven, adjusting it so the middle of the roast will be as near to the middle of the oven as you can manage.
Arrange the roast in the pan. Choose a sturdy roasting pan that will hold the roast without crowding but without leaving too much empty space – which will cause the drippings to burn. The lower the sides of the pan, the better, but make sure it's sturdy—in other words, a rimmed baking sheet is NOT sturdy enough. If the sides are high, you will want a roasting rack so the sides of the pan don't shield the roast from the oven heat.
Slide the roast into the oven with the bone ends facing the oven door (this places the thicker side of the roast towards the back of the oven where the heat is the highest). Roast until you hear the meat begin to sizzle, 20 minutes—this is a sign that the outside is browning.
Without opening the oven door, lower the oven heat to 300°F convection (or 325°F non-convection). The lower temperature insures that the large roast will cook though evenly without overcooking the outer layer. Continue to roast; the time to start checking the internal temperature will depend on the size of the roast: For a 3- or 4-rib roast (about 8 pounds), start checking after about 45 minutes at the lower temperature. For 5-rib roast (10 to 12 pounds), start checking after 1 1/4 hours.
Once the internal temperature reaches about 95°F, expect it to rise 8° to 10° degrees for every 10 minutes more in the oven. Try to wait 10 to 15 minutes between checking the temperature of the roast, so you don't lose too much of the oven's heat.
Take the roast out when it reaches 110°F to 115°F for rare; for medium-rare, 120°F, and for medium, 125°F. (Because of the size of this roast, the internal temperature will rise as much as 10° to 15° as it rests).
Transfer the roast to a carving board (one with a trough to catch any drippings). Depending on the size of the roast, this can be a two-person job. Have one person hold the roasting pan (or rack) so when you lift the roast, it doesn't pick up the pan/rack. The best tools for lifting a roast are either: sturdy meat forks, those multi-prong roast lifters, or (my go-to) double thickness of kitchen towels that go directly to the laundry.
Let the roast rest—ideally uncovered—for 25 to 40 minutes. If the kitchen is cool or drafty, you can tent loosely with foil, but do not wrap tightly or you will cause the crust to steam and soften.
Molly Stevens lives, eats and writes in Northern Vermont. She is the author of two James Beard Award winning cookbooks, All About Roasting and All About Braising. When the spirit moves her, Molly travels around the country teaching cooking classes.