Friday, January 1, 2010

Prime Rib For Family Holiday Dinner

Like many others, I’m a big fan of prime rib for Christmas dinner and since taking up barbecuing, I’ve become a big fan of smoked prime rib (even though mine’s actually choice rather than prime). Since most of the family had other commitments for Christmas day, we chose Dec 30 as our family get-together-for-dinner day. I bought a whole boneless rib eye on sale a couple of months ago and stuck it in the freezer for this event. I accidentally got it out of the freezer to thaw on Dec 14 thinking it was a brisket, so it ended up being wet aged in the frig until Dec 27 at which point I unwrapped it (wanted to be sure it was ok), rinsed and put back in the frig uncovered to dry age for a few days.

Although I’ve cooked prime rib several times, I’d recently read several articles regarding how to cook them to the desired internal temperature while minimizing the thickness of well done meat around the outside. I normally would cook it around 350* until I got the internal temp I wanted and just accept whatever the crust and well done thickness turned out to be.
One of the articles I’ve read describes how to achieve very little well done while achieving a nice crust by cooking to nearly the desired internal temp at a low oven temp, around 200*, then cranking it up to the 500* range for a few minutes for crust development. That high temp is pretty hard to get in a smoker and I was afraid cooking at 200* would take too long so I decided to smoke at 225* to an internal temp of 120* then remove, tent, cover with a towel and rest until 30 minutes before mealtime. I would then direct heat cook it about 5 minutes per side on a hot grill to establish the crust. I used the grill because the oven was busy with pie and bread. I would have been better off to leave it on the pan and roast in the grill as the grease created lots of flair ups. It developed a great crust but it created a little more well done than I was looking for, but much less than normal - it was still medium rare most of the way through.

This is the roast right out of the frig.

And here it is ready for the smoker - I split it to get four end cuts. I like to use a rub I got from a professional cook that contains Lawry's Seasoning Salt, salt, garlic and onion powder, and dried parsley.

This is right off the smoker. Note that the rub is all still on the meat and there is no juice in the pan, so it's still all in the meat. I put in it the smoker at 250* and dropped the temp to 225*. I later dropped it to 205* as it was going to be done to soon otherwise. The internal temp when pulled was 120* and it was in the smoker 3 1/2 hours.

Here it is on the grill after flipping to the second side. I began getting too much flare up so I put it back on the pan and closed the lid to create an oven.

And this is the final temperature check before pulling. It was 126* at this point which is probably where it was going on to the grill where it only stayed about 10 minutes.

Here they are ready for carving.

This is after taking off a couple of slices. Note the well done portion is pretty thin and it's evenly done the rest of the way through. I believe the well done part would have been even thinner had I used the 500* oven rather than the grill. I like to cook them to the rare side of medium rare and if anyone wants their’s more done, I just lay it in the simmering skillet of au jus until I get the color they want – usually about 15 seconds per side. This is a neat trick as it sucks the color out of the meat without really cooking it much more or changing the texture. This is how restaurants can serve it to a wide range of doneness.

This is a typical plate headed for the table.

The table ready for some serious eating to happen.

Here’s a pic of my place setting. We had twice baked potato, salad of romain and Chez Johns blue cheese dressing, homemade rolls, and a V. Sattui Cabernet Link. My wife, who’s not a big ribeye fan, said it was delicious and one son said it was the best he’s ever had. I also thought it was outstanding.

Next time I will add the crust in a hot oven as recommended in the article verses using the grill as I think it will make it more uniform. Also, I may use less rub as virtually none of it got washed off by the cooking juices at the low temperature in the smoker.

I also smoked a turkey breast rubbed with Wolfe Citrus for use later on Kentucky Hot Browns and such. Here’s a pic prior to the smoker – I was too busy to get an exit pic, but I always cook them skin side down to allow the juices and flavors from the cavity to move down into the meat.

After dinner the grandkids and dad’s participated in a spirited game of wii miniature golf. It'd have to say it was a great get together and this is definitely the way I'll cook prime rib in the future, whether on the smoker or in the oven.

Happy New Year and let's watch a little football. Go eers (I'm a WVU grad).



  1. Holy cow the prime rib looks absolutely stunning! Love it.

    Happy New Year to you!

  2. Mmmmmm Hot Browns!!!! Love those.

    I think you got it just about perfect on the prime rib, medium rare without much well done at all.


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