The prime (pun intended) main dish for our Christmas Eve gathering this year was a prime rib, rubbed with herbs and then slow-smoked on the grill for several hours before giving it a final “finish” at higher temperature. To top things off, this was my first prime rib, not just on my pellet cooker but ever. My goal was to achieve a nice medium-rare roast loaded with flavor that was both tender and juicy when served. Judging by the comments of our guests, it was a success.
- One 4-rib standing rib roast, bone-in (about 10 to 12 pounds)
- 18 to 20 garlic cloves, peeled and split in half lengthwise
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried rosemary leaves, coarsely crushed
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp coarse black pepper
- 1 tsp ground dried sage
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Start out the night before you plan on serving the roast. If your roast has more than about 1/2″ to 3/4″ of fat on the “cap,” trim it down to about 1/2″ thick, then tie if needed to hold things together. Next, using a sharp knife, make a series of “stab wounds” in the roast between the ties, about three rows total (one at 12-o-clock, one at 10-o-clock, and one at 2-o-clock). Be sure to get well below the fat layer, going about 1″ to 1-1/2″ into the meat. Insert two halves of a garlic clove, cut sides facing the meat, into each hole. Massage the roast to seal the holes back up over the garlic.
In a small prep bowl, combine all of the herbs and spices with the olive oil and mix well. Place the roast in a pan large enough to fit the whole thing, then rub all sides of it generously with mixture (making sure to get the bone side as well). Place it in the refrigerator and allow to site like this overnight.
The next day, about 30 to 45 minutes before you will start cooking, pull the roast from the fridge to allow it to warm to room temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the side of the roast to the very center (of the meat – not near the bone). Based on my method of cooking, it took just under 4 hours for the roast to cook, and then it needs to rest for another 20 or so minutes under foil after that. So plan your start time accordingly so that you are ready to carve the roast when you are actually ready to eat.
Heat the grill up to 500 degrees (or as hot as it will get). Place the roast, fat “cap” down, directly onto the cooking grate over the heat. Cook for 15 minutes like this, then turn the roast over so the bones are on the grate directly over the heat. Cook another 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 degrees indirect heat. If you are using a charcoal grill, move the roast to one side away from the coals, then remove coals as needed to get the heat where desired. Add smoking wood at this time as well, and as needed during the smoking process¹.
Smoke the roast for 2-1/2 hours, keeping the grill closed and maintaining the heat constant at 180 degrees indirect. After this time has passed, increase the heat to 350 degrees (still indirect heat). You may continue to add smoking wood if desired during this time, but it is not really necessary. Continue cooking at 350 degrees, checking every 15 minutes or so, until the meat thermometer reads between 130 and 135 degrees (about 45 minutes longer).
Immediately remove the roast from the grill and place in the large pan. Cover with aluminum foil and set on the counter to “rest” for about 20 minutes. During this time, the internal juices will reabsorb into the meat and the internal temperature will continue to rise another 5 or so degrees, yielding a perfect medium-rare center.
After it has rested, and you’ve got everything else ready to serve, place the roast on a cutting board and carve along the rib bones to separate the roast from them. Slice into roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick slices – you can also separate the outer portions from the center “eye” if desired before serving depending on the size you want each slice to be. Save the “heels” from either end of the roast for someone who is really special (or one of them – the cook should automatically earn the other one!). Serve with your salad, some roasted squash and brussels sprouts, or maybe some sautéed mushrooms and mashed cauliflower. Enjoy!