Prime rib is a very popular cut of meat to have around the holidays. Rightfully so, as it is one of the most tender cuts of beef available and sometimes referred to as the king of beef cuts. It is also usually one of the most expensive. But, this delectable option does not have to be reserved to only this time of year.
If you want to step up your smoking and outdoor cooking game and want a great piece of meat to share with family or friends, go for the prime rib. Below, we’ve put together some insider tips straight from the pros on how to smoke prime rib low and slow the right way.
If you follow these tips, it should help eliminate the worry of tackling this tender cut, resulting in a mouthwatering final product with that delicious smoky flavor.
To truly understand and master how to properly smoke any type of meat, it always helps to know exactly what it is or where it is cut from. So what is prime rib exactly?
You may hear the names used interchangeably but prime rib, rib roast, and standing rib roast are all the same thing. The prime rib cut is cut from the primal rib along the upper back of the steer. Making it one of the nine primal cuts of beef. The entire piece can weigh up to 30 pounds and is available boneless and bone-in. Though ribs six through 12 make up this entire rib section, a prime rib cut may contain anywhere between two and seven ribs.
A prime rib/rib roast will include the “cap” which is the outer, fat-marbled muscle (Spinalis Dorsi) as well as parts of the "eye" of the rib. That is why slices of a prime rib roast are known as Ribeye steaks.
So, now that you know the answer to “what is prime rib?”, here are the tips to follow to ensure you smoke it to a delicious finish. Let’s take a look:
Source: Double R Ranch
Taking the time to get good quality beef has a huge effect on the taste and tenderness you end up with. As you may know, beef is available in several different grades, as determined by the USDA. These grades go by the amount of fat marbling within the meat and will tell you the potential tenderness and juiciness you’ll be getting in that particular cut.
Your best choice is to go for USDA Prime, which is the top 8% of all US beef and will have the most amount of marbling throughout. Thus resulting in a deliciously juicy and tender final result. Keep in mind, just because this cut of beef is called Prime Rib doesn’t automatically mean it will be USDA Prime beef.
Your local butcher is going to be the best place to go to find USDA Prime cuts locally. You can also order great quality Prime beef online. If you cannot get or don’t want to splurge on Prime, another good option is upper two-thirds USDA Choice, which can be found in many supermarkets.
A Prime Rib cut can be purchased bone-in or boneless. When you have the choice and you’re going to smoke the meat, opt for bone-in. The bones don’t do anything for the flavor of the meat but play a huge role in insulation. With a higher thermal resistance, the bones will cause the areas of meat around them to cook slower than the rest of the roast, leaving those sections more juicy and extra tender.
To make it easier when it comes time for carving, you can have the butcher remove the bones from the raw cut and tie them back on. Or you can do this yourself if you bought the Prime Rib Roast at a supermarket.
Source: Meadow Creek
Before cooking your Prime Rib, one of the best things you can do is dry brine it with kosher salt. You want to liberally coat all sides with salt at least an hour or more before cooking and put it back in the fridge uncovered.
The salt will break down some of the meat’s proteins, not only helping enhance flavor but also helping the meat hold moisture and stay even more tender. When cooked, the meat’s proteins, natural sugars, and the salt combine with the moisture. This results in a delicious exterior crust.
You’ll want to let the robust flavor speak for itself so you don’t have to season the Prime Rib with much more than salt if you don’t want to. But, if you want to add a little more varied flavor, there are some good Prime Rib rubs available or you can even make your own homemade rub.
As mentioned above, the prime rib roast will come with a fat cap that runs over the top of the cut. It is often recommended that if you are roasting a Prime Rib to leave the fat cap on while cooking it to help prevent the meat from drying out.
But, because you are smoking it, you want to have as much of the actual meat exposed to the smoke to allow it to permeate throughout. So, trim off a good amount of that thick fat cap so that the remainder of it is ¼ inch thick. Keep in mind, when you are smoking at lower temperatures compared to roasting, you will have a lower chance of it drying out without a thick fat cap still on.
Source: Kitchen Encounters
The Prime Rib is naturally a very tender cut, even more so after you have let it dry brine and the connective tissues within the meat have loosened up. That is why it is important to break out the butcher’s twine. You want to tie the roast off between the bones with the twine. This will keep the eye of the meat from separating from the cap.
If you are wondering how long to smoke Prime Rib, with a high quality (and expensive) cut like this, the last thing you want to do is overcook it into a dried out chunk of chewy meat. That is why it is imperative to have a good instant-read meat thermometer on hand.
Each cut of meat is going to be different. So, you should always rely on cooking your Prime Rib to temperature versus relying on a “specified” cooking time. For example, cook until the internal temperature is between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare. Keep in mind that the meat will increase in temperature roughly 5 to 10 degrees while it rests. So medium-rare will end up being 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit after resting.
Don’t be overly eager to start carving your Prime Rib after it is done cooking. For best results, it is important to let it rest for roughly 20 to 30 minutes wrapped in Pink Butcher Paper or aluminum foil.
Letting it rest like this will lock in the moisture inside and keep it juicy and tender when it is ready to serve. You can even let it rest and then sear it over high heat to get that nice charred crust before carving and serving it.
Even if it’s not the holidays, any day is a good excuse to enjoy one of beef’s best cuts. If you follow the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to mastering how to smoke Prime Rib Roast, a delicious and juicy one at that. As you can see, proper preparation is a huge factor when it comes to smoking Prime Rib properly.
Make sure to check out our backyard BBQ class where you can learn step-by-step exactly how to smoke Texas-Style Prime Rib.
Are you planning on smoking Prime Rib during the upcoming holidays? Have you recently smoked Prime Rib for the first time? Let us know all about it below. We want to hear from you!
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