Why It Works
- A low and slow start delivers perfectly evenly cooked medium-rare doneness all the way from edge to center.
- Blasting the prime rib with heat just before serving gives you a crackling-crisp, browned crust.
Prime rib is and perhaps always will be the king of holiday roasts. There is nothing so primal, so celebratory, so downright majestic as a hunk of well-marbled beef, served medium rare on the bone, with a crackling, well-browned exterior.
If you've been following The Food Lab since the beginning, this won't be the first time you've heard about prime rib. Heck, I've been talking about how to reverse-sear a prime rib to maximize the tender, medium-rare interior since the dawn of The Food Lab, way back in 2009.
It's a dish that looms large in my family legend. My mother requests it at Christmas each year. I've even got a dedicated prime rib–aging fridge in my shed. Point is, I know a thing or two about beef and regularly test and retest my techniques.
Here's the good news: Despite years of intervening testing, my recommendations on how to cook the perfect prime rib have not significantly changed.
Here's the better news: I've written a step-by-step guide, which you can find below, that you can use to guarantee that your holiday centerpiece comes out perfect.
Step 1: Brown Shins or Oxtails
To make a rich red wine jus to serve with our prime rib, we start by browning three pounds of oxtails, beef shin, soup bones, or a mixture of any or all of those in a hot Dutch oven with a little bit of canola oil. Deep color is what you're going for here—it's all going to add flavor to the sauce in the end.
Step 2: Brown Mirepoix
After you brown and set aside the bones and meat, in go a large carrot, a couple of stalks of celery, and a large onion, all roughly chopped and cooked until lightly browned.
Step 3: Add Wine
A full bottle of wine goes into the pot. The best wine for a sauce like this is a dry red. I typically cook with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, a relatively inexpensive Italian DOP red that is also great paired with food.
Step 4: Add Aromatics and Reduce
Bay leaves, parsley, and thyme round out the aromatics. Once they're added, bring the pot to a simmer and cook down the wine until it's reduced by about half. (Check here for some science on why you should reduce your wine before adding your other liquids.)
Step 5: Add Stock
In goes a full quart of chicken stock. If you have good homemade stock, that's the best option. If not, a high-quality store-bought low-sodium stock will do. I use Swanson or Kirkland organic if I need to go with store-bought. Dissolving a couple of packets of gelatin on the surface of the stock before adding it to the pot will improve the finished texture of the sauce if you're using store-bought.
Step 6: Season Prime Rib
Generously season a bone-in standing rib roast (a.k.a. prime rib) with plenty of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You want to get it on all sides.
Step 7: Prepare the Roasting Pan
Place the seared bones/oxtails/shins in the bottom of a roasting pan. (There's no need for an expensive one—I explain why you don't need an expensive roasting pan here.) Then pour all of the liquid on top of them, along with the vegetables. Set a V-rack directly on top of the vegetables and liquid.
Step 8: Place Beef in Pan
Place the beef in the roasting pan with the bone facing down and the fat cap facing up.
Step 9: Roast
Place the pan in an oven set to 250°F (120°C). Slow roasting at a very low temperature is the key to meat that is perfectly evenly cooked from edge to edge, with a very tender interior texture.
Step 10: Use a Thermometer!
At this low temperature, the average prime rib roast will take four to five hours to reach medium rare (130°F (54°F) internal temperature). The only way to tell when a prime rib is done is to use a thermometer. A leave-in probe is a good early warning system (set it for about five degrees below your target final temperature), but you should always use an accurate instant-read thermometer and test for final doneness in multiple locations to make sure there aren't any especially cool spots hiding out.
Step 11: Rest the Meat
Tent the roast lightly with aluminum foil (it may still appear quite pale on the exterior at this point—that's okay), then transfer the oxtails and/or shins to a medium saucepan.
Step 12: Strain the Liquid and Finish the Jus
Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into the saucepan. Simmer the shins/oxtails in the jus on the stovetop until the meat is tender enough to easily shred off the bones. This should take about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the meat and bones from the pot (that shredded meat makes for a great appetizer or side dish when spread onto toast), season the jus to taste with salt and pepper, and whisk in four tablespoons of butter off-heat.
Step 13: Brown the Beef
When you're about ten minutes away from serving, return the beef to the cleaned-out roasting pan and blast it in an oven set at the highest possible temperature (that's 500 to 550°F (260-290°C) for most home ovens—use convection if you've got it) until the exterior is browned and crisp. This should take between six and 10 minutes. Once browned, the beef is ready to carve and serve.
Step 14: Remove Bones
To carve the beef, start by removing the bones with a sharp knife, lifting the beef with one hand and following the contours of the bones with your knife.
With the bones removed, the beef should be ready to slice.
Step 15: Slice and Serve
Slice the beef thinly and serve it with the jus. I like to sprinkle each slice with a little coarse sea salt to ensure that it's seasoned throughout.
1 tablespoon (15ml) vegetable oil
2 pounds (900g) beef shins or oxtail
1 pound (450g) beef or veal soup bones
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 (750ml) bottle dry red wine
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 parsley stems
1 quart (1L) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 standing rib roast (prime rib), 3 to 12 pounds (1.3 to 5.4kg; see notes)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (58g) unsalted butter
Adjust oven rack to lower position and preheat oven to 250°F (120°C). Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until lightly smoking. Add beef shins or oxtail and soup bones. Cook, flipping and stirring pieces occasionally, until well browned on all surfaces, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer beef to a large plate and set aside.
Add carrot, celery, and onion to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to lightly brown, about 8 minutes. Add wine, bay leaves, thyme, and parsley and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, another 10 minutes.
Arrange beef shins/oxtail and bones in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Pour entire contents of Dutch oven on top of bones and spread vegetables around into an even layer. Place a V-rack on top, arranging meat and vegetables so that rack rests on bottom of pan.
Season rib roast generously with salt and pepper on all sides and place on rack with fat cap facing up. Place in oven and cook until center of roast registers 125°F (52°C) on an instant-read thermometer for medium-rare or 135°F (57°C) for medium, 4 to 5 hours.
Remove roast from oven, transfer to a large plate, and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Place in a warm spot in the kitchen and allow to rest while you finish the jus. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to highest possible setting, 500 to 550°F (260 to 290°C).
Using tongs, remove shins/oxtail from roasting pan and transfer to a medium saucepan. Pour remaining contents of pan through a fine-mesh strainer into saucepan. Discard strained vegetables and bones. (Reserve marrow, if you like, for spreading on bread or mixing back into jus.)
Using a ladle, skim excess fat off top of liquid and discard. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until shins/oxtail are completely tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer shins/oxtail to a serving plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Season jus to taste with salt and pepper (you may not need any salt). Stir in butter off heat. Keep warm.
Wipe out roasting pan and replace V-rack. Remove foil from prime rib and place on top of rack with fat cap facing up. Ten minutes before guests are ready to be served, place roast back in hot oven and cook until well browned and crisp on the exterior, 6 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, carve, and serve immediately, serving shin/oxtail meat on the side and passing hot jus around the table.
This recipe works for prime rib roasts of any size from two to six ribs. Plan on one pound of bone-in roast per guest. (Each rib adds one and a half to two pounds to the roast.) For best results, use a dry-aged prime-grade or grass-fed roast. Cooking time is identical regardless of the size of the roast.
To improve the crust, allow it to air-dry, uncovered, on a rack in the refrigerator overnight before roasting. Seasoning with salt up to a day in advance will help the seasoning penetrate the meat more deeply.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 3 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 69g||89%|
|Saturated Fat 31g||154%|
|Total Carbohydrate 1g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||6%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|