Prime Rib Secrets

Pick the best beef roast for your prime rib

Prime Rib Roast
TheDeliciousLife/Flickr

This is one of the most expensive cuts of beef you can buy. It is also the stuff of legend. The prime rib or standing rib roast is the perfect roast for any special occasion. People stand in line for this cut of beef and it's always worth the wait. Always, that is if you know a few secrets to picking and preparing the perfect prime rib.

Grade: The grade is going to play a big role in the quality of the meat.

Now technically a prime rib is prime grade and anything else is referred to as a standing rib roast. These days, however, prime rib is a more general name and refers to the cut not necessarily the quality. Of course, prime grade is very expensive and hard to get so look for a choice or select grade. Ask the butcher if you have a question. More important than all that, be a picky shopper. Look, it's your money. Choose a rib roast that has a bright color with milky white fat. Avoid dull colored meat and yellow fat. Also, look for even fat distribution and a good layer of fat around the ends. This isn't the time to look for the leaner cuts.

The Small End: A full rib roast can be up to seven bones and if this is what you are after, I am proud of you. If you are not, however, and are doing a smaller roast, then I recommend asking your butcher to cut your roast from the small end. The small end is closer to the loin and the large end is closer to the chuck.

This means that generally, the small end is more tender and more desired. Now that you know, you can be one of the smart people, getting a better roast.

Trim: This is when you really want an experienced butcher. The perfect prime rib needs a very professional touch because any professional will know not to touch it.

The less trimming the better. You want all the bone and fat right where it is. Unless something is hanging off you don’t want to touch this roast any more than you have to. So no trimming.

Size does matter. It might seem backward but larger roasts are actually easier to cook. Small roasts are less forgiving. Think about it this way. A small roast can go from perfect to ruined in a few minutes, but a larger roast will give you a bigger window of opportunity. As long as you can fit your roast where you are going to cook it (i.e. roasting pan, grill, smoker) you can go as big as you want. Smaller might seem easier, but it really isn't. I don’t recommend a rib roast under three bones.

Age: Aging beef is something of a lost art. Most markets want their inventory to move quickly and there are some risks involved with aging meat. If you have a butcher who ages meat then it is definitely worth the expense. If you are very brave and willing to risk everything then you can go ahead and do it yourself.

Aging meat concentrates flavor and improves the tenderness. It also takes as much as three weeks. Because the meat is exposed to bacterial growth there is always the chance that you might end up with a toxic mutant in the refrigerator, but if you've tried aged beef you'll never be satisfied with off the shelf meat again.

Rest: This is the biggest secret to the perfect prime rib. In fact, it is the secret for most all large cuts of meat. When the roast is nearly at the perfect temperature (as your trusty meat thermometer told you), it's time for it to rest. Remove the roast from the heat, cover, and let sit for about 15 minutes. This allows the meat to relax and tenderize. As the meat relaxes the juices flow back through the meat improving its flavor. I can't stress this enough. Take the roast out of the oven, put it on your carving board, cover, and set the timer. Fifteen minutes without a cut, a peek, or a prod. This will give you a great roast, so be patient.