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Smoked Prime Rib Roast with a reverse sear at the end is easy to make and one of the most delicious ways to enjoy prime rib. This recipe will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know to achieve flawless results, from selecting the roast, to getting the timing perfect, and ensuring you please everyone by providing servings that range from rare to medium to more well done.

If you’ve been wondering how to cook a prime rib roast, you can make my popular oven roasted prime rib or this smoked version.

smoked prime rib
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Why this recipe is so great:

  • Something for everyone: With any prime rib roast, the center will be cooked less than the ends. When feeding a crowd, you will inevitably have some people who prefer their meat to be rare and others will prefer it to be more well done. The best part about smoking the prime rib is that even though the ends are more well done, they are full of that smoky flavor that makes this meal so delicious!
  • Perfect for holidays: You can easily order a smaller prime rib roast to feed your family for any kind of special occasion. But, if you’re cooking a grand holiday feast for a crowd, you can smoke an entire rib roast for the same amount of effort.
  • Makes amazing leftovers: Chances are, you might not end up with any leftovers. But if you do, leftover prime rib is fantastic when served on a steak salad or in a prime rib sandwich.
sliced smoked prime rib

Everything you need to know about Prime Rib:

If you’ve never made a prime rib roast before, never fear. It can be intimidating to buy such an expensive cut of meat, but with these instructions, it will turn out perfect. Here is everything you need to know about this delicious cut of beef.

What is prime rib?

A prime rib roast, also known as a standing rib roast, is cut from the back of the upper rib section. A full roast has either six or seven ribs. Individual Rib Eye steaks are cut from a prime rib roast.

It is an exquisite cut of meat that is incredibly tender and marbled with just the right amount of fat that melts away when properly cooked.

How much prime rib per person?

There are two ways to determine how much prime rib to buy.

First, a good rule of thumb is to know that each rib will serve about two people. The roast in these photos only had two ribs and it was perfect for my family of four with some leftovers. So, a 7 rib prime rib roast could serve about 14 hungry adults.

The second rule of thumb is to plan on about 1 pound per person for a boneless roast or 1.25 pounds per person if cooking a bone-in prime rib roast.

Bone-in or boneless:

Unlike cuts of meat that are braised in liquid like a chuck roast or a pork shoulder, the bones in a prime rib roast are not needed for flavor. They do serve another purpose, though. The rib bones serve as a thermal barrier and slow the cooking process down, thus resulting in a more flavorful and tender roast.

The rib meat is also insanely delicious. You may just choose to keep them for yourself and only serve your guests the sliced prime rib!

If your prime rib came with bones, they will either be attached or the butcher will have cut them away from the roast but secured with kitchen twine. If the ribs are still attached, you have two choices: cut them away and secure them with kitchen twine before cooking or cut them after they have cooked.

prime rib roast cut from butcher

Which end of the prime rib roast do you choose?

Did you know that when you buy a smaller roast from a knowledgeable experienced butcher, you can actually choose whether it is from the large end or small end? The large end is from the shoulder side and the small end is closer to the loin.

If given the choice, my recommendation is to go with the large end. The meat is more tender and can actually handle the heat better during the cooking process. You won’t be missing out with the small end, however, because it tends to be more marbled with fat, therefore more flavorful.

Where to buy a prime rib roast:

Around the holidays, stores like Costco have full sized prime rib roasts. These are a great option if you are feeding a crowd.

If you are wanting to make a smaller prime rib, you will need to get one from the meat counter at your grocery store or a local butcher.

Either way, plan on spending a lot of money, but I would argue it is worth every penny.

Prime rib cooking time:

Planning is key when making a prime rib roast. You will need to account for several time consuming steps in the recipe.

  • Allow 1-8 hours for the salted roast to be exposed to the open air in the refrigerator.
  • 30 minutes per pound is a good estimate for how long it takes to smoke the roast. This time can vary wildly depending on the starting internal temperature of the roast, the ambient air temperature around your smoker grill, and how consistent the temperature remains inside the grill.
  • Allow 30 minutes for initial rest after smoking and before reverse sear.
  • 20-30 minutes will be needed for the final sear.
  • A final 10-15 minutes is needed for one last rest.

Prime rib temperature:

Keep in mind that the temperature will slightly rise as the roast rests. With prime rib roast, you will want the temperature probe in the center of the roast. The center will present as the rarest and the ends will be the most cooked.

DonenessColorTemperature
RareCool red center120-130°F
Medium RareWarm red center130-135°F
MediumWarm pink center135-145°F
Medium WellSlightly pink center145-155°F
Well DoneNo pink155°F
sliced smoked prime rib roast

Ingredients needed:

Exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below, but here is a summary.

  • Prime rib roast: Size depends on how many people you are serving. This recipe was made with a 5.3 pound, two-rib, bone-in roast.
  • Kosher salt: Salting the juicy and marbled prime rib roast prior to cooking helps the proteins retain their natural juices. Then, while it cures in the refrigerator, the salt dissolves into the juices creating a thin brine that gets absorbed by the meat.
  • Compound butter: Use a high quality unsalted butter along with fresh herbs and garlic.
ingredients to make smoked prime rib

How to make compound butter:

This simple recipe is perfect for prime rib roast, but is also wonderful when making filet mignon, T-bone, or ribeye steaks.

  1. Process herbs and garlic: Remove woody stems from rosemary and thyme and add them to a food processor along with cloves of fresh garlic. Process until finely chopped.
  2. Add butter: Add high quality softened unsalted butter to the food processor and blend until smooth.

Pro tip: Make more than you need and store the excess in the refrigerator. Then, spread on hot bread, add to pan when making eggs, cook steaks with it, etc.

How to make smoked prime rib:

This same process will work for any size prime rib roast. Simply adjust quantities and times to scale.

Step 1: Salt the roast

  1. Trim: When smoking a prime rib roast, you want the fat cap to be about 1/4 inch thick. Trim away excess fat, if needed.
  2. Salt: The amount of salt and where you put it matters. Too much salt can ruin the roast and too little can hurt the flavor. One tablespoon of kosher salt was the perfect amount for this 5-pound roast. Most of it should go on top of the fat cap with the remain amount on the sides and bottom.
  3. Chill: Refrigerate the roast uncovered for 1-8 hours. The exposure to air allows the surface to dry a bit, thus creating a wonderfully browned exterior and locking the juices in. The result is a more tender, juicy, and flavorful roast.

Step 2: Smoke the roast

  1. Coat with compound butter: Cover the top and sides of the roast with a thin layer of the butter.
  2. Smoke prime rib roast: Preheat grill to 225-250°F. Either set the roast directly on the grate or place on a rack inside a pan if you want to catch the drippings. Monitor the roast and smoker temperature throughout the entire process. Smoke until the internal temperature of the roast hits 110°F.

Step 3: Rest

Remove the roast from the grill to allow it to rest.

  1. Wrap or cover: Loosely tent with foil or wrap in peach butcher paper (my preferred method). Be sure to leave the temperature probe in place.
  2. Collect drippings: If you used a pan to collect the drippings to make Au Jus, you can make that now while the meat is resting.
  3. Heat grill: While the prime rib is resting, increase the heat on the grill to the highest set point (400-450°F).

resting smoked prime rib in butcher paper

Step 4: Reverse sear

The thing that really takes this recipe over the top is the reverse sear at the end. This steps really browns the outside of the roast and slightly increases the internal temperature in the center. The result is a perfectly cooked and insanely flavorful roast.

  1. Place on the grill: Carefully place the roast directly on the grill and cook just until the desired internal temperature has been reached. This value will be about five degrees below your preferred doneness.
  2. Final rest: Although you’ve already allowed the roast to rest, I prefer to allow it one last rest after the reverse sear before slicing.
smoked prime rib after reverse sear

Recipe tips for perfect results:

  • Salting the roast: Be sure to salt the roast on a cutting board or butcher paper. That way you can press the roast into any salt that fell off. Do not salt over the rack so that excess salt falls into the roasting pan – this would create overly salty drippings.
  • Use a rack and pan: The roast can be cooked directly on the grill, but if you want to catch the drippings you will need to use a rack and a pan.
  • Trust a quality meat thermometer: You simply cannot make a prime rib roast without a good thermometer. I highly recommend using Thermoworks Smoke Remote BBQ Alarm Thermometer. I use one probe for the center of the meat and one probe to monitor the temperature inside my Traeger grill. You can set high and low alarms for both probes that transmit wirelessly to your receiver. I love that it has magnets on the back so it sticks right to the BBQ.
  • Maintain steady heat in smoker: When I set my Traeger grill to 225°F, the temperature can swing anywhere from 200-300°F. Since I monitor the temperature of the grill with my thermometer, I will lift the lid when it alarms that it is too hot. That is usually all that is needed to bring the temperature back down to my desired set point.
  • Serving suggestions: Be sure to make Prime Rib Au Jus and Horseradish Sauce for Prime Rib. This recipe needs nothing more than some delicious mashed potatoes and some sautéed spinach on the side.
sliced prime rib with au jus and horseradish sauce

How to reheat Prime Rib:

Since you cooked the prime rib perfectly, reheating can be tricky. If you happen to have leftover prime rib, here are some tips on the best way to enjoy it.

  • Eat it cold. Yep. Eat it cold. It’s still delicious. You can set it on a green salad or make a leftover prime rib sandwich.
  • Warm it in Au Jus: Place any leftover Au Jus in a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Once hot, reduce the heat to low. Add the sliced leftover prime rib just until it is warmed. Transfer to a plate and enjoy!
  • Wrap in butcher paper and reheat in oven: Place leftover prime rib in peach butcher paper and reheat at a low temperature in the oven. Again, heat only until warm. The paper should help prevent it from drying out.

Whatever you do, please do not try to reheat it in the microwave.

If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!

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Smoked Prime Rib Roast

Prep30 minutes
Cook3 hours
Salting time and Resting time1 hour 45 minutes
Total5 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Smoked Prime Rib Roast with a reverse sear at the end is easy to make and one of the most delicious ways to enjoy prime rib.

Ingredients 

Prime rib:

  • 5 pound prime rib roast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Compound butter:

  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary stems removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
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Instructions 

  • Trim and prepare roast (if needed): If roast came with a thick fat cap, trim fat cap so that it is about 1/4-inch thick. If prime rib roast has bones, you may choose to cut them away from the roast and secure them back into place with kitchen twine. Otherwise, bones can remain intact and be sliced away after the roast has finished cooking. If roast is wet, pat dry with paper towels.
    prime rib roast cut from butcher
  • Salt roast: At least 1-8 hours before smoking prime rib roast, cover the roast with kosher salt and place, uncovered, in the refrigerator.
    salted prime rib roast prior to smoking
  • Make compound butter: Place herbs and garlic in a food processor and blend well. Add softened butter and blend until mixture is uniform.
    compound butter in food processor
  • Prepare grill and smoke: Preheat smoker grill to 225-250°F. Coat top and sides of roast with compound butter. Insert meat thermometer into center of roast. Place roast on rack over baking sheet if saving drippings, otherwise plan on placing roast directly on grill.
    prime rib in smoker with thermometer
  • Smoke prime rib: Place prepared prime rib roast on center of grill. Smoke until internal temperature reaches 110°F. This may take around 30 minutes per pound, but time can vary dramatically depending on starting temperature of roast and consistency of grill temperature.
    smoked prime rib roast in traeger
  • Rest: Once the roast reaches 110°F, remove the roast from the grill but leave the thermometer in place. Rest the roast by wrapping in peach butcher paper; otherwise, loosely tent with foil. The temperature will rise 5-8°F during 30min rest period. As soon as the roast is removed from the grill, increase heat to the highest set point, about 400-450°F. At this time you may use drippings for other use.
    resting smoked prime rib in butcher paper
  • Reverse sear: After a 30-minute rest, remove the roast from the foil or the butcher paper and place directly back on the hot grill. Cook until the roast reaches a temperature that is about 5°F below your ideal temperature at the center of the roast (recommended temperature to remove from the grill: 125°F). Keep in mind that the pieces on the end of the roast will be more done. Final temperature ranges: rare: 120-130°F, medium rare: 130-135°F, medium: 135-145°F, medium well 145-155°F, well done: 155°F. Allow roast to rest for an additional 10-15 minutes before slicing.
    smoked prime rib after reverse sear
  • Final rest: Allow roast to rest for an additional 10-15 minutes before slicing. Serve with horseradish cream sauce and Au Jus.

Notes

  • Nutritional information takes into account the total weight of an uncooked rib roast (with bones) and the full amount of compound butter. Because fat and butter melt away during the cooking process, actual nutritional information will likely be smaller than what is calculated.

Nutrition

Calories: 1271kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 52g, Fat: 116g, Saturated Fat: 52g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 48g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 269mg, Sodium: 1334mg, Potassium: 871mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 595IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

Hi! I’m Krissy.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you're in the right place! Stick around... I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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9 Comments

  1. I am confused you have a title that says it’s smoked but there is no mention of what wood you used for smoking. Is it just because you used your Traeger smoker grill? Looks like delicious recipe and am going to try it.

    1. Yes, I used my Traeger and the type of wood is just a matter of preference. I almost always cook with a combination of cherry and hickory.

  2. Planning to make this recipe with two different roasts from two different sources so it should be interesting. I’m curious as to why you have such a range of time for refrigeration salt brine? I would think a large cut of meat like this would benefit from as much time as you can in the fridge… Do you think you could go too long with the brine? Say 24 hours

    1. I definitely think you could go 24hrs. I was just basing it off of how I made the roast and it turned out perfect.

  3. 5 stars
    I was lucky enough to enjoy this at a friend’s house. Let me tell you, this prime rib was tender, juicy and super flavorful! And that compound butter. So delicious. I asked for the recipe, as I’m looking forward to making this for Christmas.

  4. 5 stars
    This Prime Rib recipe sounds fantastic, and I am betting my family would love it. I have almost everything for it, so I think I will be making this recipe this week. Thanks for the great tips and instructions. Happy Holidays!