Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday "Prime" Rib Roast

Thinking of a big slab o' beef for Christmas? Want to do a rib roast, but you're afraid to for fear you'll screw it up? Don't feel like you're alone. It's actually quite simple - a matter of putting the roast in the oven and taking it out when it's done, but somehow that intimidates people, probably because they're concerned that they'll spend a big chunk of dough on a roast and that something will somehow go wrong. Fear not.Your first step is to get the right roast. Rib roasts are generally sold as "prime rib", but finding USDA Prime beef is gonna be difficult and you'll probably have to settle for USDA Choice. No worries, it's still going to be good. Get one rib for every two people unless you want lots of sandwiches - in which case you'll want a larger roast.

After that, it's a simple matter of following the instructions on the accompanying videos from Alton Brown. I'm shamelessly stealing from him because he's already done all my work for me and gone into his typical excruciating detail in the process. Yes, I know the instructions are bass-ackward from every recipe you've ever seen except perhaps in Cook's Illustrated. They're also foolproof. Just ignore all your cookbooks and you'll have a roast that looks like this one I cooked at my daughter's last Christmas. Beautifully rare to medium rare all the way through, with no well-done parts on the outside of the roast. WooHOO!

Just a few caveats. If you're fortunate enough to find dry-aged beef you can eliminate Alton's aging step. Here's a shameless plug for Wegmans if you have one near you - I've never seen so many dry-aged roasts in one place. This is also where I plug the finest beef you'll buy, which is expensive and more challenging to get than running down to the supermarket but worth every penny. Just call Bryan Flannery and order one. If you do it by Tuesday you can have it for Christmas because he'll overnight it to you and you'll still have a day for it to thaw. Tell him you read about him here. His phone number is on his website.

A second caveat is that you can eliminate the terra cotta pot. Its purpose is to stablize the heat in your oven but it's not really necessary. There will be some fluctuations as the oven cycles on and off, but I've done about a dozen rib roasts without the pot and they've all been perfect. Oh - - - one more piece of information. Your roast will take about 4 to 4 1/2 hours to cook no matter how large it is, because the diameter remains constant and it's just the length that changes. Add the resting time and the blasting time and you're up to somewhere around 5 hours. No matter what, though, get yourself a probe thermometer. There's a link under my favorites on the right-hand side of the page so you can get a Polder from Amazon and I'll make a few pennies.

If you're worried that dinner might get delayed, give yourself 6 hours start to finish and you should be fine. It takes a long time for a roast to cool down after cooking, so you can always hold it for a bit. Oh, and one more thing. There's no way a roast that weighs more than a couple of pounds will warm to room temperature in an hour, so pay no attention to that little instruction from Alton. Take it out of the fridge AT LEAST 3 hours before you plan to cook it.

Here are the two videos that make up the show Alton did on rib roasts. Make notes if you must, but watch them and follow the directions. You won't be sorry. Serve with a nice cabernet or, better yet, a Bordeaux with a few years of age on it. Or something with a lot of syrah in it, as I did last year.


  1. haven't been in for a while and am just catching up on what I'd missed Great way to do a roast. Am going to give this a go. I hope you don't mind but want to post this on my facebook so a few of my friends and family can see this. Let me know if you would prefer I don't. Cheers

  2. Hey, Mr. Bob,
    That's a little on the raw side, wouldn't you say? I'd be sending it back to the kitchen - sorry 'bout that!
    You like "blue" steaks, I betcha!

  3. Thanks for the fun "How to" on cooking a rib roast. Great stuff!