Smoked Prime Rib

  • By: Jack Mancuso

Smoked Prime Rib

Smoked prime rib is succulent, thanks to fantastic marbling. This steak cut comes from the cow's rib, so it hasn’t been overworked. This means tremendous tenderness.

Whole prime ribs are big guys. You’ll want about a dozen people to consume it. The average weight is a hefty 12-16 lbs. When serving, offer two ribs per person.

While you might only think of smoked prime rib as a holiday serving, it doesn’t have to be. Ask your butcher to cut the prime rib into a size suitable for your family.

Tips: Shopping for Prime Rib

Besides the size of prime rib you want, there are other tips for shopping for prime rib.

  1. Look for USDA Prime Grade
  2. Examine the meat's color and marbling. It should be bright red with lots of little white veins throughout. 
  3. With or without bone? A bone-in prime rib often has a richer flavor. Boneless is much easier to carve.
  4. Check the sell-by date on the package. Make sure it’s thoroughly sealed and has no odd odors.

Steps Before Smoking

Before you can smoke a prime rib, you must take care of a few tasks. Turn the meat over so you can see the bones. There will be a silver membrane over them. That needs to go. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the membrane, then pull it off.

Cut in between each bone to make a little pocket (do not go all the way through). This is a great way to get your barbecue rub into the prime rib. Speaking of which…

Using Rub

I suggest either making your own rub or finding a commercial blend you like. I use:

If you’re thinking of tinkering with your own, look to spices like garlic powder, onion powder, citrus zest, oregano, basil, paprika, and thyme.

Gettin’ to the Grill

  1. Preheat the smoker to 250F
  2. Once you’ve treated the meat with rub, put in a meat thermometer and leave it over indirect heat with the fat side up. 
  3. Smoke for two hours (100F).
  4. Increase the heat to 400F to create a great crust
  5. When the meat thermometer reads 135F it’s medium rare
  6. Rest the meat (be patient, it’s only 10 minutes)
  7. Serve

PitMaster’s Memo: Ribeye vs Prime Rib

Both these cuts of meat have rich flavors and textures. Not too amazing. They are sort of kissing cousins, coming from the same part of the cow. 

Of the two, Prime Rib takes longer to cook. You want to trust the low and slow mantra to coax a better flavor profile. Many grillers go heavy on the seasonings for Prime rib. 

Rib eye is a fancier meat, being the best part of the ribs. Ribeye is smaller, so you can cook it for an intimate gathering. It takes a beautiful sear in cast iron, just toss in butter and cook three minutes per side.


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Malt Scotch Whisky

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