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Perfectly Smoked Prime Rib – Italian Garlic and Herb Crust

There is no better way to impress your guests than with a perfectly smoked prime rib roast.  Garlic and Italian herbs flavor the meat while it slowly smokes to tender, juicy perfection.  This standing rib roast is the ultimate main course for any holiday or special occasion.

A medium rare prime rib that has one slice cut off on a white plate with fresh herbs.

We serve beef roasts every Christmas and they are delicious.  But when I bought my husband a smoker several years ago that changed everything!  The smokey flavor that is infused into the meat takes this tender roast to a whole new level.  We made this beautiful rib roast to celebrate our anniversary and it was better than any restaurant dinner we could have had.

Smoking a prime rib may sound intimidating but it is easier than you think.  I am no grill master, but I have made succulent, smokey, and delicious prime rib on many occasions and so can you!  Follow this easy recipe for perfect, tender, and flavorful prime rib every time. You will also love my Smoked Turkey Legs!

If you are looking for a less expensive option to prime rib, but you still want that beefy flavor, try my Top Round Roast Beef or Beef Bottom Round Roast.

A cooked prime rib roast on a butcher block and fresh herbs.

What is prime rib?

The term “prime rib” is a little confusing.  Simply put, it is used to describe the cut rather than the grading of the meat.  You may also see it referred to as a standing rib roast.  

A whole prime rib roast consists of 7 ribs and they come from the primal rib section of the animal.  A cow has 13 ribs on each side, with the standing rib roast making up the 6th to the 12th ribs. 

A whole rib roast can be quite large and may weigh up to 25 lbs.  Most butchers will cut the roast in half. The “first cut” or the “small end” is the piece closest to the loin and is the most desirable cut.  It will have less fat and a larger single center muscle.  The “second” cut is the section closest to the chuck end and it will have more fat, but it is still a delicious and tender piece of meat.

What grade of beef is prime rib?

The USDA grades meat “in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.”  There are 3 grades of beef that you should be aware of:  

  • Prime grade: This is the most expensive cut and is generally sold in restaurants. It is comes from young, well-fed cattle and has a lot of marbling.  
  • Choice grade:  This is a great choice.  It is less expensive but still high quality, although it will have less marbling then the prime grade.  This is also more readily available at your local grocery store.
  • Select grade: The least expensive option and it has the least amount of marbling. 
A prime rib roast surrounded by fresh herbs, spices and a bottle of olive oil.

Ingredients you need 

Prime rib roast:  I like to use a bone-in rib roast but you can use a boneless prime rib and follow the same cooking process.  

Garlic cloves: Fresh, peeled and minced.

Herbs: Fresh chopped Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme and Sage.  Feel free to add basil, parsley, marjoram or any other fresh herbs that you like.

Kosher Salt, black pepper and olive oil.

Step by Step guide to make the perfect smoked prime rib

  1. Prepare the beef:
    • Pat the meat off with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.  If the beef has a large fat cap on it, I suggest removing all but about 1/4″ of it.  The fat cap helps to flavor the meat but you don’t want it to be so thick that your seasoning can’t penetrate it.  For a bone-in roast, have your butcher remove the ribs and tie it for you or you can do it yourself.  To remove the ribs, use a sharp knife to cut along the rib bones and remove the ribs all in one piece.  Then use kitchen twine to tie the roast back on to the ribs.  This will make it much easier to carve and serve the roast once done. Let the roast come to room temperature before cooking.  
  2. Prepare the smoker:
    • Preheat your smoker to 225°F degrees.  Select and add wood chunks that will impart the flavors you desire.  For this recipe I used hickory and apple wood. Place a drip pan under the rack that your roast will be sitting on.
  3. Make the garlic and herb wet rub:
    • Combine the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl.
  4. Smoke the prime rib:
    • Pat the garlic and herb rub on to the meat making sure to coat the entire roast.  Place the roast directly on the grates of the pre-heated smoker, place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the prime rib and close the lid.  For best results maintain the heat of your smoker between 225 °F and 250°F.  The low temperature will allow the meat to develop a nice crust and to take on the smoke flavor from your wood chips.  Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your roast and the temperature of your smoker, but it should take about 30-40 minutes per pound for rare to medium rare.
  5. Rest and serve:
    • Remove the finished roast from the smoker, tent it with aluminum foil and let the meat rest for 30 minutes before slicing it and .
A prime rib roast on a white plate with rosemary sprigs.

Cooking tips

  • This process can be used with any type of smoker.  We have a Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker, you can use a pellet smoker, electric smoker or even a grill set up with indirect heat.
  •  If money is no object then by all means splurge on a Prime grade of beef, but we have always used choice for this recipe and we have never been disappointed.
  • After the meat has reached your desired temperature on the smoker, you can reverse sear it on a hot grill for about 10 minutes.  This creates a crispy crust on the outside of the roast. In my opinion this step is optional. I did not do that when I made this roast and it was still delicious.  As you can see in the pictures, there is a beautiful crust on my meat just from the time it spent on the smoker.
  • Do Not skip the resting phase! This really does make a difference in the juiciness of your meat.  This is an expensive roast and I want you to truly enjoy every bite!
  • A sharp carving knife will make slicing this large cut of meat easy.

How much prime rib should I buy?

A good rule of thumb to follow when buying meat is to count on 1 pound per adult and about 1/2 pound per child.  If you are buying a bone-in roast you can figure 1 rib for every two people.  When buying a beef rib roast I always err on the side of extra.  Afterall, the best part of planning a dinner party is knowing you will have some leftover prime rib the next day!

A smoked prime rib on a white plate in front of a bottle of wine.

What temperature should I smoke the prime rib to?

Prime Rib is a very tender, but expensive piece of beef so you want to take care not to over cook it.  Ideally it should be cooked between rare and medium rare.  If you cook it beyond this point you have rendered out most of the fat in the marbling, therefore removing what makes it tender and provides such great flavor.  

The best way to make sure your roast is cooked to the perfect temperature is to use a meat thermometer.  I recommend a digital meat thermometer with an alarm and a probe that can remain in the meat during the cooking process.  You will want to take the meat off the heat once the internal temperature reaches 10°F below your desired doneness, tent it loosely and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before slicing it.  The internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise about 10f degrees during this resting phase. This phase is critical as it allows the juices to be redistributed into the meat, resulting in a tender and juicy prime rib. 

This is a general guide of internal meat temperatures to help you. 

DonenessInternal Temperature
Rare120°F – 125 °F
Medium-rare130°F- 135°F
Medium140°F – 145°F
Medium-well150°F – 155°F 
Well done160°F  +

What to serve with prime rib

A main dish as spectacular as this deserves some equally amazing sides. Whether it is a barbecue or a holiday dinner, I love to started with sweet and tangy Grilled Shrimp. Followed by simple but tasty oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes and then you can end the meal with a refreshing bowl of Strawberries and Cream.

I love to get your feedback so if you tried this Smoked Prime Rib recipe or any other recipes on this website, please leave me a comment below.  I hope you enjoy our recipes and look forward to hearing from you!

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Medium rare prime rib on a white plate with a glass of wine.

Smoked Prime Rib Roast

This is the best recipe for smoked prime rib. This easy to follow recipe results in savory, smokey, tender and juicy prime rib every time!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 5 servings
Calories 1505 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 5 lbs Prime Rib Roast bone in
  • cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary fresh, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Thyme fresh, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Sage fresh, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Oregano fresh, chopped
  • 4 tbsp Garlic minced
  • 3 tsp Kosher Salt
  • tsp Black Pepper

Instructions
 

  • Pat the meat off with paper towels to remove any excess moisture.  If the beef has a large fat cap on it, I suggest removing all but about 1/4" of it.  If your bone-in roast has not had the ribs removed and retied on, remove the ribs, use a sharp knife to cut along the rib bones and remove the ribs all in one piece.  Then use kitchen twine to tie the roast back on to the ribs.  Let the roast come to room temperature before cooking.  
  • Preheat your smoker to 225°F degrees.  Select and add wood chunks that will impart the flavors you desire.
  • Combine the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the herb mixture over the outside of the roast making sure to coat the entire roast.
  • Place a drip pan under the grate the roast will be set on. Place the roast directly on the grates of the pre-heated smoker, place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the prime rib and close the lid.  For best results maintain the heat of your smoker between 225 °F and 250°F. 
  • For medium rare, cook the prime rib to 120°F. Remove the beef from the smoker and tent it with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. The final temperature of the roast should be between 130-135°. Carve and serve. See the temperature cooking guide below.

Notes

Cooking tips

  • This process can be used with any type of smoker.  We have a Weber Smokey Mountain Charcoal Smoker, you can use a pellet smoker, electric smoker or even a grill set up with indirect heat.
  •  If money is no object then by all means splurge on a Prime grade of beef, but we have always used choice for this recipe and we have never been disappointed.
  • After the meat has reached your desired temperature on the smoker, you can reverse sear it on a hot grill for about 10 minutes.  This creates a crispy crust on the outside of the roast. In my opinion this step is optional. I did not do that when I made this roast and it was still delicious.  As you can see in the pictures there is a beautiful crust on my meat just from the time it spent on the smoker.
  • Do Not skip the resting phase! This really does make a difference in the juiciness of your meat.  This is an expensive roast and I want you to truly enjoy every bite!
  • A sharp carving knife will make slicing this large cut of meat easy.
Beef Internal Temperature Cooking Guide
 
Doneness Internal Temperature
Rare 120°F – 125 °F
Medium-rare 130°F- 135°F
Medium 140°F – 145°F
Medium-well 150°F – 155°F 
Well done 160°F  +

Nutrition

Serving: 5servingsCalories: 1505kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 62gFat: 135gSaturated Fat: 53gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 63gCholesterol: 274mgSodium: 1600mgPotassium: 1096mgFiber: 2gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 196IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 119mgIron: 8mg
Keyword Beef, Prime Rib, Herbs, Garlic, Smoked, grill, bbq, Father’s Day, Holidays
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