How to Grill Prime Rib

  • 01 of 10

    Grilling a Prime Rib

    Finished rib roast
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    Few things in life are better than a prime rib roast. This ultimate cut of beef is a holiday favorite and something wonderful, but also one of the most expensive foods you can buy. To treat this right and to get the most out of your investment requires the right cooking method. This means taking it to the grill to utilize the grill's great roasting capabilities and get extra flavor from a little smoke.

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  • 02 of 10

    What You Need

    Raging flames from charcoal barbecue grill.
    Kelly Sillaste / Getty Images

    Most full-sized grills can accommodate a three-bone rib roast (5 to 6 pounds), but a larger roast will take up a lot of space—and since this is an indirect cooking method, the grill area needs to be at least twice the size of the roast. Make sure to measure the space before you buy a roast. 

    In addition to the prime rib roast, you will need:

    This process is going to take about 15 to 20 minutes per pound depending on the level of doneness you are aiming for and your particular grill. Use the cooking time chart for prime rib to calculate the time you need. Knowing your grill and your fire is very important to this process, and be prepared to make adjustments to the cooking temperatures. Frequent testing of the internal temperature is also a good idea.

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  • 03 of 10

    Trimming a Rib Roast

    Trimming rib roast
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    You can ask your butcher to trim your roast for you however you want. Butchers will frequently remove the bones from the roast and then tie them back on (if you are using a bone-in roast, which is recommended). The advantage of this method is that seasonings can be put between the roast and the bones. Otherwise, the bones can be left in place and carved off later. 

    If you want to trim the roast yourself, the goal is to expose more of the meat so that seasonings and some smoke can reach it. Well-flavored fat is not as important as well-flavored meat. Generally, there is a heavy fat cap over the top of this roast and it can be peeled away easily. This will let you get to the meat with your flavors.

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  • 04 of 10

    Seasoning a Rib Roast

    Rib roast herb paste
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    The most vital ingredient here is salt—without a good dose of salt, the meat will not have much in the way of flavor. When thinking about how much seasonings to add to your roast, consider the mass of it and not the surface area. 

    The best starting place for seasoning a rib roast is olive oil. While there is a good amount of fat in this cut of meat, a coating of oil will help the surface brown and it will act to hold seasonings in place. An ideal method is to use a paste of oil, herbs, salt, and spice, like the herb-Dijon prime rib paste. The addition of the mustard adds a great depth of flavor.

    Whatever seasoning you choose, center it on the meat and not the fat, apply it thickly, and be gentle with the roast to keep it in place. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Grill Setup

    Grilling prime rib setup
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    When you put a prime rib in a roasting pan in the oven, there is a little more control over what happens to the drippings. On a gas or charcoal grill, you are going to need to capture the drippings, but also keep them clean enough to use.

    The secret to this is to make sure that the cooking grate that the roast is going to sit on is very, very clean. The grate will act like the rack in a roasting pan and needs to be free of debris before you start cooking.

    Underneath the grate, place a disposable aluminum pan to catch the drippings and fill it with water to prevent those drippings from burning. (Remember, this is indirect cooking so there will be no flame under the roast.) During the cooking time, you may need to add more water. It is better to have diluted drippings that can be boiled down later than burnt drippings that are useless.

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  • 06 of 10

    Turning the Rib Roast

    Prime rib turning
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    Grilling indirectly will require that the prime rib roast is turned periodically to ensure even cooking. Even if you are using a large grill and have the heat on either side of the roast, it will be difficult to cook the meat correctly without turning. If you are using a smaller grill and have the heat on only one side, then the roast might need to be turned more than once. This is why a frequent monitoring of the cooking temperature with a reliable meat thermometer is necessary. Test the temperature on either side of the roast to determine how evenly it is cooking and turn to accommodate. 

    While testing the temperature and moving the roast accordingly, take note of the level of the water in the drip pan. If it is getting low, you may need to add water. It is best to add boiling hot water so that you don't drop the cooking temperature significantly. 

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  • 07 of 10

    Temperature Check—Both Grill and Roast

    Rib roast temperature check
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    You want your prime rib roast to be cooked through the middle and nicely crusted on the surface, not burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. This means that as it grills you will need to make adjustments to the cooking temperature of the grill. If the meat is pale and grey on the outside while the center temperature is rising nicely, the grill temperature is too low. If the roast is heavily browned and crusty on the outside and cold in the middle, the grill temperature is too high. Adjust accordingly. 

    As you approach the cooking time when the prime rib roast should be done, begin testing the temperature in the middle of the roast. Medium rare is going to be a temperature of 135 F/55 C, but the temperature will continue to rise about 5 F/3 C while the roast rests after grilling is done—so if you want your prime rib medium rare, you need to remove it at 130 F/55 C. 

    If you are collecting drippings, you will need to remove the cooking grates and lift out the drip pan. This is best done with a pair of grilling gloves. 

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  • 08 of 10

    Resting the Roast

    Prime rib resting
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    Resting may seem like a step that can be skipped, but it is actually a vital part of the cooking meat. This rest time allows the meat to relax, the heat to even out, and the juices to distribute. 

    In general, resting can be done by placing the roast on a cutting board and covering it with aluminum foil. For a 2- to 4-bone rib roast, allow it to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Anything larger should rest for 15 to 20 minutes. You might want to place a kitchen towel over the aluminum foil while it rests to hold in more heat. 

    There will be a good amount of juices trapped in the foil wrapping after the resting time. You can pour these into the pan with the drippings from the grill for making gravy. These juices should be heated to boiling temperature. 

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  • 09 of 10

    Carving the Prime Rib

    Carving prime rib
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    Take a sharp, long knife and slide it along the bone keeping as much of the meat on the roast section as possible. This should be an easy cut since the bones are smooth. 

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  • 10 of 10

    The Final Cut

    Caring prime rib
    The Spruce / Sabrina S. Baksh

    With the roast section separated from the ribs, it is time to cut into slices. Not all rib roasts are the same and you need to decide whether to go for thick cuts where everyone gets a single slice or thin cuts where each person enjoys a few pieces of meat. It is important to keep in mind that thicker cuts will be tougher and thinner cuts will be drier. 

    Place the slices on a warmed platter and immediately wrap up those bones and any portion of the roast you are not serving right away.