The Right Timing When Grilling or Smoking Prime Rib

Prime rib
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We are all familiar with cooking a prime rib in the oven, but one of the best things you can put on the grill or in the smoker is a prime rib roast. Of course, it is vital that the timing is perfect, and to get that you need to know how much your roast weighs, be able to hold a consistent temperature in the grill or smoker, and you need to have a good meat thermometer.

Grilling a Prime Rib

For a bit of smoky flavor and crunchy crust, nothing beats putting a cut of meat on the grill and prime rib is no exception.

Since you will use an indirect cooking method, however, you will need a lot of surface area—about twice the size of your roast—so it is important you measure before buying the meat or committing to grilling. As a general guide, most large grills will fit a five- to six-pound roast.

When grilling a prime rib roast, the grill's temperature should be around 350 F/175 C. You will need to trim the fat and season the meat before placing on the grill, as well as turn it often for even cooking. You should also place a pan underneath the grates to catch the drippings from the meat. Don't forget to let the prime rib roast rest before carving!

Smoking a Prime Rib

Whether you have a smoker or use your charcoal grill, smoking beef adds delicious flavor and creates a tender meat. Similar to grilling, you need to make sure your smoker or grill can fit the size of the prime rib roast—you need to have two inches on either side of the roast to allow the heat and smoke to circulate.

The smoker or grill should be heated to around 250 F/120 C, and you will want to trim some fat from the roast to allow the smokey flavors to penetrate the meat. Season it as you wish, and get ready for a long, slow cooking time. 

Cooking Times

This chart should do the trick when determining how long to grill or smoke your roast.

Please be aware, though, that equipment and environmental factors may alter these times so watch the temperature closely.

Internal TemperatureSmokingGrilling/Roasting
Rare: 125 F/50 C20 minutes per pound15 minutes per pound
Medium Rare: 135 F/55 C22 minutes per pound16 minutes per pound
Medium: 140 F/60 C25 minutes per pound17 minutes per pound
Medium Well: 150 F/65 C27 minutes per pound19 minutes per pound
Well: 160 F/70 C30 minutes per pound20 minutes per pound

Test the temperature of your roast at the center of the meat, away from the bone (if there is one). This will be the coolest part of the meat. Remove the prime rib from the grill or smoker five degrees F or 2 1/2 degrees C below the desired final temperature. Immediately wrap it in aluminum foil, cover with a towel, and place in a warm space for 10 minutes. This resting time will allow the juices and temperature to distribute, bringing the final temperature up and the meat to perfection.