The Right Timing When Grilling or Smoking Prime Rib

Prime rib on a platter
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You may be 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. You must 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.

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 Temperature Smoking Grilling/Roasting
Rare: 125 F/50 C 20 minutes per pound 15 minutes per pound
Medium Rare: 135 F/55 C 22 minutes per pound 16 minutes per pound
Medium: 140 F/60 C 25 minutes per pound 17 minutes per pound
Medium Well: 150 F/65 C 27 minutes per pound 19 minutes per pound
Well: 160 F/70 C 30 minutes per pound 20 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 5 F/2 1/2 C below the desired final temperature. Immediately wrap it in aluminum foil, cover it with a towel, and place it 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. 

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. It is important to measure your grill before buying the meat or committing to grilling. As a general guide, most large grills will fit a 5- to 6-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 so the juices will be evenly distributed and you won't lose them onto the cutting board.

Smoking a Prime Rib

Whether you have a smoker or use your charcoal grill, smoking beef adds delicious flavor and creates 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 2 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 smoke flavors to penetrate the meat. Season it as you wish, and get ready for a long, slow cooking time.