Smoked Prime Rib and Holiday Smoking Tips
Smoking-Meat.com is supported by its readers. We may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you if you buy through a link on this page.
Prime rib is not something that folks will do often due to the high cost but it is wonderful for special occasions like Christmas and Easter. I do one maybe once or twice a year and it is always for a very special occasion.
I have heard people say that something this good should not be cooked in the smoker but I beg to differ.. there is no better way to cook it. If you want the prime rib to be perfectly cooked with a subtle smoky flavor and edge to edge medium rare (or whatever finish you like), then I have you covered.
In this newsletter, I’m also going to repost a few smoking tips to try and help you with your holiday cooking whether you are doing prime rib or some other smoking specialty.
How to Smoke Prime Rib
One of the most perfect pieces of meat known to man.. my opinion of course!
The prime rib or what some call a “standing rib roast” which is, as I understand it, ribs #6-12 going from front to rear. The term “prime” has nothing to do with the quality of the meat as it is graded by the USDA but simply implies that it is the rib primal cut.
I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to the cutting or butchering of meat and it’s various nomenclatures, I lean heavily on my butcher for these sort of things.
I think normally it is comprised of 7 bones, some of the last few I have purchased have only had 5 and were extremely tasty. My butcher tells me that it is the “best” 5 and based on flavor, I have to agree.
A little preparation is in order before smoking it and here’s how it’s done:
A cut was made down next to the ribs.. then it’s all tied up with butchers twine.
Sometimes I do this myself.. but often I just let the butcher do it for me to save time.
The outer layer of meat likes to pull away from the rest of the meat.. if this happens it will not cook evenly and the part that pulls away will end up being overdone. To prevent this from happening, you tie it up with butchers twine about every 3/4 inch or so for the full length of the roast.
The cut is just one that I like to make before the fact… a clean cut right next to the feather bones.. those large bones that are on one side (imagine the knife blade touching the inside edge of all the bones at once). I don’t cut all the way through but just down to the end of the bones. Once the prime rib is done cooking, it makes it easy to just untie the roast and make the final cut through the meat to remove the bones leaving you with a nice piece of meat that you can slice into pieces.
Look at that marbling..Sweeeeeeeet!!
Sprayed with extra virgin olive oil very generously.. all over.
For these pictures which were taken a good while back.. I used Emerils Steak Seasoning. Nowadays, I use my own original rub recipe or my Texas style rub recipe
Sitting on the Weber grate.. cherry smoke is hard to beat!!
In most case, you will want to remove it at 125-130°F and let it creep up to 135°F with some foil tented over it.
If you like it more rare, you can take it off the smoker a littler earlier at 120-125°F or so. Any more rare than that.. you’re on your own;-)
Look at that beautiful coloration!
Man! Does that look juicy or what!!? It was so tender you could cut it with a fork and it melted in our mouths.
I kept the smoke going throughout the entire cooking session. The smoker was maintained at 225°F and it took almost exactly 4 hours to reach 125-130°F. The top vent was all the way open and I used (1) cherry split at a time approximately 3? x 12? in size.
Other wood such as pecan, hickory and even some oak would work very well also.
- Make a single cut across the inside edge of the bones but don’t cut it completely off. leave it barely connected at the bottom edge (have your butcher do this)
- Tie the meat up at 3/4 inch intervals using butchers twine
- Spray the meat with olive oil (or brush it on)
- Apply Jeff’s Rib rub liberally to the outside of the meat
- Smoke the meat at 225 degrees for 4-6 hours or until the meat reaches 125-130 degrees in the center.
- I recommend cherry wood smoke throughout the entire cooking period
- Remove from smoker and tent foil over the meat for about 15 minutes to let the juices disperse.
- Remove twine, slice and serve immediately
Holiday Smoking Tips
- Purchase a whole packer brisket for best flavor in the 9-11 pound range.
- Trim fat to about 1/4 inch then score the fat horizontally, vertically and diagonally at 1″ intervals to allow the seasoning and the smoke to get to the meat a lot easier.
- Use mustard or cooking oil to moisten the surface of the brisket before adding rub as this will help the seasoning to stick to the meat.
- Use about 1-2 cups of my rub recipe on the brisket for amazing flavor and crust.
- Place the brisket fat side up directly on the grate for a nice bark and to allow the fat to melt and baste the brisket.
- Keep the smoker at about 225 degrees to keep the rub from burning and to end up with a great tasting brisket
- If you are using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker, keep the smoke flowing for at least 4-6 hours for a nice smoky flavor.
- I recommend hickory, mesquite and pecan or a mix of these for a great flavor.
- Cook the brisket in a foil pan for super juicy brisket. The downside is that the bark or outside of the brisket stays soft instead of forming a crust. Fat side up x 2 hrs, fat side down x 2 hrs then back to fat side up until it’s done.
- Brisket is NOT done and will NOT be tender enough until it gets to about 200 degrees internally. Be patient and use a digital probe meat thermometer to let you know when it’s done.
- Brisket is usually figured at about 1.5 hours per pound however, let the temperature rather than the time determine when the brisket is done.
- Let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes once it’s done before slicing it to retain the tasty juices.
- Slice across the grain to accentuate the tenderness of the meat.
- If it doesn’t seem juicy enough, mix a couple tablespoons of my rub recipe with a cup of beef broth and pour over the slices just before serving. NO more dry brisket.
Smoking Pork Butt
- Buy the bone-in butt or boston butt instead of the picnic for best flavor. (my opinion)
- Apply a light coat of yellow hotdog mustard to help the rub/seasoning to stick real good. (don’t worry, your pulled pork will not taste like mustard when it gets done).
- Pour on about 1 cup of my rub recipe and massage it in real good. Make sure to get the rub into every nook and cranny.
- If you are using a charcoal, gas or electric smoker be sure to keep the smoke flowing for about 6 hours to get that nice smoky flavor all the way through this thick piece of meat.
- Keep the smoker at about 225 to keep the rub from burning and to slowly prod the pork to it’s full tender potential.
- Pulled pork is perfect when it’s cooked to an internal temperature of 205 degrees. It will almost fall apart on it’s own and you probably won’t need bear claws to get the job done.
- Estimate time for pork at about 1.5 hours per pound however let the temperature tell you when it’s done rather than the time.
- If you like, you can wrap the pork butt in foil once it reaches 160 degrees and let it finish out it’s time with just heat. This will speed things up a little usually and helps to hold in the moisture.
- To make foiling the pork butts really easy, place the meat down in a foil pan with a large piece of heavy duty foil in the bottom and hanging over the side. When it’s time to foil, you can just pull the foil up and over the top of the butt to wrap it.
- Pull/shred the pork while it is still hot even if you are going to save the pulled pork for later.
- Brats are super easy and require very little effort, furthermore, they are always great when friends are over.
- Smoke at 225 degrees or whatever temperature your smoker happens to be at for other items.
- Do not overcook these.. they are done in about 2 hours. Much longer and they will be tough and overcooked.
- Most other sausages including boudain are great on the smoker and can pretty much be smoked in the same manner as brats.
- Remove the skirt or flap of meat that runs down the center of the meaty side of the spare ribs. Just cut it off even with the top of the slab.
- Save the flap/skirt meat and cook it along with the ribs for some tasty treats. Be sure to add some rub to them. They will take about an hour or two to get tender depending on how thick they are.
- Remove the membrane by prying up this thick piece of skin at one corner of the bone side of the ribs and pulling it clean off. Use a paper towel or some catfish pliers for a better grip.
- Apply a light coat of yellow hotdog mustard or a little cooking oil to moisten the outside of the ribs.
- Sprinkle my rub recipe onto the top and bottom of the ribs thick enough that you can no longer see the meat. This is perfectly seasoned.
- Spare ribs need at least 6-7 hours in the smoker at 225 degrees. Baby backs will need 5-6 hours depending on how meaty they are.
- I like to apply smoke the entire time the ribs are cooking even if I am using a charcoal, electric or gas smoker. Be sure to apply at least 2-3 hours of smoke for a nice smoky flavor.
- It is almost impossible to check the temperature of ribs with a thermometer so it is best to just check for tenderness. When they get tender enough, they are done.
- To test for tenderness, hold them at one end with a pair of tongs and when they bend almost 90 degrees, they are probably about right for eating.
- If you like ribs that are “falling off the bone” then you need to use the 3-2-1 method as described below:
- If you like “wet” ribs then apply some of my sauce recipe a couple of times beginning about 30 minutes before the ribs are done and then again about 10 minutes before they are finished.
3-2-1 Ribs (Spares)
- Place the spare ribs directly on the grate, bone side down for 3 hours.
- Wrap the ribs in foil. Splash on about 1/4 cup of apple juice just before closing them up and place the wrapped ribs on the grate for 2 hours.
- Remove the ribs from the foil and place them back on the grate, bone side down for a final hour.
Note: Baby backs can be done this way as well except that it is more of a 2-2-1 method with 2 hours on the grate, 2 hours wrapped then a final hour unwrapped and on the grate to finish up.
As with anything, these are estimates, I recommend that you do them exactly to the plan the first time, then adjust to your liking for future rib smokes. The longer they stay in the foil, the more tender they will be. You may prefer them a little less tender and that might call for a 3-1.5-1.5 or similar.
Smoking Chicken Quarters/Pieces
- I recommend chicken quarters or chicken pieces instead of whole chickens for easier serving, better portioning and faster cooking.
- If you have time, I highly recommend brining the chicken for a juicier finish. Read more on brining here.
- The best way to season chicken is to place it down in a large zip-loc bag, pour about 1/4 cup of cooking oil then about 1/2 cup of my rub recipe per 6-8 pieces of chicken. Close the bag and shake/roll to coat the chicken. This method gets the seasoning under the skin as well as on the skin and is perfectly seasoned.
- Smoke chicken at 250-275 for crispier skin.
- Apply smoke the entire time the chicken is cooking, the chicken cooks fast and you need as much time as possible for the smoke to flavor the meat.
- Use a digital probe meat thermometer to make sure the meat is 165 degrees at it’s thickest part before serving.
- Chicken pieces such as thighs/legs will take about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on how hot you run the smoker. Chicken quarters will take 3-4 hours.
- If you want to sauce the chicken, apply my sauce recipe liberally to the chicken about 30 minutes before it is finished smoking/cooking.
Order Jeff’s Rubs and Barbecue Sauce!
✅ My rubs and sauce will be the best thing you’ve ever tasted and it’s a great way to support what we do!
Did you know? You can order the MASTER FORMULAS which allow you to make Jeff’s rubs and barbecue sauce at home using your own ingredients! Order the Recipes
Jeff, a few months back you sent out an email on (I think) Bleu Cheese Encrusted Prime Rib. Being the dummy I am, I deleted the recipe. Could you please send it out again (or just in response to this email)?
On the prime rib, how many approx. minutes per pound would you estimate to smoke?
Larry, I have not found minutes/pound to be very accurate with anything and that includes prime rib, brisket, pork butt, etc. The time that is takes is a measurement of how long it takes for the heat to reach the center and bring it up to your desired temperature. In my experience, anything of about 3 bones or larger is going to take roughly 4-5 hours to reach medium rare (about 130°F) if you maintain an average of 225°F in your smoker. The thickness remains consistent from one end to the other regardless if it’s 3 bones or 7 and therefore it takes about the same amount of time. A prime rib of 2 bones will get done in around 3 to 3.5 hours. A single bone will take about 1.5 to 2 hours.
I want to smoke a Prime Rib Roast for Xmas. My plan is to Smoke it at home in my electric smoker, but I have to transport it (about a 2 hr. drive). My plan is to finish it the oven once I get there. I want a little of that wonderful smoke flavor. My question is, at what temp. should I take it out of the smoker, knowing that I will finish it there in the oven. Is this feasible or should I not risk smoking it first and just do it the old fashioned way in the oven when we get there?
I am thinking about trying the smoked prime rib for mothers day and I just wanted to ask a question? I typically use charcoal and wood, but it is difficult to regulate a constant temp with my brinkmann. What should I do to help regulate a constant temp and maintain smoke throughout the process? I have smoked several meats and they have turned out pretty well, but I want to improve my smoking ability. Thanks for your help!