Smoked Prime Rib for Christmas

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Smoked Prime Rib for Christmas

I love serving smoked prime rib at Christmas time and the Traeger pellet smoker makes it even more special with it's ability to smoke low and slow for a while then crank it up with the flick of a switch to add a little heat and finish it off right.

Helpful Information
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 hours
  • Smoker temperature: 225°F
  • Meat finish temperature: 135-140°F
  • Recommended wood: Pecan
What You'll Need

*This rub comes free when you order the Jeff's original rub recipe and is available by request for all previous customers.

Get the Recipes for Jeff’s Rub and Sauce


Prime rib or standing rib roast is an extremely flavorful hunk of beef and you don't want to use a seasoning or rub that will override the great flavor that is already present. My Texas style rub recipe is the perfect match and will compliment the flavor perfectly.

promise you’ll love my dry rub/seasoning recipe and my barbecue sauce recipe or you don’t pay!

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Step 1: Prep It

Because time is such a commodity, I always ask the butcher to prep the prime rib for me. They will either remove the bones completely or just barely leave them hanging on. The bones are then put back into place and the prime rib is tied up.

This makes for a nicer presentation in my opinion.

I usually have them french the bones as well which is just a fancy way of saying the meat/fat between the bones is removed so that the bones are sticking out all on their own. It tends to look more elegant that way.. or so I am told.

Here's what it looks like if you “french” the bones.


This is not a difficult thing to do but if your butcher will do it, let him.

Step 3: Oil it Down

As usual, I like to add a little something to help the seasoning to stick. There's nothing worse than seasoning an entire roast only to watch half of it fall off when it's moved.

Use a little olive or vegetable oil on the meat. Pour it onto the meat then use a silicone brush to spread it out.


Step 4: Add the Seasoning

I recommend my Texas style rub recipe (purchase recipes here) on this cut of meat. I have used the original rub very successfully as well but most folks seem to enjoy the more savory aspect of the Texas style rub recipe on this robust piece of beef.

Once it's oiled up, just sprinkle the seasoning generously on all sides. Don't forget the ends.


Step 5: Get the Smoker Ready

I made sure the pellet hopper on the Traeger :Lil' Tex Elite was full to the top, opened the smoker and set it to “smoke” using the knob on the controller.

After just a few minutes you see smoke start coming out of the burn pot and then after just a few minutes more, the pellets catch fire.

At this point, I closed the lid and set the knob on the controller to 225°F.

If you are using a different smoker, simply do what is required to maintain the heat at 225-240°F and once it is maintaining the goal temperature, you are ready to smoke some prime rib!

Step 7: Smoke It

Place the prime rib directly on the smoker grate or you can leave it on the Bradley rack if that is what you are using.


If you are using a smoker which requires wood chips or chunks to be added for smoke, I recommend keeping a light smoke going for at least 3 hours. You can then finish cooking with just heat. Pecan works great but a few more of my favorites such as mesquite, hickory, oak, or cherry will also yield excellent results.

As you can see, it's very easy to get a prime rib ready to cook.. the most important part of the process, monitoring the temperature, starts after you place it on the smoker grate.

I use the Thermoworks “Smoke” thermometer to make sure the meat is monitored while it cooks. This is the best leave-in, digital remote, dual probe thermometer on the market in my humble opinion and if you are serious about smoking meat and want a tough, durable thermometer that will last a very long time, then you need to look into getting one of these very soon! You will love it!

Why is temperature so important? Unlike brisket and many other beef cuts that we cook in the smoker, the prime rib is at it's best at medium rare and this occurs at about 135°F. Some folks like it a little more done than this and that is fine if you must.

Some members of my family prefer the meat to be in the upper range of medium rare, around 140°F, so I usually remove it about 137-138°F and the carry over cooking brings it on up a few degrees after it is removed from the heat.

The slices on the end tend to get a little more done than the slices in the middle so those can also be reserved for those who like it more done.


Tent the meat with foil for just a few minutes once it's done to let the juices settle down a bit.

You can expect the cooking time to be around 5 hours but be sure to let temperature be your only guide for determining when the roast is actually done.

Step 9: Slice and Serve

Cut the strings that you used to tie up the rib roast and remove the rack of bones. These are probably pretty spare on meat but I like to gnaw on them and make sure.


Slice the roast into ½ to ¾ inch slices and lay the pieces on a fancy serving platter.


Call dinner and enjoy!

Here's Some Further Information About the Traeger Pellet Smoker

Over the years I have had lots and lots of folks ask me about pellet smokers and usually they mention the Traeger brand. I am happy to be able to answer questions now from a very personal perspective.

It is clear that Traeger has a very large and loyal fanbase and it's no wonder due to how well the smoker works.

This pellet smoker brings together the (2) things that seem to be very important to a lot of smoker enthusiasts:

  1. The ability to cook with all wood as opposed to electric, propane or charcoal.
  2. The ability to “set it and forget it” knowing that things will keep on cooking and smoking for hours on end while you sleep, go to work, play golf, etc.

Another great feature is it's ability to also cook at higher temperatures with a simple turn of the controller dial. For instance, chicken and most other poultry benefits from smoke flavor but not necessarily from prolonged periods of low heat.

The Traeger pellet smoker is flexible in this way and allows you to smoke low and slow for a few hours for that nice smoky flavor then crank it on up to say 375 or 400°F for that crispy, delicious finish that everyone wants. It tops out at around 450°F.

If you are a Traeger user and have some special tips that might help others, feel free to pass those along to me.

Get the Digital Recipes for Jeff's Rub and Sauce
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***Note: you get the Texas style rub recipe free with your order!

If I could give these recipes away, I would do that. I really want you to have them! But, then, this is how I support the newsletter, the website and all of the other stuff that we do here to promote the art of smoking meat.

Read these recent testimonies:

"Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can't wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well!" ~Peter S.
"I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while." ~Darwyn B.
"Love the original rib rub and sauce! We have an annual rib fest competition at the lake every 4th of July. I will say we have won a great percent of the time over the past 15 years so we are not novices by any means. However, we didn't win last year and had to step up our game! We used Jeff's rub and sauce (sauce on the side) and it was a landslide win for us this year! Thanks Jeff for the great recipes. I'm looking forward to trying the Texas style rub in the near future!" ~Michelle M.

You see the raving testimonies and you wonder, "Can the recipes really be that good?"

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Printable Recipe

Smoked Prime Rib for Christmas
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
I love serving smoked prime rib at Christmas time and the Traeger Lil' Texas Elite I received just a few weeks back is making it even more special with it's ability to smoke low and slow for a while then crank it up with the flick of a switch to add a little heat and finish it off right.
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Servings: 6
Author: Jeff Phillips
What You'll Need
Step 1: Prep the Prime Rib
  1. Ask the butcher to cut off the bones and then tie it all back up for you. You can also ask him to "french" the bones for you to make it look real nice.
Step 2: Oil and Seasoning
  1. Apply a good coating of oil to the entire outside surface of the prime rib to help the seasoning to stick.
  2. Sprinkle Jeff's Texas style rub onto the meat on all sides. Don't forget the ends.
Step 3: Smoke Time
  1. Setup your smoker for cooking at about 225°F
  2. Apply light smoke for the entire time if possible or for at least 3 hours.
  3. Monitor the temperature and when the temperature reaches about 135 °F, remove it from the smoker.
  4. Tent foil over the top of the meat and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Step 4: Slice and Serve
  1. Cut the strings that are holding the roast and bones together.
  2. Remove the rack of bones and set them aside.
  3. Slice the roast into ½ to ¾ inch slices.
  4. Serve to your guests and enjoy!


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2018-06-14T03:31:29+00:00 By |14 Comments

About the Author:

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!


  1. Steve July 26, 2018 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Howdy Jeff,
    I purchased your BBQ sauce recipe a while back. Last weekend I had a change to finally make it. I just want to say it is delicious. My favorite BBQ sauce was from Lu Lu’s BBQ in Louisville, Colorado which doesn’t offer online sales, so hard to come by here in Texas. But now I’ve found the BEST BBQ sauce and i an make it anytime.. Thank you for such a great recipe.

    • Jeff Phillips July 26, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the kind words.. I aim to please! 😉

  2. Randy December 25, 2017 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Jeff I’ve used and enjoyed your rubs, sauce, and many of your recipes form many years but the prime rib I just cooked following this recipe was excellent. The Texas rub was the perfect blend of flavor and at 137 deg for my finish temp seemed to be spot on. 10 served an no one was disappointed. I literally ate my serving with a fork and knife. No sauce of any type. That’s rare for me. Kudos for another recipe that was a home run at our Christmas.

  3. mark December 20, 2016 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    I picked up a small 6lb rib roast and had the butcher pre-slice it for me…but he cut it all the way thru….it’s now 4 pieces.
    What can I do to properly smoke this and how much appro. time would I be looking at?
    I’m using a bullet style smoker and feeding it with oak chunks for fuel.
    Many thanks!

    • Damon December 24, 2016 at 9:55 am - Reply

      I think it would be best to buy a new piece of meat, and use the sliced roast for something else. i had a similar experience with a crown roast a couple year ago.

  4. Steve Town December 4, 2016 at 11:52 am - Reply


    As I write my first post on your site, I want to say thanks for helping me maximize my meat purchases and pleasure of my guests with your cooking and prep tips, and rub/sauce recipes. The ~$20 for the recipes is nothing compared to the value of the rubs, sauce and cooking tips.

    Now onto this recipe. I was looking for tips on how to cook a 19.6 lb ribeye roast from Costco. I didn’t want to deal with the ribs and I wanted to serve a leaner cut that served the equivalent of steaks for my 20 or so guests.

    I used the prime rib for Christmas recipe as my baseline since it was the closest to what I was trying to accomplish and because this recipe uses a Traeger, which is what I have (Traeger Elite in my case). I followed this recipe, minus the parts about bones.

    At nearly 20 lbs, I was concerned about my ability to get the roast cooked evenly. I wanted to serve at 6pm and started cooking at 10:30am at the 225 degree setting which leaves my smoker at 235-240. I would rather be on the low side than the high side of the specified temp with a piece of meat this big.

    Of interest is that it was the outdoor ambient temperature was 35 – 38 degrees F. I had two probes monitoring the progress and verified the probes with an instant read pen thermometer. About 3 hours in, I saw that the bottom was cooking substantially faster than the top so I flipped it. I wish I had done so earlier.

    Also, the ends were getting done faster than the middle (140 by the time I pulled it) – no surprise, but more problematic on a piece of beef this big. I ended up pulling the meat off the grill at 3pm. I expected it to go closer to 5.5-6 hours rather than 4.5 hours. The center was still as cool as 114 degrees.

    I had resigned myself to serving a gradient of finished temperatures and putting some of the center pieces on the grill to finish them after carving. I wrapped the roast in two layers of heavy duty foil (shiny side in), a towel and placed it in an ice chest with the empty space filled more towels. My hope was to keep the heat transfer inside the foil to bring up the center of the roast to serving temperature.

    The good news is that during the four hours of resting in the cooler (we served at 7pm) the center continued to cook and the outer parts did not cook much more. The result was something for everybody. The texture of the most rare meat was just how you would want a roast to be.

    Summary: 19.6lbs of choice ribeye roast wth Jeff’s Texas rub, 4.5 hours of cook time at ~240 degrees, flipped and rotated 3 hours in, insulated resting for 4 hours, 20 very satisfied guests who think I’m a genius.

    I hope this experience helps someone please their guests. Cheers!

  5. Steve November 21, 2016 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    Do you prep the prime rib the night before smoking or just apply the rub just before smoking

  6. Norman B Wilson January 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Do you prep the prime rib the night before smoking or just apply the rub just before smoking

  7. Chris December 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    This was the BEST prime rib I’ve ever cooked following this way. 20+ lb whole rib roast 6 hrs on Treagered and a quick sear on the gas grill. Perfect roast, everyone will LOVE!

  8. Daren December 24, 2015 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    The recipe looks great. How would you scale the time for a 5lbs roast?

  9. Richard Lamb December 23, 2015 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Here are my “preheating Steps” for a Traeger Smoker:

    Vacuum out the barrel and fire pot before starting the smoker!! This single step will save you hours of frustration! Starting out with a clean fire pot will prevent wild temp swings, runaway heat and random shutdowns.

    Start the cooker in SMOKE mode, leave the lid open for ~10 minutes as suggested, then close the lid, but DO NOT IMMEDIATELY go to a temperature setting.

    Let the cooker stabilize in smoke mode. 20 minutes or so…

    When that is complete then go to your desired temperature. You can finesse it up to your desired temperature avoiding overshoots by turning the controller down one setting when getting close (15° or so) to target.

    At that point the auger gearmotor comes out of full duty cycle and reverts to SMOKE mode timing. Let it coast up to near target and see where it tops out. If it went too high adjust the lead in time accordingly. Same thing if it didn’t make target. You will get the feel of it in a couple trials. It works well to do it in steps as well to avoid big fuel feeds.

    You are in nearly full control that way.

    How the controller works, in case you have some confusion:

    A product I swear by is the A-maz-n Tube Smoker:

    This adds significant extra smoke to your Traeger. A common complaint about Traegers is they don’t kick out enough smoke. This tube alleviates that.

    • JIm Fogelman February 25, 2016 at 8:20 am - Reply

      Good morning. Just got my Traeger Lil Texas Elite and have been having some temp swing issues. Your post brought some great thing to light. Thank you. I just wanted to verify what your recommending. Once the Traeger sits 20 minutes in smoke mode with lid closed go ahead turn to desired temperature 225. When temp reads 210 are you turn the P setting down one? I have been at P2 so I would turn down to P1? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

  10. Chris Koch December 23, 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff,
    Just curious as to how much your roast weighed. Trying to put a time line together for when I do mine.
    Thanks, and happy holidays,

    • Jeff Phillips December 24, 2015 at 1:06 am - Reply

      About 14 lbs.. 5 bones

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