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Smoked Prime Rib for Christmas

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I love serving smoked prime rib at Christmas time and this one turned out just amazing! Smoked low and slow for about 5 hours with pecan wood to a perfect medium rare and then sliced thick and served to my salivating guests.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 225°F (107°C)
  • Meat Finish Temp: 130°F (54°C)
  • Recommended Wood: Pecan and/or Cherry
What You'll Need

Did you know? You can order the MASTER FORMULAS which allow you to make Jeff's original rubs and original barbecue sauce at home using your own ingredients! Order the Recipes

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..

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

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

Step 2: 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.

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Step 3: Add the Seasoning

I recommend my Texas style rub 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 on this robust piece of beef.

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

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Step 4: Get the Smoker Ready

Set up the smoker for cooking at about 225°F (107°C) using indirect heat. If your smoker has a water pan, then fill it up.

You can use ANY smoker to cook this successfully as long as you maintain a proper temperature and do NOT overcook it.

Step 5: Smoke It

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

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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.

Note: If you're looking for a digital meat thermometer, my guide called “6 best digital meat thermometers” will help you decide which one is best for you.

I use the Thermoworks Smoke 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!

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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 130°F (54°C). Some folks like it a little more done than this and that is fine if you must.

Remove it a few degrees shy of your finish temperature and the carryover cooking will bring it on up to a perfect 130°F (54°C) while it rests on the counter.

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 a little more done.

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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 6: 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.

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

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Call dinner and enjoy!

4.5 from 17 votes

Smoked Prime Rib for Christmas

Smoked prime rib is the perfect entree for Christmas time.. it's fancy, it's delicous and it only takes about 5 hours from start to finish.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Total Time5 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6



Step 1: Prep the Prime Rib

  • 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

  • Apply a good coating of oil to the entire outside surface of the prime rib to help the seasoning to stick.
  • Sprinkle Jeff's Texas style rub onto the meat on all sides. Don't forget the ends.

Step 3: Smoke Time

  • Setup your smoker for cooking at about 225°F (107°C)
  • Apply light smoke for the entire time if possible or for at least 3 hours.
  • Monitor the temperature and when the temperature reaches about 130°F (54°C), remove it from the smoker.
  • Tent foil over the top of the meat and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

Step 4: Slice and Serve

  • Cut the strings that are holding the roast and bones together.
  • Remove the rack of bones and set them aside.
  • Slice the roast into ½ to ¾ inch slices.
  • Serve to your guests and enjoy!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Hi Jeff
    This Christmas will the first time that I try this recipe. Approximately how long per pound at 225 F? I have an 8lb standing rib roast?

    1. Some people quote 35 minutes per pound which works okay for estimating I guess, however, in my experience, most prime ribs take around 5 hours depending on how well you maintain your temperature, how often you open the door/lid, etc.

      The time is based on the thickness of the prime rib from the outside edge to the center, rather than how many bones it has, how long it is or how much it weighs.

  2. 5 stars
    I have used this recipe many times. Today, I am cooking both a standing prime rib roast and lobster tails on my recteq pellet grill for Christmas dinner. My question is; How long can I rest the prime rib roast in a cooler without wrecking it while I smoke the lobster tails, which should take approximately 45 minutes to an hour?

    1. Ron, Thank you for your patience.. I am taking a few days off for Christmas with my family.

      Just to answer your question, a prime rib or any larger cut of steak or roast will benefit from an hour or more resting time. Prime ribs can definitely rest for an hour while you cook the lobsters as long as it’s wrapped good and able to maintain it’s heat in the cooler. Large roasts like brisket can rest for 4 hours or more if the conditions are right and still be piping hot and juicy when they come out.

  3. Hey Jeff. Tried this recipe several times and always turned out great! Thank you! My question is seasoning it the night before would be okay or would that be some over kill on the flavor? Thanks for all your recipes! My guests rave about the flavor! I purchased your ribs and bbq sauce recipes and is all I use now! Thanks ahead of time for your feedback.

    1. That sounds like a 2 bone prime rib.. the time it takes is about the thickness and how long it takes the heat to reach the center. Because a 2 bone prime rib is still about the same thickness as a 4 bone, you are still looking at an estimated 4-5 hours. As always, heat and slow cooking can be finicky so always watch the internal temperature closely and it’s done when the thermometer says it is, no matter what😊

  4. 5 stars
    I followed this recipe a few weeks ago and it worked great. Out of necessity caused by having the roast done too quickly, I put the roast in foil and placed it in my Yeti cooler for 2 hours. It turned out amazing, still at eating temperature and with some natural au jus in the foil.

  5. 5 stars
    Hi Jeff,
    I purchased your recipe for your original rub and BBQ sauce few months back, which are AWESOME, I don’t see the Texas rub recipe.. I just bought our Christmas standing roast and was wondering when should dry brine it? now ? or Christmas morning? I’d like to use the texas rub… I have a treager, do i need to put a water pan in or will it be fine without… sorry for so many questions at once. Thank you

    1. Stella, you and your family are in for a treat! It would not hurt to go ahead and dry brine it for 6-8 hours if you want to get that out of the way. For large cuts of roast like this, I prefer to dry brine it in stages. As you know, dry brining works by pulling meat juice to the surface where it pools, mixes with the salt and is then re-absorbed back into the meat.

      By only applying it to one side at a time, leaving it for about 2 hours and then rolling it over a little bit and doing it again, you can get 3 or 4 sides really well in about 6 or 8 hours. This is assuming you are home and have the time to do this every 2 hours.

      I don’t use a water pan in my pellet smokers but I don’t think it hurts anything if you want to try it and see if it makes a difference.

      To get the download link sent to you again, go to https://smoking-meat.com/resend and input the exact email address that you used to order the recipes. It will send you a link and you can then download the Texas style rub recipe that you are needing.

      1. 5 stars
        this was by far and the easiest prime rib I’ve ever made.. OMG it came out beautiful and everyone loved it.. We did have left overs since I made so many sides that the next day I cut it up and made “prime rib tacos” ONLY because I didn’t have the right bread for prime rib dip, but I did have corn tortillas… thank you for an awesome recipe and super easy instructions…………..

  6. Just wondering what the timelines look like if you have a boneless roast. My meat market outs the boneless on sale but never the bone in. In the past Inhave paid more and done the bone In because I like it better, however our family quickly grew from 5 to 13 in just a couple years. I am now doing the boneless.

    1. In my experience boneless and bone-in both take about 4 to 5 hours if they are more than about 4 inches in length. The thickness is usually pretty consistent regardless of how long of a piece it is.

      This is also assuming you are running your smoker at an average of 225°F.

  7. you had a chart on the bottom of you prime rib directions for cooking temps and cooked temps. i lost it in my computor. could you reprint it?

  8. I saw a recipie for horseradish encrusted prime rib where your rub meat and let it smoke, pkk it at 450 in the oven for 15 minutes then 325 for another hour an a half. my question is how would this turn out in the smoker? i have never done a prime rib but my turkeys skins do not get very crispy because of the water pan. if i smoked the prime rib with out water in the pan would it stay moist enough because of the fat in it and still have a encrusted bark?

  9. HI Jeff,

    First i would like to start with thank you from the bottom of my heart. Being somewhat new to the whole smoking meat thing I have really come to love this website. Not to say I haven’t taken a few peaks from others but I will say this website and your assistance and availability to answer questions has by far kept me coming back. I have purchased your rubs, and sauces…i just recently asked for your book for Christmas :)! I sure hope Santa hears me :).

    I wanted to know if it was okay to have the prime rib sit longer than the 15 minutes once it is complete? Sometimes when the meat cooks faster than what I was expecting i will wrap it in foil, then wrap towels around it and put it in a cooler to help keep it nice and warm. Would it be okay to do this same thing with the prime rib?

    Again thank you so much for always being there and working so hard for us. Made the Smoked Maple Turkey for Thanksgiving and OMG was it divine. Nothing left…so now I find myself preparing a turkey breast to smoke again later this week so we can have some left over turkey.

    1. Kristie, Yes, you can definitely hold the prime rib in a cooler just like you would a brisket, a turkey or whatever you need to keep warm. I am guessing it should be fine for at least a couple of hours that way if you wrap it good and throw some insulating towels over it before closing the lid on the cooler.

      Sounds like Thanksgiving was a blast and I’m so glad to hear that the turkey worked out great for you and your guests!

  10. Bayou Salesman or evangelical minister ? Trust is a hard thing to recover once it’s lost. Haven’t seen one post since joining that isn’t a commercial to make a buck. As an amateur cook I enjoy making people’s life’s better through food no matter how much it costs me. Based on how you’ve chosen to present yourself, your into it if involves money – shameful.

    1. Tom, I appreciate your feedback! Smoking-Meat.com is definitely a business model where I spend hours on end producing recipes that work in your backyard, reviewing products, etc. and while I love providing information that my readers want, I am also expecting a monetary return on my time that will support my family. I don’t expect my butcher to love meat so much that he gives me all of it for free, nor should you expect me to spend 40-60 hours a week writing, reviewing, answering email, operating the much loved forum, all for free. Fortunately, anyone, including yourself, can partake of the recipes and everything that is on the website and forum at absolutely no cost. There is no obligation, ever, to click on anything you do not want or need.
      Once again, I appreciate your thoughts on this subject. Have a great Christmas!

      1. That was a truly diplomatic response and I commend you on your restraint. I’d also point out that literally EVERY email I get from you is a recipe, 90% of which I look and decide to try or save for the right occasion (like today, when I’m making this roast for Christmas). And once we have paid a pittance for your awesome rub/sauce recipes, you turn off the ads in our version of the emails.

        I’m not sure how this could be a fairer business model.

    2. Jeff, thank you for all the advice and recipes you offer at no charge, and the opportunities to purchase your products. Like you, in my business I do some things at no charge, but if I did all at no charge, well, I wouldn’t be using this computer OR enjoying the recipes. So, a long way to say THANK YOU!

    3. Tom, you said it yourself. You’re an amateur and he is a professional. This is what he does for a living. If you were a professional cook, would you do it full time for people for free? C’mon!!

      1. These are my thoughts exactly! This is Jeff`s life….it`s what he does. If you have a deep love for something…like Jeff does for smoking…and you are able to make a living from it…you have achieved nirvana! Why would you suggest that Jeff not be payed for his time, for the up keep of the website, for the cost of bottling his sauces and rubs, etc. If you are not comfortable paying this man for his information, than dont order anything!….It`s that simple. Thanks for everything Jeff!

  11. I just received a wood pellet smoker as a gift and am wanting to try prime rib on it. When you say “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,” I was wondering how you do this or what this means? The directions with my smoker say to keep the hopper full of wood pellets throughout the whole smoking process, so I don’t know what you mean about keeping a light smoke going for 3 hours and then finishing with just heat? Thank you so much!

    1. In pellet smoker, wood smokers, etc. you are going to have smoke the entire time by default and that is a really good thing in my opinion. In some smokers like gas, electric, etc where you have to add chips every so often to provide smoke, you can get by with only doing that for about 3 hours if you need to do other things instead of babysitting the smoker. It NEVER hurts to keep adding a light smoke the entire time in any smoker as this is the best way to replicate a true wood smoker. Your prime rib will do great in the pellet smoker.

  12. I purchased your recipes a few years back and I see that the Texas Style Rub recipe is new and included if you purchase now. Do I have to purchase that recipe if I already own the regular rub recipe and barbecue sauce recipe? I have (2) different emails and not sure what email I used to purchase/download these recipes. Thank you for your help.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Jeff
    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!

    1. 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.

  16. 5 stars

    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!

  17. 5 stars
    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!

  18. 5 stars
    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: http://pelletheads.com/index.php?topic=8572.0

    A product I swear by is the A-maz-n Tube Smoker: https://www.amazenproducts.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=AMNTS

    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.

    1. 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.

  19. 5 stars
    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,