Smoked Prime Rib or Standing Rib Roast

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One of the most perfect pieces of meat known to man is the smoked prime rib.. 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 nowadays I usually 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.

prime rib 1

Look at that marbling..Sweeeeeeeet!!

prime rib 2

Sprayed with extra virgin olive oil very generously.. all over.

prime rib 3

For these pictures which were taken a good while back.. I used Emerils Steak Seasoning. Nowadays, I use my rub and it works even better in my opinion! You have options;-)


prime rib 4

Sitting on the Weber grate.. cherry smoke is hard to beat!!

prime rib 5

In most case, you will want to remove it at 125-130 and let it creep up to 135 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 or so. Any more rare than that.. you're on your own;-)

Look at that beautiful coloration!

prime rib 6

Man! Does that look juicy or what!!? It was so tender you could cut it with a fork and it melted in our mouths.

prime rib 7

I kept the smoke going throughout the entire cooking session. The smoker was maintained at 225 degrees and it took almost exactly 4 hours to reach 125-130 degrees. 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

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  1. Hey there Jeff.. Awesome advice and help.. my plan is to smoke a boneless prime rib for Thanksgiving. What are your thoughts about boneless?

  2. Does the meat need to be brought up to room temperature before going on the smoker or can it go right from the fridge to prep and in?

    1. Paul,

      Use water in the water pan for this recipe.

      If your smoker has a water pan, I suggest filling it up for almost everything you cook as its designed to be used that way not only as a barrier between the fire and the food but it adds humidity to the smoke chamber and that reduces the natural drying effect of heat.

  3. Jeff, I believe you are incorrect when you say “prime” only applies to the cut of the standing rib roast. Prime refers to the grade of meat, the amount of marbling exhibited in the meat and this grading is done when the carcass is butchered. It is assigned by the USDA and less than 2% of all cuts are graded “Prime”. Most are graded “Choice” or “Select”. I know this is true since I purchase “Prime” Rib standing roast on a regular basis and have compared the marbling between all the grades. The “Prime” roast has the same rich marbling you see in a “Prime” ribeye steak. I have been using your techniques for years now an have shared your site with many in my area! Keep up the good work, but do a little more homework on your understanding of beef grading skills.

    1. Rick,

      Perhaps my explanation is not as clear as it could be and if that’s the case, I am happy to take another stab at it however, based on my extensive research, what I have said about prime rib is true.

      In all other beef cuts, “prime” refers to the grade but I have purchased prime rib that is graded as choice and I have purchased many that are graded as USDA Prime. In this cut, prime is part of the name and doesn’t necessarily denote it’s USDA grading.

      I am not a butcher and I don’t claim to know everything about meat and I am always seeking to learn more and don’t mind admitting I’m wrong and changing my thinking when I am incorrect.

      Can you direct me to some information that attests to the fact that all prime rib is graded as “USDA Prime”?

      1. According to “Smoke & Spice” revised edition authors Cheryl and Bill Jameson, Harvard Common Press, 2003 page 127…”STANDING TALL PRIME RIB” “Try to get a true Prime Rib for this memorable dish, meat that meets USDA standards for the highest grade beef. The cut that most supermarkets sell as a prime rib is actually just a USDA choice rib roast, good meat but not superior.”

      2. 3 years later.

        Wrong. Prime is a designation/grade. These are all “Standing Rib Roasts.” Some are prime, most are not.

        1. Mark, Prime rib is the name of a cut of beef that was created BEFORE prime was a grade of beef. It has nothing to do with the grade (choice, select, prime, etc.). This is a common misconception.

    2. rick gill… are a dumbass… rib denotes the cut of meat, not the grade….restaraunts get the prime grade of prime rib, the rest of us get a choice grade of prime rib, or less depending on what store you shop. you probably think pork butt comes from a hogs ass too ….lol

      1. Good job Mike. I actually prefer choice because it has a lot goof flavor and less fat. Just my preference not saying everyone has to agree.

  4. i have the new treager smoker grill, but my smoker only smokes about 140 degrees how long should i cook my 15lb prime rib for, for med. rare

    1. If your treager only gets to 140 degrees do not use it! That is not hot enough for safe smoking! It should be at least 225. Call the manufacturer!

    2. Do NOT use that smoker if it only goes to that temp. You need at least 250 to be safe. I have 7 lbs going in tomorrow and I will start at 300 then bring it down to 215 – 225 and hold for about 5 hours.
      I also have a cooks shank ham going in as well. Been brining for 10 days. I have done this before and it is the most amazing ham you will ever eat!

      1. That is incorrect. 225 and even much lower can be perfectly safe. What matters is the internal temperature of the meat. How it gets to that internal temperature makes little difference. It could literally be 140° for 20 hours if necessary as long as it reaches a safe internal temperature, the bacteria is killed. That is the exact premise for sous vide. We may discuss the taste or quality of the cook based on different temperatures of the apparatus, but not the safety.

    3. In a pellet smoker, use a pellet tube for extra smoke. Cook the meat at the temperature as instructed.
      This works for any heavier smoke needed on ribs, butt, brisket, etc.

    4. are you saying that while on the “Smoke” setting it will only go to 140? Or is that the hottest your traeger will get?

  5. Offset smoker here. It’s been too long since I’ve smoked a prime rib. The only question I have is , how much time per pound at let’s say 220 deg ?????

  6. Instead of one large 18lb prime rib, I will be smoking two 8-9 lb prime ribs on my Green Mountain electric smoker.
    Would you be able to ” guesstimate” if much of a variance in time will be needed…..another words, will it take much longer for two smaller ones than the one larger piece?

  7. I am smoking A 9 lb prime rib. I’m having a hard time trying to figure out how long to smoke it for. Anyone with tips will be greatly appreciated.

    1. When I smoke, if the temp is at 225 – 250 fyour looking at about 20 minutes per lb for a single roast. Thats about how long it takes for me.

  8. I did my first smoked Prime Rib for Christmas Eve and I will be doing it again. I had to make 11lb of Prime Rib, I did 7lb in the smoker and the rest on a rotisserie and nobody wanted the rotisserie because the smoked rib was a hit. I took mine off at 120 degree and tented it for 30 minutes and the juices flowed.

    1. I have never brined a rib roast and honestly don’t know of anyone that has, therefore I can’t comment on this issue. If by chance you do brine yours, and can ascertain the difference of doing this or not, I would appreciate the results. FYI, all the older recipies that I have seen or used have not mentioned this.

    2. Try dry aging. 8 to 12 pound, with or with out bone. Pat dry with paper towel. Apply kosher salt. Put on rack with pan under it. Refrigerate uncovered for 48 hours. Rinse with fresh water. Dry with paper towels. Rest to room temp. season, rub, or what ever you normally do. Light smoke with cherry wood first two hours. 240 degrees 20 minutes per pound. 120/125 temp. tent 30 minutes. Perfect medium rare.

  9. I want to use my masterbuilt smoker for cooking a Standing Rib Roast. I noticed your method/recipe used a Weber grill. Would the recipe change for this type of smoker ?

    1. I use my electric masterbuilt for just about all roasts from venison, to boston butt, pot roast, turkey & chicken, and most of all, a good prime rib when I can afford it. I put the water pan in dry under the roast to catch the drippings for gravy, and on average I cook at about 200 to 220 degrees for one hour per pound of meat. This “formula” has never failed me and I use different woods just for some variation. I rarely put any rubs, just use a lot of salt, garlic salt and black pepper, but that is my choice. I have never had a roast of any type not come off tender and super delicious.

  10. Jeff
    I am using your recipe for Prime Rib Monday, would injecting Cherry Juice harm the flaver of the Prime Rib? Gosh I have almost wore out your book. I use it so much. I have purchased other Books on Smoking but they are not as concise and easy to follow as yours. I brag about you every day at work. A bunch of us formed a group for meat smoking and trade recipes at lunch. Once again thank you for your weekly emails and help.


  11. Jeff, I think it was from you about the standing rib roast. The article described the cut of meat like the “lip” and “eye” and which ribs were preferred. When I search my e-mails I can not find the description that I think you provided. I thought it was the best info about what to look for in selecting a roast. If you have this, could you e-mail me. Love your newsletter! Jon

  12. Hey Jeff,

    I bought your cookbook for my husband as a Christmas gift and I'm digging through it now! We are making a smoked prime rib for Christmas and I'm looking at this recipe on page 120 in the book and it calls for a 5lb. prime rib roast. My husband bought a 5 bone (10lb) prime rib to smoke on Christmas Day. Will the estimated cook time or temp change? If so, what do you reccomend?

    Thanks and Merry Christmas

    Angela Paiva

    1. Angela,

      Your cooking time will increase definately. The internal temperature is the constant you want to be watching as this is the indicator of doneness. As every smoker is different cooking times are different as well. As this is indirect heating of the roast it won't be double the cooking time from a 5 lb roast to do a 10 lb roast. It has been my experience that if you can maintain 225 degrees in your smoker you can plan on 30 minutes per lb on a roast 5 ribs or larger. Once the internal temperature reaches 110 degrees I keep an almost constant eye on it until it reaches the desired temperature for the doneness my company desires. And do not forget about letting it rest for 30 minutes after removing the roast from the grill. Your roast will increase in internal temp. anywhere from 5-10 degrees. Best of luck.

      Merry Christmas,


      1. I have a smoker from Bass pro shop, off set wood box heavy gauge metal. I’m going to attempt to smoke a 25 lb prime rib roast bone in for Christmas. I’m going to shoot for medium rare. my smoker likes the 250 mark. I know you suggested 30 min. / lb my math tells me to have it done for 2:00 pm dinner I need to start at 2:00am, any comments are welcome.

    1. I recommend using the water pan every time you smoke meat if your smoker is equipped with one. The only exception would be if you are drying meat such as in making jerky.

      The prime rib will benefit from having water in the water pan thus making the air moist and decreasing it’s ability to dry the meat.