Best Smoked Prime Rib (Recipe + Video)

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Smoked Prime Rib Roast is the ultimate holiday meal, and this is truly the best way to prepare this amazing holiday roast. We put together a comprehensive guide and video on smoking the perfect Prime Rib recipe every time.

Perfect Smoked Prime Rib with Herbed Crust on a platter
Prime Rib Roast
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Vindulge Recipe Highlights

  • This recipe works for bone-in or boneless prime rib.
  • You can use any smoker, from pellet grills to offsets, for this smoked prime rib recipe.
  • Season the rib roast with an herbal paste for more flavor.

Prime Rib is one of the iconic celebratory or festive holiday meals. It’s dramatic, big in flavor, and delicious. Let’s be honest, it’s also an incredibly expensive cut of meat. So you want to make sure you get it right! If you are cooking this special occasion recipe for family or friends this holiday season this is your go-to guide to ensure a memorable meal.

The Process for Smoked Prime Rib

The end to end process for smoked prime rib is pretty simple.

  • Season the roast. We use an herb paste in this recipe.
  • Smoke the roast. Smoke it low and slow until the desired finishing temperature, which for us is medium rare. 
  • Let the roast rest. This is key to keep the moisture.
  • Slice and Serve.

Smoking meat is low and slow — low heat and a slow cooking process. So when I say “smoking” that is what I am referring to. Smoking is synonymous with barbecue, but I like to be specific in the technique. Grilling is a high heat cooking method and not to be confused with low and slow. Each has its time and place, but for me holidays are all about low and slow.

Recipe Ingredients

  • Prime Rib: You can use a boneless or a bone-in prime rib or rib roast. We prefer bone-in as the bone protects the bottom of the roast.
  • Olive Oil: We add a little olive oil on the outside of the rib roast as a binder for the seasoning and the herb paste.
  • Seasoning: Equal parts kosher salt and coarse black pepper allow the paste to add more flavor.
  • Herb Paste: Olive oil combined with fresh garlic, rosemary, thyme, and sage.

How to Select a Prime Rib

  • Select the Size of Roast: When shopping for a roast for an event or party, we plan 1 pound of prime rib per person (pre-cook weight).
  • What is your Budget: Having a budget can help guide where you want to find the most quality for the money. Look online if you aren’t finding what you want locally.
  • Consider the Marbling: Look at the intramuscular fat. Be sure there is healthy marbling, but still a good amount of meat.
  • Bone-In or Boneless: If buying bone-in, typically order the roast by number of rib bones, like a 3-bone rib roast. Bone-in has the benefit of a layer between the heat source and the meat to protect the meat while cooking.

There is no flavor difference between bone-in or boneless (so don’t let anyone tell you there is). The difference comes in presentation and having a small layer between the grill, the bones, and the rib roast.

The flavor differences are going to be defined by the quality of meat and marbling vs. whether or not your roast is boneless or bone-in. 

Rating Prime Rib – USDA, Wagyu, Local

Prime Rib does not technically mean Prime graded. Prime refers to the primal cut, or the first cut that butchers make from cattle. Quality, as defined by the USDA, is the marbling quality of beef, which in turn also impacts tenderness and flavor. 

raw prime rib on a cutting board
Pictured: Four Bone Choice Rib Roast

In order of grade of beef quality per USDA you have Prime, Choice, and then Select.

While Prime is considered the highest quality, Choice also has tremendous flavor and is certainly not “inferior” meat. It just didn’t rise to the occasion of marbling and quality as the Prime. When you get to Select, you begin to see a difference in the meat, the fat content, and other factors. It is still worthy of smoking, but I would be sure if going down this route, consider at least a Choice cut for a smoked prime rib.

You can also buy American Wagyu, like from Snake River Farms. The marbling for American Wagyu is equal to or above Prime. American Wagyu contains even more marbling and has an amazing buttery texture that is incredible.

At some stores, you may see labels outlining the rancher, or the type of feed (grass, grain, etc.). Don’t hesitate to ask if the beef is rated, and if it isn’t, at least discuss with the butcher that you are looking for a Choice or Prime quality cut or its equivalent. Grain finishing adds marbling. Strictly grass-fed beef will tend to be leaner and with less marbling.

Finally, look closely at the labeling. In the end, it may say “Prime Rib of Beef” or “Standing Beef Rib Roast for Prime Rib” according to the USDA but not have to be derived from Prime-grade beef. So when in doubt ask the butcher.

Preparing a Prime Rib for Smoking

  1. Start by trimming away the excess fat cap off the outer roast if it is hanging or loose. There is plenty of marbling inside that rib roast to give flavor. Removing excess fat helps get the seasoning closer to the meat.
  2. After trimming the fat, pat the roast dry. It’s not uncommon for the butcher to have trimmed off the bones already from the roast (and thus it is tied together with string). Be sure when you clean it, you include this area as well. Then the seasoning begins.
  3. If the bones have not been removed, you can do this now, or after the cook. Simply cut along the bone slowly to separate. Tie back using butcher’s twine to keep them together.

Prime Rib Seasoning

Start with a coat of olive oil and then add kosher salt and black pepper. Sound simple? It is, and this is due to the amazing flavor you get from the fat rendering as you slowly cook the meat.

Want to add another layer of flavor? Consider a flavorful herb paste of olive oil, crushed garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary for your Smoked Prime Rib, such as the one below.

Ingredients for an herb paste on a cutting board.
Ingredients for herb paste.

A paste is simply a wet rub. Just blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor. It sticks easier to the meat, and when using smoke, the moisture from the paste helps the flavor adhere to the meat.

Remember to also season within that area of the bone that was removed by the butcher, and coat everywhere. Seriously, be LIBERAL with your paste and seasonings!

Double this herb paste recipe if the roast is over 5 pounds.

Side note: I don’t have the bone removed prior to cooking, instead I cut it out after it’s done cooking. This is just my preference.

Prime Rib Roast seasoned with herb paste on a cutting board.
Seasoned Rib Roast with Herb Paste

How to Smoke a Prime Rib

Whether you use a pellet smoker, electric, or a wood and coal based smoker, the technique is the same for this Smoked Prime Rib recipe.

herb crusted prime rib on the Big Green Egg.
  1. Preheat Smoker: Set the smoker to 225 degrees, and keep it at this temperature throughout the cooking process.
  2. Smoke Prime Rib: Place the seasoned prime rib roast onto the smoker when it comes to temperature. No need to let the roast come to room temperature before placing it on the smoker. Smoke the roast until the internal temperature of the meat, when measured at the center, is at your desired level; I like 125 degrees for rare and 135 for medium rare.
  3. Rest: Once you pull the smoked prime rib roast from the smoker, tent the roast in aluminum foil and allow the meat to rest for 30 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise another 5 degrees or so and while the meat rests, the cells will reabsorb the juices as it cools keeping the sliced meat moist.
  4. Slice and Serve: Carve and serve with your favorite sides.

Always use a good instant-read meat thermometer for a proper read. We love the Thermapen One for its quick and accurate read as well as the Thermoworks Smoke Unit to monitor the temperature throughout the cooking process.

Chef’s Tip: Remember, when cooking in a smoker or grill, you always cook to temperature and not time. 

Slicing Rib Roast

Remove the foil and then remove the strings (if you wrapped your roast). Next, remove the bones from the prime rib roast (see video for how we do this). As much as I love the bone, I find a much more elegant (and easier) presentation without the bone. Place the roast on a cutting board and slice to the desired thickness. Serve with your favorite sides.

The great part of a Prime Rib Roast is the ability to cook the outer edges to medium while the center can be rare. So you can please a wide audience without overcooking the entire roast if some of your guests prefer a more medium-well done slice.

Slices of rare smoked prime rib on a platter.
Use a large slicer knife for an easy cut.

How Long to Smoke Prime Rib

All time ranges are based on a finished internal temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. As a reminder when cooking at low temperature, the guide to when the meat is done is the internal temperature, not the exact timing.

  • 225 Degrees will take roughly 40 minutes per pound
  • 250 Degrees will take roughly 30 minutes per pound
  • 275 Degrees will take roughly 20 minutes per pound

The following times are a rough guide for how long a prime rib will take to smoke at 225 degrees F.

  • 4 Pound Prime Rib = 2.6 hours
  • 6 pound Prime Rib = 4 hours
  • 8 pound Prime Rib = 5.3 hours
  • 10 pound Prime Rib = 6.6 hours

Chef’s Tip: Be sure to add 30 minutes of resting time to the cooking time. If your rib roast is done early, then wrap the roast in butcher paper or a towel and place into a cooler with no ice. The roast will stay warm for up to four hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is prime rib

Technically Prime Rib is a beef rib roast that comes from the central part of the cow off of the spine. The movement of the cow gives this cut great marbling. It can also go by standing rib roast, beef rib roast, ribeye roast or roll, bone-in or boneless roast.

“Prime”, as it refers to the Prime Rib roast, is a reference to the primal cuts versus USDA prime rating. Primal cuts are the larger cuts after initial butchering.

should i remove the bones before smoking

There is no need to remove the bone before smoking. We like to leave them on as insulation against the heat as the rib roast smokes. When the prime rib is done and rested you can remove the bones using a good carving knife.

If the bones have been removed is it necessary to tie them back on

When buying bone-in prime rib the butcher will have removed the bones in full, or 90%, and then tie them back on with butcher twine. If the bones were removed just leave them on while it smokes. Then remove them after.

Should i wrap my prime rib while smoking

We do not recommend wrapping a rib roast while smoking. Wrapping stops the infusion of smoke flavor and prevents a nice crust, or bark, from developing. We recommend smoking throughout the process unwrapped and loosely tenting in foil when resting.

should I smoke fat side up or down

The top of the prime rib will have the fat cap. We like to smoke so the fat cap is facing up throughout the smoking process. This allows some of the fat cap to render down and through the roast.

Expert Tips

Beef Temperature Ranges

Be sure to take into consideration the carry-over cooking that happens while the steak rests. For steaks remove them 5 degrees lower than your desired temperature. For roasts remove them 10 degrees lower. The steak’s internal temperature will rise as it rests.

Black and Blue100 – 120° Fahrenheit (F)37 – 48° Celsius (C)
Rare120 – 130° F48 – 54° C
Medium Rare130 – 140° F54 – 60° C
Medium140 – 150° F60 – 65° C
Medium Well (not recommended)150 – 160° F65 – 71° C
Well Done (not recommended)160 – 170° F71 – 76° C

Prime Rib Wine Pairing

Red wine poured into a glass on a table scape of holiday dinner spread.

The best wine with Prime Rib is a big red such as a California Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux, Merlot, or Malbec. You can read more about pairing wine with Beef Rib Roast, where we discuss all things wine and smoked prime rib.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Prime rib will last up to five days in the refrigerator. Store in an airtight container. To reheat Prime Rib, use the following instructions.

On the Stovetop: Heat a large cast iron or stainless steel pan on the stovetop set to medium heat, and add olive oil or butter. Let warm until just about to smoke point. Add the slices and pan sear like a steak. Flip after a few minutes and sear the other side.

In the Oven: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap the rib roast or slices in aluminum foil. Place in the oven for 15 minutes and then serve warm.

Smoked Prime Rib carved on a platter

Leftover Prime Rib Ideas

If you end up with leftover prime rib then here are a few recipes for inspiration.

Other Rib Roast Recipes

  • Reverse Seared Prime Rib – You can also smoke and then sear prime rib in our reverse-seared prime rib recipe with a compound butter.
  • Grilled Prime Rib – While we love the extra smoke flavor – straight up grilling is just as good. Consider grilling and adding your favorite horseradish butter.
  • Smoked Beef Tenderloin – A great option for a smaller crowd. While leaner it’s still amazing smoked.

Holiday Meal Planning Ideas

Explore our entire article on holiday recipes for the grill and smoker for more holiday roast inspiration, appetizers, and cocktails. Here are some of our favorites.

Setting a smoked prime rib on a dinner table surrounded by holiday side dishes

You can also explore all of our BBQ and Smoked Recipes like our Smoked Brisket Recipe and our Smoked Pork Shoulder.

About Vindulge

Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.

This post was originally published in December of 2016, and updated with new details in September 2022. The original recipe remains the same.

Smoked Prime Rib with Herb Crust
4.50 from 91 votes

Smoked Prime Rib Recipe

How to cook a prime rib on a smoker. Including recipe and video tutorial on smoking the perfect prime rib for any kind of smoker, including pellet smokers. Comes with wine pairing recommendations. 
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 3 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6 -8 servings
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Ingredients 

For the Prime Rib:

  • 5 pound Prime Rib Roast (or rib roast)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

For the Herb Paste:

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions 

For the Herb Paste:

  • Place all herb paste ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times until combined into a chunky paste. (double recipe if roast is over 5 pounds)

For the Smoked Prime Rib:

  • Prep Prime Rib: If the bone has already been removed, remove the string and bone to trim excess fat off of the meat, and pat dry. Using butcher's twine, tie the bones back onto the roast. If the bone has not been removed simply remove it after cooking.
  • Season Roast: Apply olive oil, and then kosher salt and black pepper generously to the rib roast. Then apply the paste. Store overnight in the refrigerator to allow the seasoning to incorporate into the meat (if possible).
  • Preheat Smoker: To 225 degrees using a fruit wood like apple or cherry (oak also works well).
  • Smoke Roast: Place the seasoned rib roast on the smoker, bone side down (this acts as a heat shield). Insert any Bluetooth thermometer at this time to monitor the ongoing temperature of the roast while cooking, like the Thermoworks Smoke Unit.
  • Continue cooking the roast for roughly 3 1/2 hours or until the center of the meat reads 125 degrees F using an instant-read thermometer for rare. (At 225 degrees plan 40 minutes of cooking time per pound). Use an instant-read thermometer to probe in multiple areas toward the center of the cut. See notes for the temperature chart.
  • Rest: Remove Prime Rib from smoker and let sit, tented in foil, for 30 minutes.
  • Slice and serve.

Video

Notes

A 5-pound prime rib should safely serve 6 people. 
If the roast is done early, wrap in butcher paper, a towel, or foil and place into a cooler with no ice. It will act as a warmer for several hours prior to serving.
Beef Temperature Chart:
  • Rare: 120-130 degrees F
  • Medium Rare: 130-140 degrees F
  • Medium: 140-150 degrees F
  • Medium Well: 150-160 degrees F
  • Well Done: 160 degrees F (and not recommended)

Nutrition

Calories: 1294kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 119g | Saturated Fat: 45g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 57g | Cholesterol: 229mg | Sodium: 2495mg | Potassium: 876mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 76IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Course: dinner, Entree, Holiday
Cuisine: American, barbecue, bbq, holiday, smoked prime rib
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Calories: 1294
Keyword: how to smoke prime rib, prime rib roast recipe, smoked prime rib, smoked prime rib recipe
Like this recipe? Leave a comment below!


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Vindulge

About Mary


I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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74 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    4 Pound Prime Rib = 2.6 hours
    6 pound Prime Rib = 4 hours
    8 pound Prime Rib = 5.3 hours
    10 pound Prime Rib = 6.6 hours

    When using these times, are you calculating the weight of the meat with or without the bones attached?

    1. It will always be based on temperature versus time, but generally it’s with a bone-in rib roast.

  2. 5 stars
    Awesome recipe! I was going to try a few different ones but after we used this one the first time, we’ve never tried another. We grow our own herbs which probably makes it even better.

  3. 5 stars
    Happy New Year! Love your recipes. We’re smoking a prime rib today in our Mak Two Star General. It’s the best!

  4. 5 stars
    Was nervous about smoking such an expensive cut of meat, until I watched your video. You made it look easy and it was! Was perfect for Christmas dinner. Thank you.

    1. It’s actually in the recipe details – we recommend a fruit wood like apple or cherry for the sweeter flavor. Oak works too. Hickory and Mesquite will certainly be a lot more smokier, which is why we like the lighter woods.

  5. 5 stars
    Hi there from Sonora CA!

    We just finished dinning on a Thanksgivings Prime Rib from your recipe. It was freaking delicious, perfectly cooked, 9 lbs. for 4 hours (127deg f.). Internal. We were a little early based on cooking at 225deg at 40 mins per lb. but it held well rapped in foil, towels and a blanket after taking off the CampChef smoker.

    Oh baby so good!!!

    Cheers
    Jerry

    PS: we had an organic table mountain beef prime rib from Rawhide meats. Get the grass fed organic for optimum taste!!!!!

    1. Thank you for taking time to share your feedback and we are so glad it turned out! And that grass fed beef sounds like it was amazing.

  6. Thank you for this recipe. We are doing a new tradition for Thanksgiving as my husband passed away in may fighting a battle of COPD for years. So, my son and I are learning how to Smoke (which I bought last year and my neighbor’s husband put it together for me) and BBQ. I use my Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi, but, we hardly every BBQ’d and I am loving it. Teaching my 20-year old son, and he smoked a Salmon on his own, and turned out pretty good. Was proud of him.

    1. Kerri, first we are so sorry for your loss. What a great experience with your son to be able to cook together. We believe that cooking for and with each other is an act of love and I am sure your husband is with you as you continue with your new traditions. Thank you for sharing.

  7. 5 stars
    Happy Thanksgiving Mary!

    You knocked it out of the park with this recipe, and just helped us establish our yearly holiday tradition. I think turkey is taking a backseat.
    Our family is a little pickier, and we smoked our 7 pound roast to medium doneness, in about 4.5 hours (143 degrees). Outstanding results! Thanks for the recipe!