There is no better way to celebrate than with a mouthwatering Smoked Prime Rib Roast! This classic cut of meat is tender and juicy with amazing smoked beef flavor in every bite.
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It's Montana Week here and I'm sharing some of the most famous foods from Big Sky Country as part of my American Eats series. For a true Montana dinner, don't forget to finish off your meal with a slice of homemade huckleberry pie!
Montana is well-known for ranching, cowboys, and of course, prime rib. This succulent cut of meat is best showcased by cooking it to a beautiful rare to medium-rare with minimal flavor enhancers like coarse kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic, and herbs like rosemary and thyme.
And while you can roast prime rib in the oven for a delicious dinner, smoking your prime on a Traeger, traditional smoker, or other pellet smoker or pellet grill is even better because it makes it so easy and adds a wonderful complexity and smoky flavor to every bite.
This is our favorite smoked prime rib recipe that is easy to prep and make for any special occasion! Serve it for Christmas dinner, Easter dinner, or Sunday dinners when you are having guests over.
What is prime rib?
Prime rib is a cut, not a grade of meat, and if you sliced it into steaks you would have ribeye steak since they both come from the same part of the cow. After slow roasting or smoking your prime rib, you cut it into thick juicy slices to serve.
Prime rib is sometimes also called a "standing rib roast" and during the holiday season you will see it prepared bone-in. During the rest of the year it can be hard to find a bone-in prime rib roast unless you talk to a butcher, but a boneless prime rib roast is just as delicious and I can always get one from Costco. In fact, we prefer a boneless prime rib roast for smoking because you get better smoke penetration all around the meat that way.
Prime rib can be graded USDA prime, choice, or select, with prime being the top choice for the juiciest, most tender meat with the best marbling. It's an expensive cut of meat, which is why it is typically saved for special occasions and celebratory meals, but it is so worth it!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Prime Rib Roast - Look for prime rib labeled "USDA prime" rather than "USDA choice". It can be a little confusing, but you are looking for PRIME (the grade) prime rib (the cut), if that makes any sense.
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Rosemary & thyme - I prefer fresh herbs for their punchier flavor, but you can replace 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs with 1 teaspoon of dried herbs in a pinch.
- Black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- Mustard powder
- Horseradish sauce - My husband would tell you that this is an absolute must when it comes to prime rib. It's so zippy and creamy and the perfect compliment to the rich flavor of the succulent prime rib. It's just mayo, sour cream, heavy creamy, horseradish, and chives with a little salt and pepper, to taste.
How to Smoke Prime Rib
- Season. Rub your prime rib roast all over with olive oil. In a medium bowl, combine chopped fresh rosemary, thyme, minced garlic, coarse kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, smoked paprika, and dry mustard. I like to do this in my food processor to help chop the garlic and herbs. Rub this over the entire roast. Do this an hour before you plan to start smoking the meat so the prime rib has time to come closer to room temperature and take some of the chill off. This will help give it a more even cook.
- Smoke. Get your smoker going to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the prime rib on the clean grill grate and close the lid. For a cooking time, plan to smoke your prime rib for about 30 to 40 minutes per pound. So for a 5 pound prime rib, you are looking at around 3 hours of smoke time. But remember that the most important thing is temperature, not time.
Cook your prime rib according to the internal temperature of the roast for your desired degree of doneness. Most people, myself included, strongly hold that prime rib is best served rare to medium-rare. Keep in mind that the internal temperature of the meat will continue to rise about 5 degrees after removing the prime rib from the smoker while it rests.
Rare: 120 to 125 degrees F.
Medium-Rare: 125 to 135 degrees F
Medium: 135 to 145 degrees F
Well-Done: 145 degrees F +
- Reverse sear (optional). If you want to add more of a crust to your smoked prime rib, consider doing a reverse sear by heating a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat right towards the end of your cook time. Add two tablespoons each of olive oil and butter, then place the smoked prime rib into the pan to sear on all sides. It's not necessary and kind of a hassle so we usually skip it, but it you love some extra char on your meat it's a great option to achieve it.
- Rest the meat, then carve. Prime rib is a big piece of meat, so you will want to let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing it. This allows the juices to redistribute and the temperature of the meat will actually continue to rise about 5 degrees during this period. It makes a beautiful presentation served whole on a platter so you can carve it on the table, or you can carve it on a cutting board and plate thick slices.
The meat is the same, but the flavor difference is more about the method used to cook it. A prime rib roast is more juicy and buttery thanks to the slow roast while ribeye is quickly grilled or seared fast and hot over high heat so it has more of a char flavor to it. Both are delicious!
If there is a thick fat cap on the top of your prime rib roast, yes you may want to trim away excess fat with a sharp knife before rubbing it with your seasonings.
What to Serve with Prime Rib
We served our smoked prime rib with a classic garden salad with restaurant-style ranch dressing and rich duchess potatoes for our side for an elegant but still rustic meal that reminded us of our trips to the Treasure State. Here are some other great options to round out your meal!
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
- Oven Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, Parmesan, & Lemon
- Fluffy Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Parker House Rolls
- The Best Boiled Corn on the Cob
- Scalloped Potatoes (Au Gratin Potatoes)
- Easy Oven Roasted Cauliflower
- Copycat Olive Garden Salad
- Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls with Whipped Cinnamon Honey Butter
Tips for Success
- Don't overcook. When in doubt, test your prime rib in a couple spots with a reliable digital meat thermometer to make sure you don't overcook it. Prime rib is best when it is juicy and pink inside instead of dry and grey.
- Use your favorite wood. We typically use hickory for smoking prime rib, but apple, cherry, and oak are all good choices for beef.
Prime rib leftovers should be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eaten within 2 days. I don't recommend freezing leftover prime rib.
How to Reheat Prime Rib
After smoking your prime rib to medium-rare perfection, you don't want to waste or ruin any of it that is leftover. Our favorite way to use leftover prime rib is to make a prime rib sandwich.
But if you just want to reheat it for enjoying the next day, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil and heat it in a 325°F oven for 15-20 minutes.
More Special Occasion Dinner Recipes
- Easy Beef Tenderloin Roast With Creamy Horseradish Sauce
- Pan Seared Lamb Loin Chops
- Pan Seared Scallops
- Beef Wellington
- Crispy Honey Roasted Duck
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Smoked Prime Rib Roast Recipe
- 5 pound boneless prime rib roast
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 Tablespoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- Rub prime rib roast all over with olive oil. Combine salt, garlic, pepper, rosemary, thyme, smoked paprika, and mustard in a medium bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the meat, rubbing it on to stick if necessary. Let meat sit out at room temperature for 1 hour before smoking.
- When ready to smoke, heat smoker to 225°F. Place the seasoned prime rib on clean grates and close the lid.
- Smoke the prime rib for about 3 ½ hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 125°F for medium-rare. The rule of thumb is roughly 30-40 minutes per pound, depending on your preference for doneness and whether the roast is bone-in or boneless. You want to pull your roast from the heat when it is 5 degrees F from your target temp since the temperature of the meat will continue to rise by about five degrees while it rests.
- This is optional, but if you want an even crustier crust, you can remove the roast from the smoker and sear it on all sides in a hot cast iron pan with a little olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes per side. I usually skip it, but it does give a nice finish.
- Let the roast rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with horseradish sauce.
- Wood pellets: We used hickory, but apple, cherry, and oak are all good choices for beef.
- Degrees of Doneness:
- Rare: 120-125 degrees F.
- Medium-Rare: 125-135 degrees F.
- Medium: 135-145 degrees F.
- Well-done: 145 degrees +.
- Storage: Keep any uneaten meat in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.