Perfect Prime Rib Roast, Perfectly Easy
There are times when the universe makes sense, when something utterly perfect falls at your feet with such simplicity that you want to weep. But save your tears because you need to make it through Sunday night supper first, which happens to be a perfect opportunity to cook the perfect rib roast, which is, surprisingly, against all odds, perfectly easy. After you try this technique, the only thing scary about entertaining with a prime rib roast will be the exorbitant price.
Let me mention from the gates that should spare me the sighs of gratitude and effluent praise. Although I should be draped in well deserved laurels for bringing this to the table, I am not a Goddess of Meat. I am just a girl. A girl who likes roast beef. Most importantly, a girl who gets New York Times recipes sent to her inbox, courtesy of her father in law.
Seriously. I take no credit whatsoever for this recipe, because all I’m doing is sharing a technique that was published back in 1966, and finally came my way in January of 2011. It is dead simple, absolutely idiot proof, and produces the most profoundly flavorful and moist roast. All the kudos go to Anne Seranne, prolific cookbook author, batty old dog lady, former editor of Gourmet, and quintessential expert on entertaining circa the 1960’s.
I don’t often cook large cuts of meat for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, there is just the two of us and it doesn’t always make sense to cook an entire pork loin or beef brisket for just Mike and I. That said, we entertain frequently and it isn’t uncommon for us to have 6, 12 or 22 people huddled in the dining room and kitchen. When I have a large group, and a nice big beef joint would seem to make sense, frankly roast beef enough for 22 just isn’t in our budget (that has “chicken kebab” written all over it). This brings me to the second reason: the price. We’re the Choosy Beggars, people, not the Choosy Independently Wealthies. If you overcook, under season or otherwise ruin a pork chop, you can usually just shake your head and vow to do better next time. If you ruin a standing rib roast, you are crying into your dinner plate and blowing your nose on $50 bills. I’m not a gambler; I don’t like to take chances, I DO NOT like expensive loss, and I particularly hate failing at something basic which everyone should be able to do (I’m looking at you, omelet).
The first time I cooked a standing rib roast I was 23 years old and it was in the tiny oven in my tiny apartment. I was so nervous about overcooking the meat that I ended up serving my eleven gracious dinner guests slices that were so rare they were like carpaccio. As good friends, they politely slathered the bloody mess in au jus, likely hoping that it would continue cooking with residual heat.
The second time I cooked a standing rib roast I was 27 years old. Remembering the Night of Blue Beef, I checked the temperature zealously every 10 minutes, poking the thermometer deep inside the beef each time. Gouge…..gouge…..gouge…….you can almost feel the juices running out and drying in the pan. Although I took the roast out when it was exactly 140ºF, even after resting the meat was flavorless, chewy, grey around the edges with a fuchsia core.
According to my calculations, every 4 years we can celebrate February 29th, presidential elections, the Olympics, and Tina making another attempt at cooking a beautiful cut of premium roast beef. This time, I was determined to do it right. And hey, if Anne Seranne says that this is how you prepare picture-perfect company quality roast beef, well, I’m going to listen. The basic steps are:
- Season the meat generously with salt and pepper.
- Rub flour into the fat cap on top of the meat.
- Sear the meat in a hot oven for a relatively short period of time.
- Turn the oven off.
- Serve your guests succulent pink roast beef with a crispy crackle from the fat cap which is so delicious that there will be not a scrap left on anyone’s plate.
I made my own little adaptation of course, and rubbed the meat with a dusting of ground porcini mushroom powder to up the umami quotient, but that’s it. Can you even imagine? Turn off the stove and just forget about it. Drink some wine with your guests, cobble together a couple of quick vegetable sides, and the rest is, literally, gravy.
Perfect Prime Rib Roast
- 4.5 – 5 lb (~2 kg) standing rib roast with 2 bones *
- 3/4 oz (20 g) dried porcini mushrooms
- 1.5 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
* Although it is only Mike and I eating, a 2 rib roast will feed us quite well for dinner, a hearty lunch the next day, and still have just enough left in scrap to add to a barley stew or hearty potato and pepper frittata. If you have your heart set on a larger roast, the two hour resting time will be the same but the initial roasting time will vary.
Take the meat out of the fridge at least an hour (or up to 4 hours) before you wish to start cooking so that it is room temperature all the way through by the time it goes in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 500ºF.
Take the dried porcini mushrooms and pulverize them into a fine powder using a spice grinder. Essentially, you have just created porcini flour, which I swear has got to be a euphemism for “ohbabyyeah”.
Mix the powder with 1 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the mixture onto the sides of the roast evenly, patting it gently into the meat to adhere. Be sure to get the butt ends of the roast and dust the bottom rib rack with porcini flour while you’re at it, but leave the fatty top of the roast alone. There should be approximately 1 – 1.5 tbsp of porcini flour left over; set this aside.
I don’t usually give measurements for salt and pepper, so feel free to use your own judgement. However, I did this thinking of my brother’s horrified reaction when I added a good tablespoon or two of kosher salt to a stock pot full of water before boiling pasta. Look, a little does not go a long way. This is a lot of thick meat, and you need to season it well. Don’t be stingy. In the same way that you wouldn’t add a mere teaspoon of salt to your pasta water, it is unacceptable to sprinkle a little fairy-kiss of fleur de sel on top of your roast and expect it to be tasty. You owe your meat more love than that.
Mix together the reserved porcini flour with the all purpose flour and remaining salt and pepper. Dust the flour mixture only on to the fat cap of the meat, gently patting it in.
Set the rib roast on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a wire rack. It should be fat side up and bone side down.
Broil the roast at 500ºF for exactly 25 minutes (do not pass ‘Go’, do not stop to make a cocktail or answer the phone, and for god’s sake do not get caught up in a magazine on the can) and then turn the oven off. Let the roast rest and continue cooking as the oven comes down to room temperature, or for approximately two (2) hours. Now you can walk away.
….and that’s it.
I told you, didn’t I, that this was possibly the easiest recipe in the world for a perfect roast of beef? You turn the oven off and then you walk away. Simply awesome. The one caveat is that you really want to be sure to avoid opening the oven door. The long rest in a cooling oven cooks the meat gently and evenly, so the roast is juicy and perfectly pink throughout. If you prefer your roast to be a little more rare, turn the heat off up to 5 minutes earlier. If you prefer the meat to be well done, leave the oven on for up to 10 minutes longer.
In terms of Ms. Seranne’s original instructions, there are guidelines for timing the roast by weight as follows:
Ribs…..Weight…………Roast at 500ºF
2…………4 ½-5 pounds…..25-30 minutes
3…………8-9 pounds………40-45 minutes
4…………11-12 pounds…….55-60 minutes
Tent the meat loosely in tinfoil and let it rest for 10 minutes while you prepare a jus or gravy with the pan drippings and finish off the side dishes for your perfect roast beef dinner.
Carving a prime rib roast is also not intimidating, I promise. Use a long, sharp carving knife and run it along the bones all the way to the bottom of the roast, turning the roast down as you go until the bones are freed. If you cut between the bones there is some delicious rib meat that can be reserved, or you can simply lay the ribs on the side of your platter and let your guests help themselves. I prefer to quickly wrap the ribs up in tin foil and hide them in the back of the fridge, pretending that they were never there in the first place, so that I can gnaw on them privately to my heart’s content.
After the bones have been removed, slice the meat across the grain about 1/4″ thick, or as you see fit. Please do make sure that each slice has a bit of the crispy fat cap on top.
With buttery braised fingerling potatoes, lovely little pattypan squash, wild mushrooms and a bit of Madeira spiked jus de boeuf, the transition from Sunday night supper to elegant dinner party would be child’s play.
I cannot wait for the day when I finally win the lottery and I can make a standing rib roast just because, you know, it’s a Tuesday and I can. One day…….one day…….
PLEASE NOTE: The first time I attempted this technique, I thought I could get away with using a rump roast and cutting down the time spent at 500ºF by about a third. Turns out, not so much. The roast was well done with just barely a blush of pink in the very center. However, it was still surprisingly tender, moist and juicy for such a well done cut. In fact, it was so delicious with that crispy crust and flavorful meat that I simply had to try again the following weekend with a bone-in roast. Bones add a lot of flavor but also always increase the roasting time of meat, and in this case they are essential. Splurge, just once, and buy that sexy prime rib roast that you’ve had your eye on for a while. You work so hard, don’t you deserve a little indulgence once in a while for a special occasion?