Smoked Garlic Butter Prime Rib boasts rich flavors and juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth beef. From how to prepare the rib roast to everything that you need for smoking the meat, we'll show you how to make the perfect prime rib for your next special occasion!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure documents for more information.
I think flavorful food is important for any meal, but when you have a special occasion it is worthy of something out of this world delicious! That's why we have chosen prime rib as our Christmas dinner tradition. And this is our go-to recipe for an incredibly delicious, impressive Christmas dinner.
What is Prime Rib?
Prime rib is also known as a standing rib roast. Ribeyes are cut from prime rib, so if you are a fan of ribeyes you will especially love prime rib! A full prime rib has seven bones, and the meat from one bone will serve two people. The good news is, you don't have to purchase a whole rib! A 3-bone roast works very well for this recipe, though you can do the whole 7-bone rib roast if you prefer.
Prime rib is available with the bone already removed, but the bones serve as a stand and make handling the prime rib easier. You can request that your butcher remove the bones and then tie them back on. This allows you have the convenience of the bones for smoking, without the work of carving the meat off the bone.
Garlic Herb Butter Rub
One of the keys to a delicious prime rib is using a rub that complements the natural flavors of the meat without overpowering it. Even though this garlic herb butter has some powerful ingredients, the prime rib flavor still stands strong. The delicate herbs enhance the meat's flavor, and the richness of the butter accentuates the inherent richness of the prime rib.
You can use dried herbs if you do not have access to fresh. The flavor of dried herbs is more subtle than fresh, so do use fresh if possible. But if you must, substitute 1 teaspoon of the dried herb for every 1 tablespoon of fresh.
This garlic herb rub can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature an hour or two before using, so that it is easier to spread.
Preparing the Prime Rib
Purchase your prime rib 1-3 days before you plan to roast it. When you get it home from the store, unwrap it, place it in a roasting pan, and put it in your refrigerator. This is one of the few things you want to put in your refrigerator uncovered. The cold air removes moisture from food. With your prime rib, that means the meat will be in a condition that is ready to carmelize and crust under the heat.
One to two hours before you plan to begin smoking your meat remove it from the refrigerator and cover it with the garlic butter rub. I use my hands for this and spread the butter on all surfaces of the meat.
Letting it sit for an hour with this rub does two things. First, it allows the meat temperature to rise. This will help your meat cook more evenly. Second, the salt in the rub will penetrate the meat, loosening the proteins, and allowing the flavors to be better absorbed.
Items You Will Need
There is nothing more frustrating than getting into a project and then realizing you do not have everything you need. Here's a checklist that shows what we used while smoking our prime rib.
The links provided are affiliate links. I will receive a small commission from any purchases you make, with no additional cost to you.
- Charcoal Chimney Starter
- Apple or Cherry Wood Chips
- Charcoal Briquettes
- Aluminum pans (3)
- Spray bottle
- Apple Juice
- High heat gloves
- Aluminum Foil
Calculating Smoking Time
Plan for the time that you want to serve your meal, then count backward.
Make sure that you allow at least 15 minutes for the prime rib to rest.
I like to give myself an extra cushion, in case the meat takes longer than anticipated. You can always wrap the prime rib in foil and blankets, and store it in the cooler if it gets done early.
Print this timing guide to help you plan your meal.
Preparing the Grill
Temperature is so important, so our first step in preparing the grill is to get it hot. Aim to achieve 250 degrees Fahrenheit in your smoker consistently.
Use a charcoal chimney starter in order to have your coals hot and ready. This will also allow you to have some coals hot and ready to go in case the temperature starts to dip.
While the coals are heating, soak your wood chips for about 20 minutes.
I recommend using a fruit wood chip such as cherry or apple. This will give a mild flavor without overpowering the meat. After all, this is prime rib and you don't spend this much on meat just to taste mesquite.
With your coals now ashy and gray they are ready to be placed on the grill.
Put your aluminum pan in the grill and then surround it with hot coals.
Place the pan on the right side and the coals on the left side.
With these in place remove your wood from the water and place them on the coals. Using direct heat creates a more consistent smoked flavor.
Things to Know About Smoking Meat
Set your grates on the grill and place your seasoned prime rib on the grill in the other aluminum pan.
Insert your probe thermometer, if using. I recommend the ThermoPro Wireless Thermometer as it allows for constant monitoring up to 300 feet away. Just be aware that it can read 5 degrees hotter due to the stainless probe, so double-check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer once it gets close.
Close your grill and check the temperature every 45 minutes to an hour. You can adjust the temperature through either the top or side of your grill. If you are new at this choose one to work with rather than trying to control the temperature through both outlets.
Opening the intake will increase the temperature as you increase the oxygen and closing the intake will reduce the temperature as reduce oxygen. Here is a link for a great article if you want to learn more about regulating the temperature of your smoker.
Keep the grill closed as much as possible. You can judge whether or not you need to add wood chips based on the smoke coming out of the grill pipe. You should see thin wisps of smoke.
Fill a spray bottle with apple juice and use it to put out any flare-ups. The meat will take on the flavor of liquid you use. Apple juice adds flavor without overpowering the meat. The natural sugars also help with caramelization.
Resting the Meat
Once your meat is within 10 degrees of your desired temperature, remove it from the grill.
Wrap in aluminum foil and rest for a minimum of 15 minutes. 30 is optimal as it allows for the juices to lock in and stay in the meat as you cut the prime rib.
If your meat is done well before dinner time you can hold it even longer by treating it more like pork. Wrap in foil and place inside a cooler lined with a blanket or towel. Place another towel or blanket on top of it and close the lid. We held our prime rib for almost an hour this way and it was still hot but did not overcook.
How to Carve
Stand your meat straight up with the bones vertical and grip the bones with one hand.
Slide your carving knife in between the bone and the meat, and follow the curve of the bone.
When you get to the notch at the bottom of the bone, fold the bones away from the roast and angle your knife back towards the roast, then continue working around the bone to separate it from the meat.
Set the back ribs aside and lay the roast onto the plate, cut-side-down.
Hold the roast with one hand and slice the meat with the other, cutting the meat in even strokes rather than sawing.
Prime rib is traditionally sliced in half-inch-thick slices, though you can cut as thick or as thin as you desire.
Carve only as much as you plan to serve. This will help the meat stay warm in case people want seconds. It is also easier to store and reheat the meat if it is left intact.
How to Make Au Jus
The one downside to smoking your prime rib is that there are no drippings for you to use when making an au jus. You may choose to serve this with horseradish or Yorkshire pudding and skip the au jus altogether.
If having au jus is important to you, you can make a no-drippings au jus with just a few simple ingredients.
- Our prime rib Christmas dinner usually includes au gratin potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a winter salad.
- For dessert enjoy some cheesecake or homemade brownies.
- If you are serving wine, a medium-bodied red wine with strong tannins pairs well, as the tannins provide an acidic balance to the fat of the prime rib without the wine being overpowering.
We love Mount Peak Rattlesnake Zinfandel and Les Brulieres de Beychevelle Haut-Merit at our table!
Get 30% off your next order at Wine.com!
Wrap leftover prime rib tightly in plastic wrap or store in an airtight container. It will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the prime rib in a pan with ¼ cup of beef stock and heat in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
Smoked Garlic Butter Prime Rib
- 5 pound bone-in prime rib
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
- 1 tablespoon finely diced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon finely diced thyme
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Optional step: Unwrap prime rib and place in a roasting plan. Let rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
- In a small bowl, mix the softened butter, chopped rosemary, chopped thyme, minced garlic, salt, and pepper together.
- One hour before smoking, rub the butter on all surfaces of the prime rib. Let the butter-covered prime rib sit at room temperature in an aluminum pan until you are ready to put it on the grill. (At least an hour, or up to 2 hours.)
- Prepare grill, bringing the temperature to 250 degrees. Once it has maintained the 250F degree temperature for 15 minutes, place your prime rib (still in the aluminum pan) on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Close the grill lid.
- Check the temperature of your grill hourly and adjust the coals, as needed to maintain a 225-250 temperature.
- Smoke the prime rib for 35 minutes per pound to achieve rare doneness, 40 minutes per pound for medium-rare, and 45 minutes per pound for medium meat.
- Once the internal temperature of the meat has reached your desired doneness, remove it from the grill, wrap in foil, and let rest for 15-30 minutes before carving.