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The Unfussy Rib Roast

January 2, 2015

Meat and potatoes. It’s not how I usually eat. Far too often it’s dull and boring. I mean, what’s more played out than a roast of beef. But when done right? Oh my.

Getting a bone-in rib roast is a commitment. They don’t come small, and they aren’t cheap. When you are making one, it’s going to be the centerpiece of a grand meal. Maybe it’s for friends. Maybe it’s for family. But regardless, there are going to be several hungry people waiting for your roast to be placed on the table.

Your friends and family may say they aren’t judging you. But we all know that they are.

I know this first hand as I attempted my first standing rib roast for friends at a New Year’s Eve dinner in those days long ago before the kids came along. We started the meal with lobster bisque. There were yorkshire puddings to go along with the beef. And, amazingly, it wasn’t a disaster. However, for most of the early evening, I was totally ill at ease that the roast would either be too rare when it came out. Or even worse, that I would cook it beyond the medium rare point and ruin this expensive joint of meat.

After yesterday’s bold experiment with this same cut of meat, I’m never going to fret again.

It’s time to give credit where it’s due. My mother was visiting Albany recently, and while we were driving in the car she was reading some crazy technique she saw on Facebook about how to cook a rib roast. It sounded like one of those click-bait posts, promising a perfect rib roast in a fraction of the time.

As she read the instructions from her phone, I was incredulous. The recipe called for blasting the roast with intense heat for a short period of time. Then all you had to do was turn off the oven, set a timer, and forget the roast was in the oven. The oven door had to stay shut while the roast finished cooking. No peeking. No prodding. No nothing.

Just set it, and forget it.

The only way that could possibly make sense is if the roast was perfectly room temperature, down to the core. That would mean leaving it out of the refrigerator for a shockingly long time. And even then, I was doubtful if it could produce a crust as good as pan searing.

For great results, I’ve always trusted Cooks Illustrated. And it was their method I had used successfully in the past. That said, their low heat roast takes hours, requires tying, and makes a mess of the kitchen when searing the meat.

So with a wandering eye, I tracked down those unlikely instructions my mom found on Facebook.

Reading through some of the 548 comments on the post, gave me a bit more confidence in this approach, so I discussed it with my father-in-law and we decided to give it a try.


This is one of those times I wish I had a picture to show just how perfectly medium rare this was from edge to edge. When it came out of the oven, the thermometer read 130 degrees. It was juicy, flavorful, and delicious. I attribute the difference to the expected 125 temperature to the fact we didn’t use an oven thermometer, which filled me with apprehension at the onset of this project. Now we know that at high heat, the oven at the farm runs a bit hot.

The only thing we did differently was replace the herbs de provence with some dried rosemary, mostly because that’s what was around the house. My mother-in-law made mashed potatoes. Mrs. Fussy made some beef gravy using a bit of the buttery drippings. It was the best rib roast meal I’ve had in a long time.

Really, it couldn’t have been easier.

Perhaps the only downside is from a food safety perspective. This is not my area of expertise. But I can’t imagine the federal government being copacetic with the idea of leaving raw red meat out of the refrigerator for six hours. Sure, any surface bacteria will be obliterated in a 500 degree oven after thirty minutes, but if there’s anything nasty lurking inside, it’s going to have a nice warm environment in which to reproduce.

So be forewarned, I’m not vouching for food safety, only ease and deliciousness.

Note: The oven does start pumping out smoke. So hopefully you have a vented hood or can open a window or two. We were able to execute this without setting off any smoke detectors, but your mileage may vary. And to be fair, all our standing rib roasts have smoked up the house at one stage or another. It’s really kind of unavoidable if you want to get the meat nice and crusty. That said, a good blowtorch could really be a game changer.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2015 10:52 am

    I once had a job cooking prime rib. Probably went through 2-300 roasts. Never used any seasoning other than a generous rub of kosher salt and a little pepper. Room temperature roast goes in convection oven at 450, crisp a bit then lower to 325 and cook till internal temperature in the very middle (I was cooking whole roasts) reaches 120; at home I now cook to 110+ and let it cook a little more while resting for perfectly cooked/rare meat in the middle

  2. MikeH permalink
    January 2, 2015 10:53 am

    We inadvertently did something similar when we had planned a mid-afternoon “dinner” and our guests called to say they would be a couple hours late just after we put the roast in the oven. We didn’t go as far as turning the oven off but turned it down to about 200 degrees and let it go. Turned out to be the most perfect prime rib we have ever cooked. Have you seen the reverse sear method on Serious Eats? I think I am going to give it a try with our next roast.

  3. Skroo permalink
    January 2, 2015 11:09 am

    I cooked my first rib roast for Christmas. It was a 9 pound organic prime cut from Tilldale. Needless to say, I was nervous. I used the Cooks Illustrated method and it came out perfect. I did, however, read a few article online about this method. I think I’ll try it; maybe with a cheaper cut though.

  4. EPT permalink
    January 2, 2015 11:33 am

    I typically roast a prime rib, out of the frig for 15-20 mins. at 450. Then it’s 350 for 20 mins. a pound, let it rest 15 mins. and you’re good to go. I’ve read the 200 oven for, I forget now, and crank it up to 450 for the last 15. Also depends whether it’s on or off bone.

  5. January 2, 2015 11:45 am

    Im not sure how much of an expert I am but as far as food safety goes…you’re riding the line but probably fine. The temperature danger zone is 40F-140F, and typically you are okay holding things within that range for 4 hours – and with some extra adjustment, 2 additional hours. So if this is six hours on the counter to temper….the DOH might say no, but really its probably fine. Six hours in the oven with the oven off for the majority of it – totally okay, that oven wont get below 140 for a while. Also, the general wisdom is that bacteria and other pathogens are on the surface of meat, rather than inside of it. Parasites (worms), however, are typically inside. Generalizing here, and by no means an expert, but maybe itll help put an interested readers mind at ease

  6. January 2, 2015 11:50 am

    I am not a fan of rib roasts, but my husband is, so I indulge him for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve with a couple bones of rib. I buy two bones worth of roast from the butcher (about 4-5 pounds total), boned and tied, and cut it in half. One half gets cooked tonight, the other half goes in the deep freeze. It’s about $80 for four servings. At $20 per person per meal, it’s about what you might pay for a mediocre prime rib dinner at a restaurant.

    Now, it’s tricky doing prime rib for two, but I did find a pretty good technique online – and I’ve used it twice already;

    I added some rosemary and thyme to the garlic paste, and I did leave it at room temp for about an hour or so before cooking. Note: the cooking time is longer than 35 minutes – I give it 20 minutes per side in the oven, and let it rest for ten. So, maybe I didn’t follow the recipe at all and did my own thing. Whatever.

    I agree with you about the Cook’s Illustrated recipes. Love them, but you have to read the article *all the way through* before attempting to make something. I’ve been burned many times by some random “let sit for three hours before proceeding” nonsense.

  7. January 2, 2015 12:37 pm

    I am a big fan of long cooking rib roasts low and slow. Also, consider the reverse sear. Cook it to temp and then blast it in cast iron at the end.

  8. enough already! permalink
    January 2, 2015 2:51 pm

    Wow…I have a recipe card from at least 25 yrs ago with those very instructions. Don’t know where I got it, but it sure does produce a perfect roast. Says to roast 15 min per rib, then turn off. Mouth is watering!

  9. quack permalink
    January 5, 2015 10:17 am

    I’ve done this twice (the only 2 times I even made a prime rib) and both times it came out perfect – I only let my roast sit out about an hour before putting it in the oven & it cooked just fine. Remember that the oven is blasted to 500 for probably at least 1/2 hour & then turned off; while the interior temp of the roast is 125-130, the temp of the oven at the end is still higher.

  10. enough already! permalink
    January 5, 2015 1:54 pm

    Chiming in here – my perhaps 30yr old recipe for 500 degrees for 15min/rib then off has always been perfect. Only downside is the messy oven.

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