This particular prime rib was new-years-day dinner... yum.
(That's me cooking. The purple one took most of the pictures.)
Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment
- Prime rib of beef. These show up in normal markets around major holidays, and are probably in your better butchers and wholesale clubs and such all the time, or perhaps can be ordered. These days a prime rib roast is available either boneless or with the ribs still attached; cost per pound is somewhat less for the bony version, but cost per roast is about the same (based on my looking at CostCo.) I usually get boneless roasts for convenience of carving and serving; other people believe that the bones add flavor. I don't have any particular hints on how to tell a good roast from a bad roast; you pretty much have to trust your butcher. A whole prime rib will weigh more than 15 pounds and cost over $100. But it will feed 20+ people, so that's not really as bad as it sounds. Hereafter the roast shall be referred to as "the Beast."
- Large Pan. This should be large and deep enough to contain the whole Beast in all three dimensions, plus enough room for the salt.
- Rock salt. Enough to bury the whole Beast. About 10 to 15 pounds. You probably don't want to use rock salt that is targeted toward melting ice on driveways; the stuff I use claims to be for making homemade ice-cream.
- Other seasonings to taste. Or not (see later.)
- Meat thermometer. There are two common varieties of meat thermometer. One is designed to sit in your roast in the oven while it cooks. The other is an "instant read", that you're supposed to stick in to check the temp, but NOT leave in the oven... The former is preferred, so you can keep a continuous eye on how the cooking is proceeding.
Step 2: Open, Trim, and Season the Beast.
You may have to cut the beast down to fit in your pan (and/or oven.)
Step 3: Bury the Beast in Rock Salt.
Keep in mind that you now have 15 pounds of meat and 10+ pounds of rock salt in this pan, so it's going to be pretty heavy. Practice using your oven mitts; when it's hot is not the time to discover that you can't get a good grip on it.
In retrospect, it woulld have been a good idea to insert the thermometer into the thickest portion of the meat before it was entirely covered with salt. But I forgot.
Step 4: Cook at High Heat Until (almost) Done.
You want to cook until the thermometer is ALMOST at the desired degree of done-ness.
Done-ness is a matter of personal preference, but remember that the ends will be more well done than the middle, and that you can always cook an underdone slice a bit extra in a microwave, but you can never un-cook an overcooked piece. Also, you'll have to get used to your thermometer and the lies it tells.
All that said, I think this is the first year that the Beast came out as rare as I wanted it to. My first attempt several years ago was (by my standards) pretty drastically overcooked, but it didn't taste as bad as I would have thought. This cut of meat, and this method of cooking, seems to leave quite a lot of flavor over a wide range of mistakes.
Step 5: Remove From Oven BEFORE Fully Cooked...
Here you see it coming out of the oven with the needle just below the 130F "rare" mark. Keep an eye on that dial through the next couple of steps to see how it continues to creep upward.
As you can see in the photo, the salt at the ends of the Beast will have been partially melted away by the juices seeping out; if you're using an instant-read thermometer this can be your cue to start checking the temperature fairly frequently.
It seems to be the nature of cooking that the temperature moves pretty quickly once it starts moving; so keep an eye on it!
Step 6: Allow to Cool (and Cook Outside the Oven) Somewhat.
Step 7: Excavate the Beast.
Step 8: Remove Beast to Carving Platter.
Step 9: Slice and Serve
If you have bones, I think it's traditional to slice "he-man" cuts mid-way between bones, and "petite" cuts right along the bone edges with an additional slice from between bones.
A disadvantage of this method of cooking is that you won't have useful "pan drippings" from the cooking pan; they'll be hopelessly salty. However, you should wind up with plenty of juices from the carving process.
Serve with your favorite seasonings: horseradish, pepper, salt, seasoned salt, etc.