Prime Time For Prime Rib

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So we are in a downward spiral to all the big Christmas meals and gift giving, but you are too tired of turkey and have a hatred for ham at this point.  We all get there, I mean let’s face it there are only so many ways that you can make turkey or ham.  That is why so many families are looking for new culinary go to’s for Christmas.  We want something great, something that can feed a gang of people but also something with some WOW factor to it.

To that end I recommend Prime Rib.  YES, I know it is a bit expensive and it can be intimidating but with the help of a friend or two on the internet and a few recipes to follow you can knock this one out of the park.  Prime Rib really is not that difficult to make and it lends itself to fantastic results whether you roast in a oven or smoke on a grill/smoker.

If you unfamiliar with prime rib I recommend you spend awhile over at AmazingRibs.com and check out Meathead Goldwynn’s Secrets of Cooking Beef.  I can go over every secret to cooking great beef, but honestly Meathead does such a great job of laying it all out the best I would do in this post is echo back everything he has said.  I also recommend bookmarking AmazingRibs.com, it is seriously one of the most comprehensive sites on the internet concerning cooking.

So you are back after getting schooled up at Amazing Ribs, now let’s get to the meat of the matter.  I know you are still probably still wondering about the cost of the prime rib itself.  Let’s be honest, a good prime rib is going to run you about $150 for 15-16lbs of meat.  That is a heck of a lot to throw down on a hunk of beef for sure.  In our family we defray the cost by splitting it 4 ways for the big meal.  Basically the grown up kids split the cost 4 ways and I cook the prime rib.  This allows us all to take credit for the meal but it also allows each of us to give back to the parents and grand parents for all those years of hell and chaos that we caused :).

Keep in mind also, that for this meal we are feeding about 14 adults and about 6 smaller children.  So we buy a pretty good sized prime rib.  If you are feeding a smaller crew then feel free to dial back the size of the prime rib you buy.  I like to cut the meat in about 1in thick cuts so I basically look more at overall length of the prime rib than I do the actual weight per person.  The reality is that only the most severe of us gluttons can put away a solid pound of prime rib along with all the side items without going into a food coma.  So dont be afraid to figure somewhere closer to 8-10oz of cooked meat per person.  That number will cover most families with no problems.

When picking out your prime rib dont fret too much, the prime rib is a very forgiving cut.  When looking for a prime rib, first off I skip the bones.  Frankly, they are just a hassle and dont add anything in my opinion other than more time preparing and trimming.  Next I look for a good red color and I like to find one that is round in shape when I look at it from one end.  The rounder the shape typically the less trimming I have to do in order to achieve that rounder profile referenced in Meathead’s write up.  It also keeps me from having to bother with trussing up the prime rib with butchers twine typically.

I wont get too far into trimming because Meathead breaks it out very well on his site.  I will say this though, beef fat that feels in anyway hard or waxy needs to be removed.  It will never render and if left in tact leaves your guests with pieces they are going to eat around and looks unsavory on their plate.  My basic rule of thumb is, if it doesnt look like red well marbled steak it get’s removed and that includes any fat I can reach with a knife and any silver skin I find.  I know, I know…it’s hard to take a knife and trim away 2-3lbs of something you just paid $8-$10 a pound for, but why would you not?  I mean would you buy caviar and serve it with cheap crackers?  My buddy Mike says “in for a penny, in for a pound” and here that definitely applies.  I mean you have already paid the price for a ticket to the big show, now is not the time to get squeamish, now is the time to do it up right.

Now that your meat is trimmed follow Meathead’s steps 1 -12 under “How We Accomplish Our Goals.”  In step 8 though let me throw a little bit of twist on things.  Meathead doesn’t really mention a specific rub in this step.  So let me throw one at you that is easy to make and toss a little “rub philosophy” at you.

Most folks make rubs 3 ways.  First one is they take a little bit of everything they have in the cabinet that sounds good and mix it together with a hope and a prayer and that is that.  The second will find something that sounds good on the store shelf and hope for the best.  The third will search the internet and find a great recipe and order in all the specialty herbs and spices and end up making a rub that ends up costing them $30 that will get used once if they are lucky.

Frankly, I am a fan of all 3, but let me shed some light on all three.  Rub maker 1 loves to dabble and mix stuff and invent.  Most of the time he can make some good stuff, but he can seldom recreate anything he’s ever made and seldom really has the spices/herbs needed on hand.  I was this guy for a long, long time, but I kept a heck of a stocked pantry of spices.  Rub maker 2 realizes how hard it is to make something great and would rather hit the easy button and just grab something off of the big box store shelf.  That is great as he likely saved money and ended up with an ok product.  The reality though is that most of the rubs on those store shelves frankly are terrible as they are mostly just salt, cheap pepper and preservatives.  Rub maker 3 is the perfectionist.  He may not be inventive, but he has plenty of time to dabble, plan and wants to crush the taste buds of all who sit at his table.  I like this guy as he and I are very similar as well.

But what happens if you combined the three?  What would happen if a guy who constantly dabbles and tests products and also makes rubs from scratch were to make a rub for a prime rib with products that are easily sourced?  Well…it would look at lot like what I’m about to share and exactly what I put on our prime rib today that goes on the smoker tomorrow.

Shane’s Easy Button Prime Rib Rub

1/4 cup Weber brand Steak ‘N Chop seasoning
1/4 cup Tone’s brand Rosemary Garlic seasoning
1 Tbs Ground Cumin
2 Tbs Fine Ground Hazel Nut Coffee

So now the why on what I chose for this rub.  When I think of a rub I immediately try to think of a theme or flavor profile for it.  Since this is a Christmas meal featuring beef the rub needs some good strong herb elements that speak to both requirements.  Rosemary quickly came to mind as it makes people think of the holidays and is typically non offensive to most taste buds.  Rosemary can be pretty strong and any strong elements like that need a solid base to ride on.  When I think of flavors I think of music.  In this case your herbs are going to be hook or the nice guitar solo.  Those elements in a song are only great if there is a great bass/rhythm line supporting them and providing the backdrop by which they can stand apart from.  Weber’s Steak ‘N Chop is a solid mix of salt, pepper, onion, garlic and has a hint of citrus.  So while it is good on its own, honestly its fantastic as a base rub to build other elements on top of.  It has a good mix of earthly, umami elements without being over the top for beef.  So we have a bit of a bluesy bass line kind of bubbling in the background with a bit of a kick drum and high hat accompanying.  Now time for some guitar or horns to bring it together and that is the Tone’s Rosemary Garlic.  This seasoning is loaded with nice whole rosemary and packs a punch flavor wise.  It’s name does not lie, its a shot of straight rosemary and garlic, nothing held back.  In fact I think its a little too punchy if you get heavy handed with it.  But put that on top of a good bass line and you have something.  So now we have something that sounds a little bit like Hendrix playing the blues, fine in it’s own right, but maybe missing a little something.  So that is where the cumin comes in.  The cumin amplifies all those beefy flavor profiles, its there just to make the beef taste more like itself.  Then comes the wah peddle kind of out of left field with the hazel nut coffee.   Why add coffee to a rub that is already good?  Well because you want it to be great.  I happened to have hazel nut on hand and it is a good medium roast so nothing over the top.  The coffee when mixed in with what is already going on just adds that swagger, that funk, that attitude that is needed.  It takes a song that was good and turns into Stevie Ray Vaughn covering Voodoo Chile and takes it to the next level.  For this rub the coffee does not have to be hazel nut, but I do recommend keeping with a medium roast coffee as other can be a bit bold and biting.  Use what you have though and adjust the recipe to dial it in to your liking.

When applying the rub I will do it one of two ways.  The first I will take some olive oil and coat the prime rib with it and then put the rub on and massage it in.  This way the rub sticks to the meat better.  If I am in a hurry I have been known to rub the meat and then take a high quality cooking spray and coat the meat after the rub goes on.  The end result is very similar, but the preferred method is definitely using enough oil that promotes the flavor transfer from the rub ingredients to the meat.

Now you have all you need to make a great prime rib.  You have the instructions, you have a fantastic rub and you hopefully have the confidence to pull it all off.  There is still one thing missing though.  Many will say a well cooked piece of beef needs no sauce whatsoever.  Other’s will insist on wrecking your perfectly cooked prime rib with A1 or heaven forbid….KETCHUP.  So to keep you from spending New Year’s in the pokey after stabbing an in-law for dipping $10 per pound meat into Heinz serve up some amazing horseradish sauce.  I am one of the people on the side of fence that says great beef needs no sauce, but I am sucker for a fantastic horseradish sauce with my prime rib.  The sharpness and heat cuts through all that butter fat tastiness and really does complement the dish perfectly.  Now again Meathead has beat me to the punch with a really good recipe called Secretariat Horseradish Cream Sauce.  I make mine a little different but I thought for sake of this post I would combine what I do with what Meathead does since his is a little easier to make.

Shane’s Sorta Secretariat Horseradish Sauce

1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbs prepared horseradish in vinegar
2 Tbs milk
2 Tbs mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tbs minced garlic

Let’s talk about the changes.  First off I think most of Meathead’s ratios are spot on, but I like more Mayo in my recipe.  I also caution you to try your horseradish first before adding it to the recipe.  I’ve had some jars with little heat and some with A LOT of heat.  So adjust the ratio accordingly and to your taste buds.  I like to add some garlic to my sauce for some depth of flavor.  You can use fresh or even dried minced.  I wouldn’t use the powder though as it has bit of a bitter element to it that can be picked up in such a simple sauce.  You also may want to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to your recipe.  I’ve had with and without and like it both ways.  I also recommend making this at least 24hrs in advance and letting it sit covered in your refrigerator so the flavors can build.  And remember when you are making this, what you taste when you first make it will be a touch weaker than what the final result is as it sits.

In a nutshell this is exactly what I do for prime rib.  While it is not fool proof I will say it is as close as it can be.  Armed with this info, a little bit of confidence and some testicular fortitude I promise you can create a meal with will rival even the best steak houses in the country.  And when you can do that for about $10 per person instead of $40+ then you are sure to wow your guests and ensure a Merry Christmas for all.

God bless you all my friends and may the holidays bring happiness to you and your’s.

Shane

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