My search for a dependable Christmas prime rib recipe began years ago, back when my extended family was a bit smaller and I could still invite everyone over to our house for dinner on Christmas Eve. Our typical Christmas dinner in those days starred a honey-baked ham, but that year I asked my siblings if they would be interested in pitching in so we could get a prime rib, and that I would cook it for us.
Considering that I had never actually even attempted cooking prime rib at that point, my blind confidence quickly turned into anxiety about whether I could actually pull it off! So I ended up doing hours and hours of research to find a (hopefully) foolproof method for cooking our first prime rib.
Luckily, all that research paid off, and that very first prime rib I ever made turned out perfectly! In fact, it was such a hit with everyone that I made prime rib again the next Christmas Eve, and one after that, and the one after that!
This perfect prime rib is now an indispensable holiday tradition in our family, and I’m excited to share the recipe with you today! This time-tested, foolproof method (sometimes called the “500° method,” “closed oven method,” or “oven off method”) for making sumptuous prime rib has never failed me, and I know it will serve you just as well! :-)
How To Make The Perfect Christmas Prime Rib
1. Select The Perfect Prime Rib Roast
A good prime rib roast isn’t cheap, so it’s easy to feel a bit nervous about the prospect of picking one out and forking over the cash for it. Here are a few tips that will help you buy the perfect cut of meat for prime rib with confidence!
If you can’t find a roast labeled clearly as “prime rib,” it may go by a slightly different name like “rib roast,” “eye of the rib roast” or “standing rib roast.” (Keep in mind that the name “eye of the rib roast” typically applies to boneless prime rib roasts, while “standing rib roast” is usually reserved for bone-in roasts.)
Prime Grade Or Choice Grade?
You might find that there are two grades of prime rib roast available at your grocery store: prime grade and choice grade. Prime grade has more fat and marbling and can be considerably more expensive per pound, while choice grade is more widely available.
If the prime rib roast you want isn’t clearly labeled as prime or choice grade, ask the butcher or meat counter attendant to identify it for you. The grade won’t affect the cooking process, but if you want the best possible flavor and quality, you may decide that a prime grade prime rib roast is worth the added cost. (It is a special occasion, after all!)
Bone-In Or Boneless?
Whether you choose a bone-in prime rib roast or a boneless one is entirely up to you, because this roasting method works equally well for both. One thing you may want to consider is flavor versus ease of carving—the meat from a bone-in roast will be a bit more flavorful after cooking, but boneless roasts are much easier to cut. (I personally prefer the convenience of a boneless roast, but to each their own!)
Once you’ve decided which variety of roast you want, you can determine how big of a roast you’ll need to buy. Here are a couple of simple guidelines for deciding how big of a roast to buy:
- Bone-in Roasts: about one rib per person, plus one or two more for good measure
- Boneless Roasts: about 1/2 pound per person, plus a pound or two more for good measure
2. Prepare The Roast
To get your prime rib roast ready for the oven, first you’ll need to season it properly. Mix up a seasoning blend of 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon each of onion salt, seasoning/seasoned salt, and garlic powder, which should yield around 1/4 cup in total.
Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over all sides of your roast, patting it to help it adhere to the surface. (The seasoning may not stick very well on the fat side, so just do the best you can!) For added flavor, you can apply the seasoning mixture to your roast up to 24 hours in advance, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it.
Set your seasoned roast on a roasting rack with the fat side facing up and the bone side (if present) facing down. (Positioning the fat on top is important, because as it renders in the oven, you want all that flavor will drip back down over the roast, rather than directly into the bottom of the pan.)
Place the roasting rack into a large roasting pan, or set it on a baking sheet if you don’t have one. Finally, insert an oven-safe meat thermometer or a remote temperature gauge into the middle of the roast. Then you’re ready to get cooking! :-)
3. Cook The Roast
This method for cooking prime rib involves two stages: the high-heat stage and the residual heat stage. The high-heat stage helps create that deliciously crispy crust on the outside of your roast, while the residual heat stage gently cooks the roast and renders the fat, producing perfect medium-rare prime rib that’s melt-in-your-mouth tender and tastes sublime.
Start by preheating your oven to 500°F, or as high as you can set it without activating the broiler function. Carefully place the prime rib roast into the preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 5-6 minutes per pound.
After your timer for the initial cook goes off, turn your oven off and leave the roast inside, undisturbed, for 2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR during these 2 hours! This is the “low and slow” portion of the roasting, which relies on the residual heat from the oven to continue to cook the meat.
The oven temperature will drop rapidly if the oven door is opened at all, so it’s crucial to keep it closed. (I’ve been known to post strongly worded warnings on the oven door to remind everyone keep their hands off the oven, and that approach hasn’t failed me yet!) ;-)
After 2 hours, open the oven door and check the internal temperature of the meat. If the meat thermometer indicates that the internal temp is between 135-140°F (between medium-rare and medium), it’s done and ready to come out of the oven! If it isn’t quite there yet, just leave the roast in the oven, turn it back on at 375°F, and continue cooking it until it comes up to temperature.
4. Rest, Carve, And Serve
When your prime rib is done, remove the roast from the oven. Because you’ve allowed the prime rib to continue to cook without active heat, you’ve already let it rest and it’s ready to carve! (Of course, if you happen to like your prime rib at room temperature, you can always let it rest for an additional 15 minutes to 30 minutes before serving.)
All that’s left to do is slice it up and serve, perhaps with a homemade au jus made from the drippings in the roasting pan, or a creamy horseradish sauce (see below).
Adjustments For Small And Large Roasts
The instructions above work perfectly for cooking almost any prime rib roast, because on average they weigh about 5-7 pounds. If your roast is significantly smaller OR significantly larger than that, make the following adjustments:
- For a small roast that weighs 2 pounds or less, reduce the amount of time for the second stage of cooking (AKA the stage when the oven is off) to 60-90 minutes instead of 2 hours.
- For a large roast that weighs 10 pounds or more, cut it into two 5-pound halves and cook both halves at the same time. However, be sure to calculate the initial cook time based on the weight of just one of the halves. [For example, to cook a 12-pound roast, you would cut it in half, place both halves in the oven, and cook them at 500°F for 36 minutes (6 minutes per pound x 6-pound roast = 36 minutes of cooking time) followed by 2 hours with oven turned off.]
BONUS: Creamy Horseradish Sauce For Christmas Prime Rib
While I like mine as-is, my husband Dave prefers his Christmas prime rib topped with a large dollop of creamy horseradish sauce. This simple sauce combines the tangy flavor of horseradish with velvety whipped cream, and makes the perfect complement to a slice of rich, roasted prime rib.
To make it, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. (Lift your beater or whisk straight up—the cream should form a sharp peak that holds its shape.)
Then add the white pepper (black pepper is fine if you can’t find white), a dash of hot sauce, and the horseradish to the whipped cream. Gently fold the ingredients into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula just until everything is incorporated, then spoon the finished sauce into a serving dish.
Note: This sauce doesn’t keep well, so it’s best to make it shortly before the meal.
Check Out The Rest Of My Christmas Dinner Menu
Prime rib with creamy horseradish sauce may be the star of our holiday table, but we love our side dishes too! You can get the recipes for the rest of my family’s Christmas dinner menu, including Instant Pot “baked” potatoes, creamed corn, a truly miraculous spinach salad, and more, at the link below!
Perfect Christmas Prime Rib Recipe (Foolproof 500° Method)
- Roasting rack
- Roasting pan
- Oven-safe meat thermometer
- 5 lb Bone-in ribeye roast
- 4 tsp onion salt
- 4 tsp seasoned salt
- 4 tsp garlic powder
Mix up 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon each of onion salt, seasoned salt, and garlic powder, for a total of 1/4 cup of seasoning mix.
Pat the seasoning mix on both ends of the roast as well as the fat side. (The salt may not stick as well on the fat side, but don’t worry about it.)
Set the seasoned roast on a roasting rack, bone-side down and fat-side up. Place the rack in a large roasting pan, and insert your meat thermometer into the middle of the roast.
Place the roast into a 500° preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 5-6 minutes per pound.
Then shut the oven off completely, and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR TWO HOURS.
After two hours, check the temperature of the meat. If your thermometer reads 135-140°F, it’s done! (If it isn’t quite to temp yet, just put it back in the oven at 375°F until it’s done.)
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Whisk 1 cup heavy cream in a mixing bowl until it forms stiff peaks.
Season with the white pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, and a dash of hot sauce (optional.) Stir gently until just combined, and serve alongside your delicious prime rib!