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Dec 20, 2008 05:07 AM

Prime Rib Primer [split from Ontario]

[Note: This thread was split from the Ontario board at: -- The Chowhound Team].

I've never done a prime rib before. Embee, can you give a brief primer on buying -- obviously grade AA/select is not as good as AAA and prime. How much work is there with a less 'trimmed' cut?

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  1. I don't think you'll have less work per se from a less trimmed cut, I actually prefer the roasts to have the fat cap on them. The cap is less tender than the rib eye but I love to season the cap heavily to baste the roast as it cooks. I simply rub it with granulated garlic, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and cook bone side down at 325 until they hit 130-140 internal temperature for medium. Let the roast rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

    When selecting a roast look for good marbling, ideally something like the slightly abundant or moderately abundant pictures found here:

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dr Butcher

      Thanks Dr Butcher.

      I have a new meat thermometer that's been waiting to be opened!

      Actually the way you cook it it a lot like the way my family makes it. And the with the seasoned crust it sounds like a porcetta roast, only on a beef roast I've never heard of the fat being eaten.

    2. The issue isn't the "fat cap", which you actually want! There should be AT LEAST 1/4 inch of fat left on top of the meat. It bastes the meat while cooking and is delicious to eat once it crisps up. The issue is a very tough strip of meat that is above it.

      There isn't anything actually "wrong" with this strip of meat. It's simply that it is suited for a braise or for hamburger, and not for roasting or grilling. When a "prime rib" includes this strip of meat, it means you are actually paying a higher real price per pound of rib roast than you may realize.

      A "prime rib" does not necessarily come from meat graded prime. Rather, it is a generally accepted, though confusing and potentially misleading, marketing term. A "prime rib" can be any grade of beef, from the lowest to the highest.

      The pictures in Dr Butcher's post are helpful in showing different degrees of marbling. The pictures are small and not of great quality, so they may be somewhat misleading, but the roast labeled "moderately abundant" is about the minimum amount of marbling I would accept in a rib roast. Ideally, I'd want much more marbling than that photo shows. Marbling makes the roast more succulent and more delicious.

      If you go to , the left side of the photo shows a very nice prime rib section. You will note several distinct muscles. The largest section, the rib eye, is the most sought after. However, it is (relatively) the least tasty part of the rib.

      The strip of meat above the rib eye (near the horseradish jar) is, in my opinion, the tastiest morsel on the cow. (I can't remember the name of this muscle.) The smaller muscles between the rib eye and the bone are extremely rich and delicious, but also contain stringy bits that some people find unpleasant.

      Note the fat areas between the muscles. You want these! Though this fat isn't something you should actually eat, it greatly enhances the flavour and tenderness. The ribs closest to the loin section, which most people consider desirable, are actually the least desirable. This photo comes from the middle of the rib section, which has the best balance of the various muscles. The front end of the rib section (nearest the shoulder) has the most fat and the most waste, and does not slice as attractively, but is the best tasting part.

      If you go to , the picture at the top shows a rib roast that includes the "cap" in question. Note the strip of meat that covers the entire top of the roast. This section is not present in the picture on my earlier link. As noted, you must take the presence, or absence, of this strip of meat into account when comparing prices. Its presence greatly reduces the value of the roast.

      Don't make the mistake of buying a boneless rib roast. The bones make for a better roast overall and are absolutely delicious to eat. However, you can have your butcher slice the meat from the bones and then tie the bones back into place. This makes for easier carving.

      A prime rib is one of the easiest things to cook. The most important factor is the quality and aging of the meat - not a fancy recipe. All you really need is salt and pepper. Everything else is optional. I tend to use a commercial spice rib to flavour the fat cap. (Ted Reader's Bone Dust - available at ) is very nice.

      The most commonly used cooking methods (there are many more) are high/low heat and low heat. With the first, you put the roast into a blazing hot oven (450 - 500 F) and then turn the heat down to 325. With the second, you brown the fat in a pan and then put the meat into a 275 F oven and leave it there. The very low heat method produces the best tasting meat, but (obviously) takes a long time and provides minimal browning. The high/low method is faster, and the roast will brown more extensively, but the meat will shrink much more and not be as tender or tasty.

      Assuming you want it rare - medium rare, pull it out when your thermometer hits about 120 - 125, cover it loosely with foil. and let it rest for 15 - 30 minutes before you slice it. The resting period allows for additional cooking from internal heat and redistributes the juices throughout the roast.

      7 Replies
      1. re: embee

        Thanks for the comprehensive response. The cap is the more interesting (to me) muscle off a prime rib slice. Every forkful is always different and tasty, while the rib part is just -- well, it's alway good too but in a more consistent roast beef presentation.
        I'll have to head over to Dominion and give the sale roasts a scan and compare with their Red Grill stuff. (Not trying to hijack the post but what's the deal with the in-store private lables -- Sobey's Sterling Silver, is there a PC premium meat brand?) I'll give the roast a go in two weeks after the Xmas deluge. Been looking forward to using my kitchen equipment.
        Maybe once I get this under my belt I'll start a post on (not over-) cooking fish...

        1. re: neighborguy

          The PC premium brand is Certified Angus. As far as I know, this is a US brand name. It is not a government grade. As is usually the case with Loblaws, quality varies from store to store.

          Some of the Certified Angus rib roasts look for all the world like (US or Canada) Prime beef. You will sometimes see rib roasts in a Loblaws service counter display that look very similar to the rib roast on the Lobel's webpage. This is what you want. While only some of the meat reaches this quality level, the remainder certainly meets the standards of the best US Choice or Canada AAA.

          I highly recommend this meat. The big difference between the Certified Angus meat vs what you get at a place like Cumbrae's is the aging. Cumbrae's dry ages prime ribs for 30 to even 60 days. This concentrates flavours and makes the meat more tender, but also makes the meat very expensive. Most supermarket beef is wet aged, and for only 14 days. Wet aging makes the meat more tender, but not more flavourful. I recently noticed that the Certified Angus meat at the Queens quay Loblaws is being advertised as dry aged, but I haven't tried it and didn't note the price.

          The Sterling Silver and Red Grill labels presumably indicate meats of higher quality than the regular stock at Sobey's and Metro (formerly Dominion). Sterling Silver is a multinational meat packer brand name (I believe Cargill) and is promoted by some restaurants as well as by Sobey's. I don't know anything about the background of Red Grill. I have NEVER seen a Sterling Silver or Red Grill rib roast that has the conformation or marbling typical of top Choice/AAA or Prime meat.

          1. re: embee

            Red Grill steaks and roasts, at the service counter, in my local Metro, are clearly marked "angus", and aged 14 days. They are as nicely marbled as Loblaws.
            Neither of these stores can tell me the origin of the meat, although there are small quantities of Peace River beef at Metro. Cumbrae's in addition to dry aging, can identify the origin and husbandry practices of the animals they sell.

            Stering Silver, at Sobeys, may also be good beef, as they select the top 12% from AAA beef, but it may not be Angus. Many Costco roasts and steaks look equally good, from a marbling and presentation view, but I haven't found their cryovaced bulk beef as good (tenderloin excepted.)

            1. re: jayt90

              Perhaps I've just had bad luck, but I have never, ever seen beef that resembled the Lobel's picture at any Sobeys or Metro/Dominion. I have seen it occasionally at Loblaws, especially at Queens Quay and at VP/Gerrard.

              The cryovaced "bargain" tenderloins and such at Loblaws and Sobeys are usually USDA Select, which isn't much of a bargain. I can't comment on Costco.

              Provenance is something else again. I don't expect that info from a supermarket, though I hope this will change over time. This is, as you note, something else you are paying for at Cumbrae's. It can sometimes lead to one of those "Omnivore's Dilemma" situations, as when I was told by Cumbrae's that something I had special ordered would be delayed for a few months since the animals were still grazing. Ouch....

              1. re: jayt90

                Have you tried the boneless (cryovac ribeye from Costco?
                I hesitated to buy it the first time, as I had found all of the beef from Costco rather tasteless.
                The Cryovac ribeye is as good as any ribeye I have ever tasted, and I have been a Cumbrae consumer for many years.
                I prefer my rib on the bone, but Costco's fresh meat just doesn't do it for me, and the Costco product is so much cheaper than Cumbrae.

                1. re: erly

                  I did try one a year ago and found it to be good, but not evenly marbled (one end of the package showed better marbling than the other end). It was a large amount of beef for my small household, so I was able to freeze some, and to dry age some steaks in the fridge for a few days.
                  For those interested in buying and freezing, the best prices of cryovaced beef and pork seems to be from January to April.

          2. re: embee

            >>>The strip of meat above the rib eye (near the horseradish jar) is, in my opinion, the tastiest morsel on the cow. (I can't remember the name of this muscle.) The smaller muscles between the rib eye and the bone are extremely rich and delicious, but also contain stringy bits that some people find unpleasant.<<<

            That strip is called, in Latin, the spinalis dorsi. Search it and you will find a lot of commentary about it in previous threads here.