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Dec 22, 2011 07:56 AM

Who pre-salts prime rib?

Making my prime rib for Christmas and was curious what the opinion is on pre-salting prime rib vs. applying the salt right before you place in the oven. Some say that applying salt too early (overnight) causes moisture to be drawn out of the meat.

I have made prime rib before and just salted and peppered 15-20 mins before putting in the oven and it comes out fine. Just looking for ways to improve and was curious if this would make any difference .. good or bad?

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  1. I think you will find a lot of people apply the salt well before cooking. The purpose is to draw moisture out of the meat - a poor man's dry aged.

    1 Reply
    1. re: analysisparalysis

      Indeed. Less water in the meat means more flavor in my mouth. Water is intensity's worst enemy.

    2. I always pre-salt it. You are correct that it draws some moisture out of the meat. But mainly around the outside of the meat. There is no way you are going to draw it all out, even if you did it three or four days ahead of time. And it helps you get a better sear on the meat as moisture is the enemy in the searing process. I also apply the pepper ahead of time. I've found that the seasonings do a better job of pentrating the meat if you do it a day or two in advance.

      Thomas Kellar from the French Laundry is a pre-salt advocate. If it works for him, it should probably work for us.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Db Cooper

        So I guess there would be no point to salt and pepper an hour before. It seems like overnight is the way to go.

        1. re: steakrules85

          More a case of better late than never. You'll still get the flavors, just not as deep. Like any marinade or rub or seasoning, the longer you have to let it do its magic, the better the results.

          1. re: Db Cooper

            My plan is to actually rub the prime rib with a black truffle butter that I made first, then season generously with salt and pepper.

            However, if I decide to salt and pepper the night before, perhaps I can just apply the butter coating right before roasting.

            1. re: steakrules85

              Jesus that sounds good.

              If it was me, I think I'd season it with S/P the night before. I'd then set it out a few hours before time to make sure the roast came to room temperature. I'd then sear it in canola oil. Then I'd apply the truffle butter generously before I put it in the oven. I do recommend slow roasting it (250) and I'd continually baste it with the truffle butter that runs off. If you have extra butter, throw it in the roasting pan too to help with baste. Just be sure to save some to finish it when you serve it along with some sea salt. With something that good, you don't need a sauce.

              But with black truffle'd have to work to screw it up. Enjoy.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                Thanks, I think I will definitely pre season. I also have some black truffle salt, but I am only going to apply that sparingly since I don't want overkill from the truffle butter. My plan will be to do the following.

                After letting it come to room temperature after resting on my counter for 2 and a half hours, I will rub with the black truffle butter mixture. I forgot to add that I am preparing two prime ribs (both bone-in just over 6 lb), and have a double oven. Some like it rare (me), others medium so I will put the rare one in about 25 mins later.

                Since we plan on eating dinner at around 3:45-4, I will pull the roasts out at 10:45am. Let sit until about 12:45pm and then start slathering the butter.

                First prime rib goes in at 1:10pm, initial temp of 500 degrees for 15 mins to get a crust (I know some frown upon this but I have had success with this in the past).

                Then turn down the oven to 300 degrees (still kind of low) and roast for 18 mins per pound (about 1 hr 50 mins or so) or until the meat reaches 125 internal.

                In order to have both roasts come out at around the same time, I will place the other one in about 25 minutes later. Since this one will be rare I will roast 13 mins per pound (1 hr 30 min or so) or until thermometer hits 112 degrees.

                If all goes right I should Pull both at 3:15, place a dab of the extra buttle on top to melt, tent with foil, let rest for 25-30 mins. By 3:45 we are slicing, 4pm we are eating. Hopefully it is bliss. I am pretty psyched!!!

                1. re: steakrules85

                  When do we all show up for dinner? Yum!

                  1. re: gingershelley

                    So I guess you guys think I have a good gameplan huh?

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      Yep. Always been fond of pepper and Lawrey's Seasoned Salt.

                  2. re: steakrules85

                    "Steakrules85," after pre-salting, I suggest you try the low temperature roasting method (with high temperrature searing at the END, not at the beginning) for your prime rib this year, Cooks iIlustrated is a big advocate of this method.

                    You get really tender roasts because there are enzymes (I forgot the actual names) that are active between the temperatures of approximately 90*F and 115* F that break down and tenderize the meat. With low temperature roasting, the roast's internal temperature is within this target range for a longer period, allowing more time for the enzymes to do their work. Thus resulting in a more tender roast.

                    For more info on low temperature roasting with high temperature searing at the END, see the following link:


        2. Judy Rodgers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco is a big proponent of pre-salting (dry brining) chicken and beef roasts for 1-2 days prior to cooking. Read the article (6 pages) at the following link:

          From the top of Page 2 of the article: " You might think early salting would result in drier meat because the salt would draw out moisture. But the way it seems to work is that over time the meat reabsorbs the moisture, carrying the salt with it. Furthermore, because that moisture is loaded with amino acids and sugars, the meat browns better and forms a better crust."

          FYI, Judy Rodger pre-salting recipe for beef roast (tenderloin fillet, in this case) is at the bottom of Page 4 of the article.

          1. Unless you really salt it heavily the day (or more) before, making it more like a cure than a seasoning, I'd be astonished if you could tell the difference. As to moisture being drawn out, it certainly occurs, but at a de minimus level, though it is true that the residual amino acids and sugars left when the moisture evaporates from the surface aid in browning.

            When you slice and serve it, consider how small the salted edge is compared to the overall portion -- to which many/most people add salt or a savory sauce.

            6 Replies
            1. re: rjbh20

              Thanks to all for the responses. I truly appreciate it! I am still on the fence again salting over night. As I am rubbing it with a black truffle butter, perhaps the salting overnight wouldn't make any difference to the flavor anyway.

              I think I may just rub the butter all over and season with minimal black truffle salt, pepper, and kosher or sea salt before blasting in the oven.

              What would you do rub butter on first and then season to all it to stick OR rub the seasonings on first to penetrate the meat and then rub the butter on after ? I think the butter, while no doubt adding significant flavor, will aid in forming the crust, therefore negating the need to pre salt the rib.

              1. re: steakrules85

                I suspect the butter will rapidly melt off and brown/burn in the bottom of the pan without adding anything to the flavor of the meat. Maybe it helps the flavor of the pan drippings, maybe it burns and makes them bitter. Any residual milk proteins that happen to stick to the roast will brown, but that's about the sum total.

                If you like butter & truffles with your beef, make a maitre d'hotel butter with truffle and serve with the roast.

                1. re: rjbh20

                  Agreed. It would be a waste of your truffle butter to put it on before cooking and have run off into the pan and the flavor would be destroyed by the long cooking. Better to allow it to melt into the meat after slicing which will enrich the meat and add that wonderful aroma of truffle.

                  1. re: chefj

                    I think I will just lightly brush a little bit on to help the browning process, since I usually rub a little butter on anyway. Then after it comes out and is left to rest I will put a few nice size dabs on each to let it melt onto the top of the meat.

                    1. re: steakrules85

                      I am thnakful to everyone for their advice. I think this time around I will forego to preseasoning since I am cooking for a large crowd and do not want to risk messing it up. It seems like there are many detailed articles, and scientists who have done experiments to prove that the overnight salting does not dry out the meat. My main concern is that the presalting changes the color of the meat and prevents you from getting a true rare steak after cooking process.

                      I will definitely try it though when just cooking for my family for regular dinner.

                      1. re: steakrules85

                        So to report back everything went great. I rubbed each with my black truffle butter mixture and liberally spread on some salt and pepper.

                        Roasted at 500 for 15 mins, then turned it down to 300 for a little less than 2 hrs.

                        Pulled my 8 pounder at 112 degrees and my 6.5 pounder at 125. Weirdly, the 8 pounder rose to about 131 degrees, while the 6.5 pounder rose to only 133 degrees.

                        I was hoping he 8 pounder would rise to about 120 but it was still very pink inside, more medium rare than my preferred rare. But for prime rib, I can deal with it medium rare. It was absolutely delicious and i basted it with the drippings as it rested.

                        All of he guests raved about it and they loved it so much they want it for every Christmas now!!!

            2. Last year I made a prime rib and it was awesome. The recipe said NOT to salt it before cooking as salt will draw the juices out of the meat. And to apply salt after it was done. But heck if I can find that recipe again.