Smoked Prime Rib Recipe

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A smoked prime rib roast is an all time classic that is loved by pretty much everybody. Serve it at your next family event, on a nice summer evening, or just for yourself when you have a craving.

Prime rib roasts are known for having superior flavor, texture, and juiciness. You can see how these three amazing qualities give you a meal that people will be begging to have more of.

One of our absolute favorite way to prepare a prime rib is on the smoker.  Here you’ll find our smoked prime rib recipe and how-to guide so you can make this epic cut of beef at home.

Smoked Prime Rib – Our Methodology

This is one of those recipes where there are a few differing opinions out there about what exactly the best way is to cook a prime rib roast.

The Reverse Sear

For our taste, we strongly prefer to utilize the reverse sear method.  Essentially, this means we like to slow cook the prime rib on the smoker until it’s cooked up to your desired temperature.

From there, we transfer the meat to a scorching hot grill to sear it on all sides – the goal being to create a scrumptious, crusty bark on the outside layer of the prime rib.

Of course, not everybody has both a grill and a smoker – and that’s ok!  You can also do the sear portion of this recipe on a cast iron skillet or something similar over a stove.

Choosing the Best Prime Rib Cut

The grade of meat is based on the fat marbling and taste. In the United States, prime rib is graded into three different levels. Prime is the best, followed by Choice, then Select. If you want the best tasting meat, always go with Prime.

Sometimes prime rib will also be grain-fed or grass-fed. Grain-fed usually has better marbling and a richer and fatty flavor.

The grass-fed meat will be less fatty and more tender. This decision comes down to personal choice, but many prime rib fans love grass-fed meat.

If you really want to treat yourself, check out Snake River Farms American Wagyu Prime Rib Roast.  Be warned, it’s a super expensive cut of beef – but it is without a doubt one of the best tasting prime rib roasts on the planet and will be a show stopper come dinner time.

Which Wood for Smoked Prime Rib?

No matter whether you’re using a pellet smoker that burns wood pellets or a traditional offset smoker that burns wood chunks and charcoals, the question of which species of wood remains.

The good news is that a wide variety of wood types can be used with prime rib.  You really aren’t going to mess up this recipe by choosing a poor type of wood – the meat is strong enough to stand up to the flavor of just about anything.

With that in mind, here are our top suggestions for our smoked prime rib recipe:

  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Maple
  • Mesquite (strongest smoke flavor)

Top Tips For Cooking the Perfect Smoked Prime Rib

Since this cut of meat is considered high quality and costs a bit more than other kinds of meat, make sure to follow these tips to ensure the smoking process goes smoothly.

Pull It Off the Smoker Before Desired Internal Temperature Is Reached

Prime rib will continue to cook even after it has been pulled from the oven. So, when you have it resting on the counter or side of the grill, it will continue to cook even though it is not right on the heat source anymore.

Always pull the beef out of the grill or oven before the target temperature is reached. This way once it has continued to cook, it will still be at the perfect temperature.

Here are some tips for the target temperatures and even you should pull it out of the oven or grill.  Note we strongly discourage cooking prime rib roast any more than Medium doneness!!

DonenessPull temperatureTarget temperature after rest
Rare115 F120 F
Medium Rare118 F125 F
Medium127 F135 F
Medium well132 F140 F
Well done (don’t do this please 🙂 )n/an/a

You will need a good-quality thermometer to measure the meat and remove it once it has reached the pull temperature. You will also need to check the temperature after it has been resting to ensure that it has reached the target temperature.

Check the temperature regularly, but always make sure you close the door or lid of the grill when you are done. You don’t want the prime rib to lose its moisture and juiciness.

Medium rare is the recommended temperature for cooking prime rib because it will keep all of its natural flavors and still be very juicy. It is not recommended that you make a prime rib roast well done. Usually, if it is cooked more than 135 F, the meat will be very dry and hard to chew.

Don’t Be Afraid To Use The Oven If Needed

While not a necessary trick, and we didn’t do it for this recipe, some people find that putting the roast in the oven at the beginning helps with cooking time.

It only needs to stay in the high-temperature oven for about 20 minutes. Keeping it in longer will make it dry and take away some of the flavors.

You can still get all the benefits of slow cooking the meat. Blasting it in a hot oven for about 20 minutes will also make it easier to cook evenly throughout. The outer ring will also not be overcooked when using this method.

The fat also melts slightly and makes the meat even juicier. Roasting it at a lower temperature is also better than doing a hard and quick roast because more of the flavors and juice will be preserved. There’s nothing worse than an overcooked and dry prime rib.

Let the Meat Rest At Room Temperature Beforehand

The prime rib is a large chunk of meat, so always make sure it has an even temperature before cooking and that the middle is not frozen or colder than the rest of the parts. It’s recommended that you take the meat out of the fridge about 2-3 hours before cooking.

If you don’t take the meat out of the fridge, you might end up with a thick layer of overcooked beef on the outside with only the very center being pink.


If you invest in a prime piece of meat, you really don’t need to do much seasoning or prep for it. That’s why, in this recipe, we keep things simple with the seasoning – it’s only a few key ingredients. Some black pepper, kosher salt, thyme, rosemary, and garlic is all you need.

With these 5 ingredients, you don’t need anything else. Make sure to coat the meat generously in all of the spices. For a richer and fattier flavor, you can also add butter. This isn’t required though and the prime rib will have enough juice and flavor without the butter if you don’t have any or prefer not to use it.

What To Serve With Smoked Prime Rib?

Prime rib is a versatile meat choice that can be paired with a large variety of side dishes. Since it is a fancier and more expensive cut of meat, people usually choose to pair it with a nice vegetable side dish.

Some of the most popular choices include:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Garlic and herb mashed potatoes
  • Baked potatoes
  • Sautéed Spinach
  • Roasted broccoli or cauliflower
  • Steamed zucchini or squash
  • Asparagus
  • Mac and Cheese

You can also have a nice side salad or give a salad to your guests before the meal. If you aren’t a huge fan of roasted or grilled vegetables, you can always make classic French fries.

Check out our list of the best sides for steak next for more ideas!

Final Thoughts

A prime rib roast is an amazing cut of meat known for having incredible texture and juiciness. It doesn’t take long to prep and only needs a few seasonings to give it a perfect flavor.

It is bound to be a family and friend favorite. It also pairs well with a variety of healthy side dishes that can be quickly made on the grill as well.

Want to learn more about this spectacular cut?  Check out our write-up about the similarities and differences between prime rib and ribeye next.

Smoked Prime Rib Recipe

Elevate your rib roast with this simple smoked prime rib recipe… get in my belly!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Resting Time 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, BBQ, Holiday


  • Probe meat thermometer


  • 1 prime rib roast about 8-12 pounds

Rub Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp ground black pepper coarse
  • 6 tbsp kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp thyme chopped
  • 3 tbsp rosemary chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced


  • Trim off any bulging pieces of fat from your roast
  • Combine rub ingredients in a bowl. Coat the roast generously and thoroughly with rub
  • Preheat smoker to 250ºF
  • Place seasoned prime rib on your smoker's grate. Insert a probe thermometer and cook until the centermost point of the roast reaches an internal temperature of 118ºF (this can take 2.5-4 hours depending on the size of your roast
  • Once roast reaches temperature, remove from your smoker and let rest for about 20 minutes
  • While the roast rests, preheat your grill to 450ºF. Alternatively, place a large cast iron skillet over high heat on your stove (this is to prepare to sear the meat)
  • Place roast on grill or cast iron skillet. Sear for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until meat has developed a crust on all sides
  • Remove from heat and let the beef rest for another 15 minutes. Then slice, serve, and enjoy!
Keyword Prime Rib, Prime Rib Roast, Smoked Prime Rib
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