Prime Rib With Horseradish Dipping Sauce


This is a holiday classic for a reason: Perfect prime rib absolutely cannot be topped.

Prime Rib With Horseradish Dipping Sauce

Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
5 hrs 15 mins

As Christmas nears, meat cases at grocery stores and butchers' markets fill up with glorious roasts ready to be the holiday dinner centerpiece. Prime rib is certainly a show-stopper, and despite the size of the standing rib roast, there's nothing overly complicated about how to cook prime rib.

With these step-by-step instructions, your prime rib roast will be browned, juicy, and cooked to perfection when sliced. We'll show you how.

Why Is Prime Rib Popular at the Holidays?

This is classic for a reason: It's tasty, tender, and terrific for all sorts of holiday gatherings. It can be served as steaks with a thick au jus or horseradish dipping sauce. For more casual gatherings, turn the prime rib into sliders or serve on crostini with a dollop of tangy sauce and chives.

Cooking a prime rib is also fairly simple. Minus trussing the rib roast (which your butcher will happily do for you), the steps are straightforward: Cover with a spice rub, let stand, then roast until the right temperature.

And we've perfected the prime rib cooking process in this recipe. Some recipes call for a low-temp roast followed by a high-temp finish. Others will have you sear the roast in a pan before roasting it in the oven. But we like the streamlined version where you start the roast at a high temp of 500°F to get it perfectly browned, then reduce the temp for a slower roast.

The result is perfectly cooked prime rib that delivers an herby, salty crust with delicate, juicy melt-in-your-mouth meat.

What Cut of Meat Is Prime Rib?

This may be a bit confusing. You won't buy a prime rib at the supermarket. Instead, you'll want to look for a standing rib roast. (The meat stands on the rib bones while it roasts.) This cut of meat comes from the steer's upper rib section, also called the primal rib section. This muscle is not used a lot, so it's tender and far more flavorful than leaner cuts.

Most standing rib roasts are 6 to 7 bones, but we call for a slightly smaller 4-bone standing rib roast. When you're wondering how much prime rib per person, each bone or rib feeds 2 to 3 people.

The quality of the beef does the heavy lifting here in terms of flavor, so opt for at least USDA Choice. (Prime, if you can afford and find it.) The beef is super tender and buttery with a nice salty crust. The sauce is also classic for a reason: The tangy and spicy horseradish cuts well through the rich beef.

Ask your butcher to remove the rib bones and tie the roast back onto the rib bones. This will make slicing after roasting easier.

Is prime rib just a ribeye?

Yes and no. Ribeyes are steaks cut from the standing rib roast section, so it's the same portion of meat. However, ribeyes and prime rib are cooked differently, which results in slightly different flavors and textures. If you like prime rib's flavor and fatty, marbled texture, you'll love a ribeye, and vice versa.

Is prime rib the same thing as USDA Prime?

No, a prime rib is not necessarily a USDA Prime cut. In fact, USDA Prime beef is difficult to find these days. It's more expensive and produced by fewer farmers. USDA Choice is what you'll likely find at your supermarket.

If you want Prime prime rib, talk with your butcher. They may have to special order it. But if it's for a truly special occasion, treat yourself to a wonderful cut of beef.

When Is Prime Rib Done?

You don't want to overcook prime rib. The meat and fat cap surrounding the meat's center "eye" are most flavorful and tender when cooked to rare or medium rare.

  • Rare: 115°F
  • Medium-rare: 120°F
  • Medium: 125°F

You'll measure at the thickest part of the rib roast (use a meat thermometer), but outside portions may get more done. That's actually a bonus for feeding a crowd: People who like less pink can eat the end pieces for a more medium to medium-well slice.

Test Kitchen Tips

Use a thermometer: Prime rib is an expensive meal, and you don't want to overcook it. We strongly recommend using a probe thermometer that you set to the desired temp (and it alerts you when it's time to pull the roast from the oven) so you don’t go over and turn that tender meat tough.

Bring to room temp before cooking: Let the roast come to room temperature before roasting for more even cooking. The inside takes longer to cook if you start right out of fridge.

Let it rest: Give it at least 15, 30, even 45 minutes once the roast comes out of the oven. This helps the meat come to full temperature (the temp will rise between 5 and 10 degrees after the oven) and recirculate the juices.

Don't skip the Worcestershire sauce: In the horseradish dipping sauce, you may be tempted to skip this, but doing so will result in a one-note sauce. Our Test Kitchen found that the Worcestershire gives it a nice umami bite. Just make it as soon as you can so the flavors have a chance to meld. You can even make it a day in advance if you want.

Can You Freeze Leftover Prime Rib?

If you made too much and have leftover prime rib, you can certainly eat it again another day (or three). If you want to enjoy the meat later, however, let the cooked roast come to room temperature, then wrap tightly in foil, and place in a zip-top bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. 

What to Serve With Prime Rib

Complete the meal with these wonderful sides:


  • 1 (8-lb.) 4-rib standing rib roast, chine bone removed

  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 2 tsp. black pepper, divided

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 5 Tbsp. prepared horseradish

  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

  • Thyme sprigs


  1. Pat rib roast dry with paper towels. Place on cutting board, fat side up. Carefully remove ribs from roast, cutting as close to the ribs as possible, following the curve of the bone.

    Standing rib roast, trimmed

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Place rib roast on detached ribs, tying together with kitchen twine.

    rib roast tied

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Place trussed roast on a wire rack set in a large roasting pan. Rub dried thyme and 1 1/2 teaspoons each of the salt and pepper all over roast. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 2 hours.

    standing rib roast in roasting pan

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  2. Meanwhile, whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish, Worcestershire, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    horseradish dipping sauce ingredients

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  3. Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in lowest setting. Bake roast in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; bake until thermometer inserted in thickest portion of roast registers 115°F for medium rare (the roast will continue to cook while it rests), about 2 hours. Remove from oven; loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let rest 30 minutes to complete cooking.

    cooked prime rib

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  4. Remove and discard kitchen twine with scissors. Pull roast completely off rib bones, discarding bones; slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve with horseradish dipping sauce and garnish with thyme sprigs.

    sliced prime rib

    Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin; Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

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