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How to Sous Vide: Prime Rib

For grade-A cooking in your home kitchen, start your prime rib in a sous vide pouch and finish it on a charcoal grill.

By Morgan Fecto | Photographs by Scott Suchman

Prime rib, with its gorgeous marbling and superior grade, is an indulgent cut of meat for special occasions. You may have experienced it at a fancy steakhouse—relishing every tender morsel— or slathered it in a spicy horseradish cream at your holiday table. But whether it’s cooked in a restaurant kitchen or at home, preparing this steak properly can be painstaking. The cut is expensive and delicate, but when done right, it rivals ribeyes for flavor and filet mignon for texture. So why leave it to chance? To perfect the prime rib, follow our tips for cooking sous vide and grilling at home while you give the recipe a try.

Unless you’re a restaurant chef, it’s unlikely you’ll acquire actual prime rib. “Prime” refers to the grade of the beef taken from the primal rib of the cow—not to the type of cut. Prime grade beef is limited in supply, which means that upscale steakhouses will carry it while your local grocery store usually stocks the next best thing. Though you can special order prime rib online, it’s easier and more cost effective to ask your butcher for a standing rib roast. Such cuts have lots of marbling and will mimic the moisture, flavor, and texture of prime rib. Asking your butcher to french the bones (cutting away meat from around the tips of the bones) will give your “prime rib” a steakhouse presentation, too.

Prime rib cooked correctly has a distinct appearance: a brown outer crust with a salty, fatty flavor, and a medium-rare pinkness from edge to center. To achieve a medium-rare doneness and avoid gray, overcooked meat around the edges, chefs will oven roast this cut in rounds—first at a low temperature, then at a high temperature—with resting time in between. Although this method gives you better temperature control and helps create an outer crust, the dry heat of the oven can still overcook the meat. To preserve the moisture and flavor of the meat’s marbling, your prime rib will cook in two water baths—first at a temperature just below boiling, and then for eight hours at 132.8°F (56°C)— allowing time to rest before the final sear.

Sous vide ensures tenderness and succulence, and finishing your prime rib on the grill brings more benefits. Sear once in a skillet before cooking sous vide to achieve the flavors of the Maillard reaction—and then again, after, for an outer crust that’s on par with the best steakhouses. The unique upside of grilling your prime rib for this second sear is that it allows you to infuse the meat with the flavors of rosemary and thyme (or any hearty herb), peeled apple skins, or aromatic wood smoke. Throw applewood chips on your grill for a subtle, complementary flavor that won’t detract from the meat’s inherent richness. You’ll know your prime rib is seared completely and fully reheated when the internal temperature registers as 132.8°F (56°C) on your probe thermometer.

TRY IT: Sous Vide Prime Rib


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