How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast Recipe

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This How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast Recipe outlines the best way to cook a perfect prime rib for a small gathering (you can scale it for a larger crowd). You will love the flavorful crust with Italian herbs and tender meat with all the pan juices!

Serve this perfect prime rib roast with the best mashed potatoes and green beans or your favorite side dishes. Don’t forget the Best Prime Rib Sandwich with leftovers!

prime rib slice on a plate with garlic red shin mashed potatoes and green beans.
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Don’t forget the crusty bread for the tasty au jus sauce made from pan drippings. We also love a bit of horseradish on the side! You can find more recipes to serve with prime rib in this 65+ Best Side Dishes to Serve with Prime Rib post.

This recipe is inspired by my Nonna Laura’s prime rib roast. She cooked hers on the stovetop, and here we are, baking it in the oven. This is the best prime rib recipe, and I know you will love it too! Enjoy your next holiday dinner.

This recipe is straightforward, with lots of tips so you can perfect your prim rib and wow your guests and family with a fabulous roast.

Also, try- How to Cook Steak in a Pan (Perfect Recipe), Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Perfect Pot Roast, and Best Seared T-Bone Steak!

The Best Prime Rib

Looking for how to cook the best prime rib roast recipe? You’ve come to the right place! The prime rib is slow-cooked to your preference (see FAQ section for cooking time), and the roasted herb crust is fantastic.

We’ve made Christmas prime rib roast (also known as standing rib roast) for years, and it is always a hit. It’s also a popular New Year’s Eve dinner. To wow your guests, you can make it for a special occasion!

Simple Ingredients

I highly recommend getting a good grade, preferably prime, for this delicious standing rib roast.

ingredient shot for recipe-prime rib

Prime Rib

  • 3-4 lb bone-in prime rib roast (you can scale it by following the cooking notes on cooking time + increase the rub accordingly) 
ingredient shot for recipe- rub ingredients

Rub for the Prime Rib Roast

  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Low-sodium beef broth
  • Water
  • Red wine (optional but recommended) 

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Cook Prime Rib Step-by-Step Instructions

Making a small prime rib roast is one of the easiest and most delicious meat recipes. It sounds so fancy and requires very little effort.

ingredient shot for recipe- prime rib

How to cook a small prim rib roast

Take the prime roast out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before cooking (about 1 hour). Bringing the meat to room temperature is key to an evenly cooked roast. Pat the meat with a paper towel until dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil to form a paste.

Rub the roast with the paste. Rub the paste on all sides of the meat. Place the roast (fat side up) on a rack into a small (or large) roasting pan. Add the beef broth and water (and wine if using) to the bottom of the roasting pan.

Roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F. Continue roasting until the temperature on the digital thermometer reads 10ºF below your desired temperature (see notes for cooking times). 

Check the temperature of the roast by inserting an instant-read thermometer in a few different places (at the ends and in the center of the roast). 

Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for at least 30 minutes.

making the au jus

Au Jus Sauce

Degrease the drippings using a fat separator and pour them into a saucepan. Reduce for about 10 minutes, or until the au jus has a nice rich flavor (add additional beef broth if needed).

thick slice cut from prim rib roast on a cutting board.

How to make Au-Ju from pan drippings

Making au jus sauce from the beef drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan is super easy to do and well worth it! This is a thin sauce and not a thick gravy. You can certainly thicken it by adding flour and cornstarch to create a thicker sauce.

How to make simple au jus:

Degrease the drippings using a fat separator and pour them into a saucepan. Reduce for about 10 minutes, or until the au jus has a nice rich flavor (add additional beef broth if needed).

pouring au jus sauce over prime rib and mashed potatoes.

Where to Buy a Small Prime Rib Roast

You can find prime rib at any local grocery store. If you are making a small prime rib roast for a small gathering, I recommend talking to the butcher, especially around Christmas, since it is a popular cut of meat. I call my butcher and order it to be safe. They

Prime rib is a cut of beef from the primal rib, located in the area behind the shoulder but above the lower back. Prime rib is a fatty cut of meat not only does it have a fat cap, but it’s also marbled through with fat.

This cut of meat offers a generous amount of marbling, which contributes to its juiciness and delicious flavor. Prime (the best), followed by Choice, then Select. The grading is largely based on the fat marbling and taste.

For best results, keep the fat cap ON your prime rib roast. I only trim the fat a little on the sides.

prime rib cut on a large white serving plate.

Bone-in vs. Boneless Prime Rib

Bone-in prime rib insulates the meat as it cooks and produces more flavorful and tender results.

A boneless roast often comes perfectly trimmed of exterior fat and is ready to roast. A primary benefit of getting boneless prime rib roasts is the ease of carving.

For this recipe, we use a nice prime-grade small bone-in prime rib roast. It packs incredible flavor (in my opinion) and is worth it.

prime rib slice on a plate with garlic red shin mashed potatoes and green beans. Horseradish and dinner roll in background.

Variations

When making this recipe for the first time- try it the original way! When you make it again, you can vary the herbs in the prim rib rub recipe. Try adding fresh sage for a yummy twist.

Best Equipment for Cooking Prime Rib

Storing Prime Rib

To store any leftover prime rib, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze it. While it’s best the next day, leftover prime rib is good for five to seven days in the fridge or up to six months in the freezer. You can use the leftovers to make a sandwich the next day.

prime rib slice on a plate with garlic red shin mashed potatoes and green beans. Horseradish and dinner roll in background.

What to Serve with Small Prime Rib Roast

Standing Rib Roast is considered by many to be the best roast beef in the world. Also known as Prime Rib, it’s a beef cut that’s incredibly succulent with superior taste. Here are a few delicious side ideas to consider when serving this outstanding meat dish.

Roasted green beans, Brussels sprouts, Creamy Cauliflower Bake, Crispy Potatoes, Italian Mashed Potatoes, or Easy Green Beans and Pinenuts. Make sure to get some crusty bread for the sauce! For dessert, serve it with Italian Pandoro Cake!

cover photo.
Crispy Brussels Sprouts Recipe on a cream colored serving platter. with serving spoon
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oven roasted potatoes with a crispy exterior and herbs placed in a white bowl on a wooden board
Mashed potatoes and caramelized onions
Sautéed Frozen Green Beans Recipe (Easy) on a grey plate with a fork

Leftovers

Is there anything better than a prime beef sandwich with thick crusty bread dipped in the leftover au jus sauce? Nope! Make the Best Leftover Prime Rib Sandwich.

Make beef broth with the leftover beef bones as directed in this recipe, and enjoy!

Top tips

  • Let your prime rib roast come to room temperature on the counter before roasting in the oven. The roast will be largely overcooked around the outside, with only a tiny ring of perfectly cooked meat in the very center if it is cooked straight from the fridge. Take it out a couple of hours before cooking for the best results.
  • Keep an eye on your small prime rib roast: During the roast, be sure that the liquid in the bottom of the pan doesn’t dry out (add more water or beef broth if needed).
  • Let it rest! The resting time is crucial for flavor. Be patient; let it rest; you’ll be happy you did when you cut into your succulent prime rib roast.

FAQs

How long do you cook prime rib?

A general rule for cooking prime rib is to remember that the prime rib roast will have carryover cooking. This means the meat continues to rise in temperature as the roast rests (about 10º). This means that you will take it out when it is about 10º below your desired doneness based on this chart.
Final Temperature (after resting)
Rare
125-130º F
Medium Rare
130-135º F
Medium Rare
130-135º F
Medium
135-145º F
Medium-Well 
145-155º F

Well Done (never! ha, ha)
155º+ F

12 min per pound for rare prime rib, 14 min per pound for medium rare prime rib, or 15-16 min per pound for medium well prime rib.
With that said, the BEST way to check for doneness is to use an instant-read thermometer . This will ensure that it is cooked to your preference.

How many pounds of prime rib per person?

You can estimate about one pound per person for a bone-in roast and about ¾ pounds each for a boneless prime rib roast.

whole roast prime rib on serving plate with herbs.

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Best Small Prime Rib Roast Recipe

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4.9 from 11 reviews

This, How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast Recipe outlines the best way to cook a perfect prime rib for a small gathering (you can scale it for a larger crowd). You will love the flavorful crust and tender meat with all the pan juices!

  • Total Time: 60+ minutes (not including rest time)
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

Meat

  • 45 lb bone-in prime rib roast (you can scale it by following the cooking notes on cooking time + increase the rub accordingly)

Rub

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 tablespoon coarse salt (I use Kosher)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional but recommend)

Instructions

How to cook a small prim rib roast

  1. Take the prime roast out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before cooking (about 2-3 hours). Bringing the meat to room temperature is key to an evenly cooked roast. Pat the meat with a paper towel until dry. 
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, mix the garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil to form a paste. Rub the roast with the paste. Rub the paste into the score lines in the fat cap. Place the roast (fat side up) on a rack into a small (or large) roasting pan. Add the beef broth and water (and wine if using) to the bottom of the roasting pan.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F. Continue roasting until the temperature on the digital thermometer reads 10ºF below your desired temperature (see notes for cooking times). 
    Check the temperature of the roast by inserting an instant-read thermometer in a few different places (at the ends and in the center of the roast). 
  4. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil for at least 30 minutes.

Make Au Jus 

  1. Degrease the drippings using a fat separator and pour them into a saucepan. Reduce for about 10 minutes, or until the au jus has a nice rich flavor (add additional beef broth if needed).

Notes

How to cook a Prime Rib Roast (cooking times) 

A general rule for cooking prime rib is to remember that the prime rib roast will have carryover cooking. This means the meat continues to rise in temperature as the roast rests (about 10º). This means that you will take it out when it is about 10º below your desired doneness based on this chart.
Final Temperature (after resting)

Rare
125-130º F (my personal preference)

Medium Rare
130-135º F

Medium
135-145º F

Medium-Well 
145-155º F

Well Done (never! ha, ha)
155º+ F

12 min per pound for rare prime rib, 14 min per pound for medium rare prime rib, or 15 -16 min per pound for medium well prime rib. With that said, the BEST way to check for doneness is to use an instant-read thermometer . This will ensure that it is cooked to your preference.

Top tips

  • Let your prime rib roast come to room temperature on the counter before roasting in the oven. The roast will be largely overcooked around the outside, with only a tiny ring of perfectly cooked meat in the very center if it is cooked straight from the fridge. Take it out a couple of hours before cooking for the best results.
  • Keep an eye on your small prime rib roast: During the roast, be sure that the liquid in the bottom of the pan doesn’t dry out (add more water or beef broth if needed).
  • Let it rest! The resting time is crucial for flavor. Be patient; let it rest; you’ll be happy you did when you cut into your succulent prime rib roast.

  • Author: Elena Davis
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 60+ minutes depending on preferred doneness
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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20 Comments

  1. I’ve made prime rib for years but this year my husband had to make it because I broke my patella. He followed the directions to a T. It turned out delicious, tender and flavorful!
    I will use your recipe here on out. Thanks for having a recipe for smaller roasts. Happy New Year!!