The very first time I ever tried the prime rib 500 rule (AKA the perfect prime rib recipe), it turned out amazing! In fact, it was such a hit with everyone that I made prime rib again the next Christmas Eve, and one after that, and the one after that! I am totally hooked on it because this foolproof prime rib method works!
Here’s a quick look at how to cook prime rib with the closed oven method: for medium-rare prime rib, you cook a prime rib roast at 500 degrees for 5-6 minutes per pound, then turn the oven off and leave the door closed for two hours. At that point, the temperature of the prime rib will be perfect (or very nearly so!) It’s the best method for cooking prime rib because it’s virtually foolproof.
I first encountered the prime rib closed oven recipe years ago, after asking my siblings if they were interested in pitching in so we could have a Christmas prime rib — a big departure from our standard honey-baked ham! I even offered to cook it, which was pretty bold considering I’d never made one before.
Lucky for me, it came out perfect, and this method for cooking prime rib is now an indispensable holiday tradition for us. This time-tested method (sometimes called the “prime rib 500 degree method,” “closed-oven method,” or “oven off method”) for making sumptuous prime rib has never failed me, and I’m certain it will serve you and your family just as well!
How To Make The Best Prime Rib (Prime Rib 500° Rule)
1. Select The Perfect Prime Rib Roast
A good prime rib roast isn’t cheap, so it’s natural to feel a bit nervous about the prospect of picking one out and forking over the cash for it. Here are a few tips that will help you buy the perfect cut of meat for prime rib with confidence!
Some roasts are labeled clearly as “prime rib,” while others go by slightly different names, such as “rib roast,” “eye of the rib roast” or “standing rib roast.” (The name “eye of the rib roast” is typically applied to boneless prime rib roasts, while “standing rib roast” is often reserved for bone-in roasts.)
Technically, all “prime rib” really refers to is the meat from a cow’s most desirable ribs — the 6th through 12th ribs on either side. (That’s where ribeye steaks come from, too.) Keep in mind that “prime” can mean several different things, and that prime rib roasts may or may not be USDA prime grade (more on that shortly).
Prime Grade Or Choice Grade?
There are two grades of prime rib roast you might encounter at the grocery store: prime grade and choice grade. Prime grade has more fat and marbling, so it’s typically the more expensive option, while choice grade is more common and bit cheaper. (These grades are assigned by experienced USDA meat graders, not by the store or its employees.)
If the roasts you find aren’t clearly labeled as prime or choice grade, ask the butcher or meat counter attendant to identify it for you. The grade won’t affect the cooking process, but if you want the best possible flavor and quality, you may decide that a prime grade prime rib roast is worth the added cost. (It is a special occasion, after all!)
Boneless Or Bone-In?
Choose either a bone-in prime rib roast or boneless roast, because this great recipe works equally well for both! One factor worth considering is flavor versus ease of carving — a bone-in roast will give you the best flavor, but boneless roasts are much easier to cut. (I personally prefer boneless, but you’ll end up with a delicious, perfectly cooked oven-roasted prime rib either way!)
How Many Pounds Of Roast Beef Per Person?
Once you’ve decided which variety of roast you want, you can determine how large a roast you’ll need to buy. Here are a couple of simple guidelines for deciding how much meat you’ll need:
- Bone-in roast: about 1 rib per person, plus 1-2 more ribs for good measure
- Boneless roast: about 1/2 pound per person, plus 1-2 more pounds for good measure
2. Prepare The Roast
First, make a note of the weight of the roast before you put the wrapping in the trash. Then you can start by seasoning the roast: mix up a seasoning blend of 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon each of onion salt, seasoning/seasoned salt, and garlic powder — about 1/4 cup of seasonings in total.
Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over your roast on all sides, patting it to help it adhere to the surface. (The seasoning may not stick very well on the fat side, so just do the best you can!) For added flavor, you can apply the seasoning mixture to your roast up to 24 hours in advance, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until you’re ready to cook it.
Set your seasoned roast on a roasting rack with the fat side facing up and bones (if present) facing down. (Positioning the fat on top is important, because you want the rendered fat to drip over the roast, rather than dripping directly into the pan.)
Place the roasting rack in a large roasting pan, or set it on a baking sheet if you don’t have one. Use a meat thermometer to ensure a perfect medium rare prime rib — insert your oven-safe meat thermometer or a remote temperature gauge into the center of the roast, then you’re ready to get cooking!
3. The Secret To Making Perfect Prime Rib: The Cooking Method
The 500 degree rule involves cooking prime rib in two stages: first at high heat, then using residual heat. The high-heat stage creates the deliciously crispy sear you want on the outside of your roast, while the residual heat stage gently cooks the meat and renders the fat, producing perfect medium rare prime rib that’s melt-in-your-mouth tender.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (F), or as high as it will go without activating the broiler function. Carefully place the prime rib roast into the preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 5-6 minutes per pound. (Example: for a 5 pound roast, you’d cook it at 500° for 25-30 minutes.)
When your timer for the high-heat stage goes off, turn off the oven and leave the roast inside, undisturbed, for 2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR during these 2 hours — this is the “low and slow” stage, which relies on the residual heat from the first stage to continue cooking the meat.
The oven temperature will drop rapidly if the oven door is opened at all, so it’s crucial to keep it closed. (I’ve been known to post strongly worded warnings on the oven door to remind everyone keep their distance, and it hasn’t failed me yet!) ;-)
After 2 hours, check the internal temperature of the meat, whether remotely or by opening the oven door, if necessary. If the temperature reads between 135-140°F (between medium-rare and medium — the perfect temperature for prime rib, in my opinion!), it’s done and ready to come out of the oven! If it isn’t quite there yet, leave the roast in your oven, turn it back on, and cook at 375°F until it comes up to temperature. (Just keep an eye on that meat thermometer!)
Total prime rib cook time: 5-6 minutes per pound at 500 degrees, then 2 hours with oven off and door closed.
4. Carve And Serve
Remove the finished roast from your oven, then carve. (Because the meat has been cooking without active heat, there’s no need to let your prime rib rest — it already has! Of course, if you happen to prefer prime rib at room temperature, you can let it rest for 15-30 minutes before serving.)
Serve your sliced prime rib with homemade au jus made from the pan drippings, garlic herb butter, or creamy horseradish sauce (see below for the recipe!). No matter how you serve it, I’m sure your guests will agree that this is the best prime rib recipe ever.
Makes you wonder why people think cooking a prime rib is so hard, doesn’t it? I’m pretty sure it’s the price that makes people worry so much about it coming out right, but with this easy recipe you don’t have to be concerned at all. If you happen to have any of the roast left over (unlikely, but possible!), you can use it to make amazing carne asada tacos.
Cooking Time Adjustments For Smaller And Larger Roasts
The instructions above work perfectly for cooking almost any prime rib roast, because on average they weigh about 5-7 pounds. If your roast is significantly smaller OR significantly larger than that, make the following adjustments:
- Small roasts (<2 pounds): Reduce cooking time during the second stage (AKA the oven off stage) to 60-90 minutes instead of 2 hours.
- Large roasts (>10 pounds): Divide into two 5-pound halves and cook both at the same time. Calculate the initial cook time based on the weight of just one of the halves. [For example, to cook a 12-pound roast, you would cut it in half, place both halves in the oven, and cook at 500°F for 36 minutes (6 minutes per pound x 6-pound roast = 36 minutes of cooking time), then for 2 more hours with oven turned off.]
BONUS: What To Serve With Prime Rib
- Instant Pot baked potatoes (or Instant Pot mashed potatoes)
- My favorite creamed corn
- A truly miraculous spinach salad
- Soft and fluffy sour cream cookies
- Creamy horseradish sauce (my husband Dave’s favorite prime rib accompaniment!)
I like prime rib as-is, while Dave prefers his with a large dollop of creamy horseradish sauce. Tangy horseradish folded into velvety whipped cream makes this sauce the perfect complement to a slice of rich, roasted prime rib!
Creamy Horseradish Sauce Recipe
Right before dinner, use an electric mixer or stand mixer to whip 1 cup of heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. (Lift your beater or whisk straight up—the cream should form a sharp peak that holds its shape.)
Add white pepper to taste (or black pepper, if you can’t find white), a dash of hot sauce, and 3 tablespoons of horseradish to the whipped cream, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold the ingredients into the cream just until everything’s incorporated. Spoon the finished sauce into a serving dish.
Have you ever cooked a prime rib roast at home?
Perfect Prime Rib Recipe (500 Rule/Closed Oven Method)
- Roasting rack
- Roasting pan
- Oven-safe meat thermometer
- 5 lb prime rib roast
- 4 tsp onion salt
- 4 tsp seasoned salt
- 4 tsp garlic powder
- Mix up 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon each of onion salt, seasoned salt, and garlic powder, for a total of 1/4 cup of seasoning mix.
- Pat the seasoning mix on both ends of the roast as well as the fat side. (The salt may not stick as well on the fat side, but don’t worry about it.)
- Set the seasoned roast on a roasting rack, bone-side down and fat-side up. Place the rack in a large roasting pan, and insert your meat thermometer into the middle of the roast.
- Place the roast into a 500° preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 5-6 minutes per pound.
- Then shut the oven off completely, and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR TWO HOURS.
- After two hours, check the temperature of the meat. If your thermometer reads 135-140°F, it’s done! (If it isn’t quite to temp yet, just put it back in the oven at 375°F until it’s done.)
Creamy Horseradish Sauce
- Whisk 1 cup heavy cream in a mixing bowl until it forms stiff peaks.
- Season with the white pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, and a dash of hot sauce (optional.) Stir gently until just combined, and serve alongside your delicious prime rib!