How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
December 15, 2023 | Updated on January 27, 2024

Learn how to cook a small prime rib roast with this easy standing rib roast recipe. Bone-in prime rib roast is slathered in herb butter and roasted to juicy perfection for a delicious holiday entree.

Want to try another tasty rib recipe? Check out my Red Wine Short Ribs, Five-Spice Short Ribs, and Thai-Style Baby Back Ribs.

plated prime rib roast with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans with a bowl of horseradish cream in the background

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This prime rib roast is salted the day before, slathered with homemade herb butter, and then roasted until the center is pink and succulent. As it roasts, the garlicky, herbaceous butter helps the roast retain moisture while also yielding a crispy, flavorful crust. Served with an option of either spicy horseradish cream or rich and savory au jus, this roast is the most mouthwatering centerpiece for special occasions.

Why This Prime Rib Roast Recipe Works

  • Perfect Holiday Entree This roast is a classic choice for Christmas dinner. Use it as the main course of any feast and serve it with various side dishes. (I have some yummy serving options below as well as a guide for how much you need to serve a crowd!)
  • Easy Prep – Learning how to cook a prime rib roast may seem intimidating but when you take it step by step, you see how simple it is. In this post, we’ll discuss prime rib roast cooking time and all the tips you need to make the best prime rib recipe.
  • Ideal for Small Gatherings – A small prime rib roast is an affordable way to splurge on this indulgent cut of beef. Whether you want to add something special to a potluck with other entrees, or host an intimate dinner, this is the perfect choice.
small sliced prime rib roast on a cutting board

What is a Prime Rib Roast?

Prime rib roast, also known as standing beef rib roast or ribeye roast, is the most superior cut of roast beef. It comes from the primal rib section of the cow. Known for its marbling, this rich, fatty cut of beef boasts juicy flavor.

cooked standing rib toast in a skillet

Tools You’ll Need

Ingredients You Will Need for Roast Prime Rib

The ingredients for prime rib are very simple so we get fancy with the butter mixture and sauces. You can whip up a quick, creamy horseradish sauce or use pan drippings for an easy jus.


Prime Rib Roast

  • Standing rib roast – Bone-in prime rib is always more flavorful than boneless prime rib. Also, using beef with the bones still intact insulates the meat, resulting in juicier ribs.
  • Seasoning – Use kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal. The rib roast is seasoned with salt 24 hours before which will yield, juicy and flavorful meat.

Butter Mixture

  • Salted butter – This is the foundation of flavor and the binding ingredient that helps all the other ingredients stick to the surface of the roast.
  • Lemon – Zested lemon adds a fresh, aromatic flair to the mix.
  • Freshly cracked black pepper – This has a stronger, more pungent flavor than regular pepper.
  • Fresh herbs – Use coriander and finely chopped fresh rosemary and fresh thyme.
  • Garlic – Minced fresh garlic. Do not use bottled because the taste isn’t nearly as good.
ingredients for herb butter

Horseradish Cream

  • Creme fraiche – Use this or sour cream (full-fat) as the creamy base.
  • Horseradish – This adds a zesty, spicy kick.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Add for tang and balance of flavor.
  • Quality mayonnaise – This enriches the sauce.
  • Kosher salt – Use Diamond Crystal.
  • Chives – Finely chopped.
  • Worcestershire sauce – This is savory and slightly sweet with umami flavor.
  • Freshly ground black pepper – Add to taste.

How do you prepare prime rib before cooking?

  1. Salt beef. 24 hours before roasting, remove roast from the refrigerator. Pat dry and generously season with kosher salt. Place on a ¼ baking sheet with a wire rack and into the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours.
  2. Allow meat to come to temp. Remove roast from the refrigerator 1½-2 hours before roasting. Add all herbed butter ingredients together and mix until combined. Set aside.

How To Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast

The key to the best prime rib is roasting at a higher temperature initially for a textured herb crust, and then lowering the temperature for tender meat beneath the surface.

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Smear with butter and roast. Once roast comes to temp, smear butter mixture all over the roast.
herb butter in a bowl

Place the meat probe into the thickest part of the roast, then transfer roast to the oven. Bake for 22-30 minutes (~15 minutes per pound of meat) or until the roast is darkened. Lower temperature to 325°F and continue to roast until internal temperature reaches 120°F for medium rare (keep in mind the internal temperature of the roast will continue to increase as the meat rests).

small prime rib roast coated with butter in a skillet with a wire rack beneath it

3. Rest. Tent prime rib with foil as it rests.

4. Transfer roast to a cutting board and carve into ½-inch thick slices. Enjoy!

Horseradish cream sauce

Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to mix well. Set aside until ready to use. 

overhead view of a roast prime rib roast resting in a skillet

Boneless or Bone-In Prime Rib Roast?

I highly recommend opting for a bone-in rib roast as it will retain more flavor. The ribs also serve as a buffer so the meat doesn’t touch the pan as it roasts. Carving is fairly simple. Once it’s time to slice, remove the bone by using a carving knife to carve alongside the bone from end to end.

Additionally, you can ask your butcher to remove the bone for you and then attach it using butcher’s twine. Cook the roast with the twine and just before serving remove the twine and the ribs.

close up view of a platter of prime rib roast

How Long to Cook Prime Rib Roast

Cooking times vary based on the size of the roast and your desired level of doneness. Measure cooking times by the pound, roasting prime rib at a rate of ~15 minutes per pound.

This recipe uses a 4½-pound prime rib so that’s about 1 hour and 7 minutes.

Then, lower the oven temperature to 325°F and roast until it reaches your desired internal temperature. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy.

  • Rare 115 -119°F
  • Medium Rare (recommended) 120-125°F
  • Medium 126-134°F
  • Medium Well – 135-140°F
  • Well Just kidding. Please don’t overcook your prime rib!

Note: The internal temperature of the roast will continue to increase as the meat rests (by about 6-10 degrees). If you take it out too soon, you can always pop it back in. But you can’t fix an overcooked roast.

How Much Prime Rib Per Person

The consensus is that 1 rib bone serves about 2 people. So by that standard, this recipe for 4½ pounds of prime rib (2 rib bones) comfortably serves 4 people. However, it depends on how hungry your guests are and how many sides are being served with it. Use the following as a general guide.

  • 2 ribs = ~4 pounds; 3-4 people
  • 3 ribs = ~6 pounds; 5-6 people
  • 4 ribs = ~8 pounds; 7-8 people
  • 5 ribs = ~10 pounds; 9-10 people
a platter of sliced prime rib roast garnished with rosemary

Tips and Tricks

  • Salt the roast 24 hours before cooking. This aids in a juicier and flavorful rib roast.
  • Choose well marbled meat. You’re already spending a fair amount on the roast, if possible, opt for a prime rib roast. Prime-graded beef is well-marbled, and yields a more flavorful, tender, and juicier prime rib.
  • Let the meat come to room temperature before placing it in the oven. Take it out of the fridge 1½-2 hours before you plan to roast. This ensures even cooking.
  • Use a meat probe/thermometer. Now’s not the time to play the guessing game with the doneness of your roast. A thermometer is the only way to guarantee a perfectly cooked standing rib roast.
  • Use an oven thermometer. In addition to a meat prob, an oven thermometer ensures the oven is at the desired temp. You will be surprised to find out that a lot of ovens are not accurate and you may need to make adjustments.
  • Be sure to let the meat rest. While the meat rests, the juices redistribute throughout. Skipping the rest means that the juices will spill out as you carve it.
  • Always cut across the grain. Slice perpendicular to the lines in the beef grain because if you cut with the grain, the bite will be tough and chewy.

What to Serve with Prime Rib Roast

  • Potatoes Potatoes, in all their forms, provide a comforting and buttery base that complements the richness of the prime rib. Try pairing it with my Fondant Potatoes or these Herbed Mashed Potatoes.
  • Roasted Vegetables Veggies add a fresh, vibrant contrast to the deep, savory flavors of prime rib. Try green beans or brussels sprouts.
  • Bread Warm bead is perfect for sopping up the delicious juices from the prime rib. Try Cheesy Garlic Bread or Buttery Dinner Rolls.
plated prime rib roast with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans

How to Store and Reheat

Store leftover prime rib roast in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. For the best results, reheat in the oven at 300°F for about 15 minutes covered with aluminum foil, and another 5 minutes without.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to cook a prime rib?

The cooking time for a prime rib roast varies depending on factors like the size of the roast, desired doneness, and the cooking temperature. However, a general guideline is 5 minutes per pound at a high temperature followed by a significant decrease in temperature and continue to cook for ~15 minutes per pound until the desired internal temperature is achieved. Just keep in mind that the roast continues to cook as it rests outside of the oven.

What is the difference between prime rib and prime rib roast?

The two terms are often used interchangeably but there is a subtle difference. Prime rib references the cut of beef whereas prime rib roast describes the process to cook that meat.

Is prime rib better than ribeye?

Prime rib, often served as a roast, is better for communal-style dining. If you prefer bone-in, tender beef, this is the better option. Ribeye is a boneless steak cut from the same section that provides a concentrated beef flavor and is popular for individual servings.

Do you roast the standing rib roast bone up or down?

Always place the roast bone side down. This position helps the meat retain moisture and cook evenly.

plated sliced prime rib roast with a plate of green beans in the background

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plated prime rib roast with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans with a bowl of horseradish cream in the background

How to Cook a Small Prime Rib Roast

5 from 3 votes
Learn how to cook a small prime rib roast with this simple standing rib roast recipe. Bone-in prime rib roast is slathered in herb butter and roasted to juicy perfection for a delicious holiday entree.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Dry Brine 1 day
Servings 4 people
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Dinner
Cuisine American

Equipment

  • Baking Sheet
  • Wire Rack
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Fine Mesh Sieve
  • Sauté pan

Ingredients

Prime Rib Roast

  • pounds (2 ribs) standing rib roast
  • kosher salt

Butter Mixture

  • sticks salted butter, room temperature
  • ½ medium lemon zested
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, minced, do not use bottled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • teaspoons ground coriander
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste, Diamond Crystal

Horseradish Cream

  • ½ cup creme fraiche, can use sour cream (full-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • tablespoons quality mayonnaise
  • teaspoons worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste, Diamond Crystal
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Jus (optional)

  • cup prime rib drippings
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour,
  • cups, beef broth, low sodium
  • cup red wine, I use pinot noir
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce, plus more to taste

Instructions

  • Salt beef. 24 hours before roasting, remove roast from the refrigerator. Pat dry and generously season with kosher salt. Place on a ¼ baking sheet with a wire rack and into the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours. It's important to season the roast well; the salt will dry out moisture and over time, be reabsorbed back into the meat, resulting in an ultra flavorful prime rib.
  • Allow meat to come to temp. Remove roast from the refrigerator 1½ hours (1 to 2 rib size) to 2+ hours (for 3 rib size and above) before roasting. Add all herbed butter ingredients together and mix until combined. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Smear with butter and transfer to the oven. Once roast comes to temp, smear butter mixture all over the roast. Place the meat probe into the thickest part of the roast, then place back on the wire rack, bone-side down. Transfer roast to the oven. Bake for 22-30 minutes (5 minutes per pound of meat) or until the roast is darkened.
    Lower temperature to 325°F and continue to roast until internal temperature registers 120°F-122°F for medium rare on the meat thermometer (about 15-16 minutes per pound, see notes below for more details.)
    Also, keep in mind the internal temperature of the roast will continue to increase as the meat rests. See blog post for temperatures based on preferred doneness.
    While standing rib roast is in the oven, make the cream sauce.
  • Rest. Tent prime rib with foil and leave to rest for 25 minutes. Transfer roast to a cutting board and flip to rib side facing up. Carve along the bone to remove. Flip roast back on its bottom and carve into ¾-inch thick slices. Enjoy!

Horseradish cream sauce

  • Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to mix well. Set aside until ready to use. 

Jus

  • Once roast is resting, pass drippings through a sieve. Heat sauté pan over medium heat. Pour ⅓ cup of drippings into pan once it gets hot and add flour. Use a whisk to mix well and cook for two minutes.
  • Add beef stock and red wine. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook until the mixture thickens and slightly reduces. Add worcestershire sauce and season to taste with freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt. Adjust seasoning with more worcestershire sauce, if necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.

NOTES

Notes on cooking:
For the 4½ pound standing rib roast I cooked, I initially cooked it at 450°F for 28 minutes, then, I dropped the temperature as suggested in the recipe to 325°F and cooked it until the meat thermometer registered 124°F (this is my personal preference for doneness or 1 hour 25 minutes. 
Keep in mind the internal temperature will continue to increase 5°F-10°F as it rests) 
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plated prime rib roast with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans with a bowl of horseradish cream in the background

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6 Comments

  1. Leila says...

    5 stars
    This was my first time making a small prime rib and it was phenomenal. The instructions were thorough and easy to follow. The butter rub was delicious but the horseradish sauce was was good with the prime rib . Perfect recipe and will be making again and again. Thank you!

  2. Lola says...

    5 stars
    This recipe is so perfect! I made it for my husband and he absolutely loved it! I am definitely making this again!!

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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