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What is a Standing Rib Roast?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A standing rib roast is a beef cut typically taken from about the middle of the cow, and which includes a number of the ribs. Smaller cuts usually only have a few ribs, but large ones can include up to seven. The rib bones are what give the standing rib roast its name, allowing the roast to “stand” on its own during cooking. It is usually slowly roasted with dry heat, and often only lightly seasoned, though smoking or drying before cooking can be quite common. It is often served at special occasions or formal dinners.

The cut that composes a standing rib roast includes meat and ribs from near the shoulder toward the hind quarters of the animal. Due to the large nature of the cut, different rib roast cuts can have somewhat different amounts of tenderness and flavor. The tenderest portions of a standing rib roast come from the back end of the cut, and are referred to as a loin rib roast or small end rib roast. Rib roasts from the front end near the shoulder are called chuck rib roasts or large end rib roasts and are less tender. The common name for cuts of meat from these types of roasts is “prime rib,” and this term is used in the United States (US) even for cuts not designated as “prime” by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

A standing rib roast is typically fairly simply prepared, and will usually be slowly roasted using dry heat. Before roasting, the meat may be smoked for several hours in a large smoker or allowed to dry in a refrigerator for up to a week. This is done by leaving the roast uncovered in a refrigerator of at most 40° F (about 4.4° C) on a cooling rack in a pan. The drying process draws moisture out of the roast and creates a standing rib roast with far more flavor. This can also be done by a butcher, but will make the roast significantly more expensive.

Any dry pieces should be cut off of the exterior of the dried meat, and then the roast can be rubbed with seasonings and prepared for roasting. Salt and pepper are most common; other seasonings like garlic or onion powder can also be used if desired. The roast is then tied with butcher’s twine, typically once around and once between each rib, to keep the roast together during roasting. It is then cooked at low temperature for several hours, until it reaches the desired doneness, often medium rare. The pan drippings can be used to make a sauce, allowing the roast to be served au jus or “with juice.”

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Discussion Comments

By AnswerMan — On Aug 29, 2014

@Phaedrus- I used to be afraid to prepare a standing rib roast myself, but I have found some more foolproof ways to cook standing rib roast. If you follow the advice about standing rib roast by Alton Brown, you shouldn't have too many problems. I even cooked enough standing prime rib roast to satisfy 200 wedding guests one time.

One way to get a perfect standing rib roast is to watch the temperature like a hawk. A lot of ovens go through heating cycles that can vary by as much as 50 degrees. You need to use a meat thermometer that will send out the standing rib roast's temperature through a probe while it is in the oven. Most of the time, the ideal doneness is around medium rare to medium, not well-done.

By Phaedrus — On Aug 28, 2014

I absolutely love a good standing prime rib roast, but I don't know if I'd ever risk trying to cook one myself. Considering standing rib roast prices these days, I'd hate to burn one up in the stove or undercook it. It would be an expensive mistake to make.

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