We’re nearing that time of year, dear home chef, that time of year when far-flung and hungry friends and family descend into your home expecting epicurean ecstasy. Sure, they may come bearing their own obligatory culinary offerings; mystery casserole dishes, watery store-bought pies, and Uncle Charlie’s famous pickled beets. But you know what they really came for, don’t you? You got it. They came for the beef. The Grand Poobah of all protein entrees. Where the prairie meets the plate, my friends. The Prime Rib, of course.
How to Carve Prime Rib Like a Pro
Clocking in at a whopping $18 per 8 ounces of pure Black Angus USDA Grade Certified Prime Beef, it’s no wonder the ‘steaks’ are high because you skipped two payments on your kid’s braces to buy such a gloriously satisfying palate pleaser.
Prime is the best USDA grade of beef available, having the most marbling and therefore the best flavor and tenderness.
Because of its expense, most Prime cuts of beef end up in restaurants. But now it’s the holidays and most retail markets will carry restaurant-grade prime rib at this time, so be sure to ask for it. On the other hand, Choice grade beef is acceptable if your budget prohibits the upgrade, it’s also a fatty roast and will still yield an excellent result if cooked properly.
Still, if you want to splurge on the best (and your kid doesn’t mind a couple months sans orthodontist) go for the ‘bovine best.’ Fear not, nervous beef- wrangler, you cook it (here’s how, plus a great prime rib recipe featuring a bourbon-coffee crust) and we’ll show you how to carve it so every little bit is perfectly utilized, presented, and preserved. Read on!
First, you should know there is a reason your prime rib is so pricey. The prime rib cut (also known, unimpressively, as a standing rib roast), comes from the back of the upper rib section of a steer – the part that is most tender because these muscles aren’t heavily used.
Prime rib has a large ‘eye’ in the center which is marbled with fat, making it extremely flavorful and super juicy. The real key here is not to overcook it so you can lock in the tenderness and flavor. There are dozens of tutorials online that offer a variety of roasting methods for your prime rib but basically, it’s this: Season heavily (more on meat seasoning here), roast to an internal temp of no more than 140 degrees, rest at least 20 minutes, and only carve what you will serve. Let’s get started!
Prepare Your Workspace
Choose a cutting board that’s big enough to set the prime rib on. For plastic or acrylic cutting boards, place a damp towel underneath to prevent it from sliding around while you cut. You’ll be exerting some pressure here, so having a stable workspace is critical. You can always transfer portions to a serving platter later, but knowing how to hold onto and carve a prime rib is paramount to preserving every last slice!
Use the Proper Tools
The key to carving a prime rib (or standing rib roast) successfully always starts with the right tools. Electric knife? Don’t even think about it. It’s common sense to make sure your knives are freshly cleaned and sharpened. More on how to sharpen your kitchen knives here, and more on why you shouldn’t have to here.
Now here’s what you’ll need:
A Chef’s Fork: Roughly between 11 and 13 inches long, a chef’s fork is used for securing meat while it’s being carved. This handy fork has two long tines, and a handle with a base for resting your forefinger and thumb on. Whether you’re left or right-handed, a chef’s fork is absolutely necessary for holding the meat down while you slice with your other hand.
The Chef’s Knife: The all-star of the kitchen year-round, the chef’s knife is used for slicing, chopping, and mincing. If you’re a seasoned home cook, you probably use your chef knife a lot already. This kind of familiarity is helpful when you’re slicing into a prime rib or any other large cut of meat. For example, the F.N. Sharp chef knife is 13” inches overall, with a blade length of 8.5” which makes it perfect for cleanly slicing smooth and uniform slices of prime rib. The last thing you want is a family revolt over who got what. This is a common theme when it comes to prime rib, folks. Seriously. So make sure those slices are even!
How to Carve a Prime Rib Roast
Assuming you have carefully followed the proper protocol for prepping and roasting your prime rib (including letting it rest), it should now be easier to handle. If not, go back to the step that says, ‘let me rest!’
Resting is nearly more critical than NOT overcooking it because it allows the juices to be reabsorbed back into the meat. Remember when we said ‘family revolt?’ Dodge this catastrophe as well and let that meat have its time so you can be the hero of the holiday (for once)!
To carve a prime rib, hold the roast up by the rib bones and slice close to the bone contour all the way down until the bones are released from the meat. Do not discard the bones! Your Uncle Charlie will love you forever if you graciously gift him those bony delights (just don’t tell the dog…or your FIL).
Now that you’ve created a flat end to balance the meat on, proceed to cut from left to right in even slices using your chef knife. Don’t ‘saw’ back and forth, either – the meat should be tender enough for long, smooth strokes.
Remember, part of the appeal of prime rib is its juiciness. Cut one serving at a time. Let the remaining roast rest divinely on a platter for everyone to gaze at longingly. And if you need a little extra flavoring, don’t ruin the roast with A1 – serve with au jus or horseradish.
Here’s another tip: auction off the legendary ‘end’ cuts to the highest bidder and pay off your kid’s braces in one fell swoop. Those end cuts are THAT good…it could happen!
Assuming there ARE any leftovers, be sure to wrap your prime rib tightly in plastic wrap. The last thing you want is for it to absorb any odors from the fridge (uncovered egg salad, perhaps?).
There’s a reason why most folks order prime rib at a restaurant: they think they can’t achieve the same cooking and presentation results at home. But you can! With a little cooking know-how and some F.N. Sharp carving and presentation techniques, you’ll have the holidays wrangled in no time!