Classic Prime Rib for a Small Crowd Recipe (2024)

By Mark Bittman

Classic Prime Rib for a Small Crowd Recipe (1)

Total Time
1 hour 30 minutes
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This scaled-down version of the traditional holiday roast is incredibly easy to prepare. In addition to the beef, you need only red wine or stock, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve it for Sunday dinner alongside a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes and something green. If you're feeling ambitious, use the beef drippings to make Yorkshire pudding.

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Yield:6 servings or more

  • 1(3-rib) roast, about 5 pounds, trimmed of excess but not all fat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 or 2cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1cup red wine, stock, or water

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (6 servings)

1255 calories; 106 grams fat; 44 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 45 grams monounsaturated fat; 4 grams polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 0 grams sugars; 62 grams protein; 975 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Classic Prime Rib for a Small Crowd Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Bring the meat to room temperature by removing it from the refrigerator at least an hour before cooking, preferably two. (For a larger roast, make it three.) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

  2. Place the meat, bone side down, in a large roasting pan. Season it with salt and pepper. If you like garlic, peel the cloves and cut them into tiny slivers; use a boning or paring knife to poke small holes in the meat and insert the garlic into them.

  3. Step


    Place the roast in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, undisturbed. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and continue to roast about 1 hour; check in several places with a meat thermometer. When no spot registers under 125 degrees (120 degrees if you like your meat really rare and your guests are of the same preference), the meat is rare; cook another 5 or 10 minutes if you like it more well done, then check again, but in no case should you let the temperature of the meat go above 155 degrees.

  4. Step


    Remove the meat from the oven. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of the fat, and place the roasting pan over a burner set to high. Add the liquid and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, until it is reduced by half. Slice and serve the roast, splashing a little of the sauce on the meat platter and passing the rest at the table.



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Cooking Notes

Dave Scherf

I cooked a 7 1/2 lb roast and tried to extrapolate from the above how long that would take. I had it figured at about 15 minutes a pound at 350 degrees after starting at 450 per the recipe, but in reality, it was about 20 mins. per pound.

jeff r

This was simple to make and it turned out great. Sometimes the fussing prep with a good piece of meat isn't really needed.

Randy G

Simple, yet elegant. I used a 4 lb boneless, organic, grass fed USDA Choice grade Angus roast. To compensate for boneless, in step 3, I checked temperature at 45 minutes - it was a perfect 125 degrees. Also, I prepared a rub, made from dried herbs and spices I had on hand and the zest of one orange and 3-4 "shot's" of Lea & Perrins. Then I marinated in a freezer grade bag and placed in the bottom of the refrigerator for 2 days. My guests thoroughly enjoyed it.

Suzanne K

This was our first attempt at a rib roast. It was excellent! We had TWO malfunctioning meat thermometers and still managed to serve it med rare/rare. It was the highlight of our Easter dinner. Every recipe I try of Mark Bittman's comes out perfectly! Thank you, Mark!


Prime rib is an easy dish to make, and the ingredients here are really all you need, but I did make a couple of small changes. First, I did insert about 6 garlic cloves AND rosemary in the slits I made and then I also rubbed 1/3 of a stick of butter (I cooked a 10 pound roast, not 5 pound as listed below) on the all over roast before adding salt an pepper. The roast came out amazing med-rare, and I then used the juices, which now included butter over sautéed broccolini to tie in the flavors.

Powdered garlic substitution

When applying garlic to meat that's going to be roasted/BBQ'd, I've found that powdered garlic is far superior than fresh, surprisingly enough. First heard about this substitution from a YouTuber who specialized in steaks and once I tried it, I was converted. Used it on the rib roast over this past holiday season to great effect.


My first time cooking prime rib.I added 1 1/2 cups of Sherry wine. Cooked at 450 for 15 min. Lowered oven to 350 & cooked for 1 hr reaching a 125 internal temp. As I let the meat rest, I finished my loaded baked potatoes & sauteed asparagus in olive oil & garlic with kosher sea salt. I made an amazing bearnaise sauce for the asparagus.The meat was a perfect med rare! Served w/ a few spoonfuls of the juices over the meat! 5 star restaurant taste & quality right in my own home!


I think the hot sear makes for uneven cooking - the extereror well done the middle is medium. I have much better luck at 300 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes a pound, taking it out before 120 degrees for medium rare since it continue to cook several minutes with internal heat. That gave plenty of time to make Yorkshire pudding with drippings. Even at the lower temp the roast was nicely browned.


Really want a prime rib traditional dinner with Yorkshire pudding and creamed spinach, but we are only 2 people so the butcher recommended two prime rib eye dry aged steaks instead. Pretty large (2lbs worth) and expensive. Any recommendations on getting the same results for the prime rib dinner I want along with drippings for Yorkshire pudding with these steaks?


periodically i have my butcher grind a few pounds of suet/beef fat that i render down to liquid, i freeze it in plastic containers so have it for popovers/yorkshires whenever.roasting and grilling will give you totally different results, especially when you are preparing for only 2 people. so have your butcher cut and tie a 2+ pound of rib, salt it for 24+ hours, sear it in an iron skillet and then finish it in a hot oven. using a probe type thermometer will yield the best results for novices.


First time cooking prime rib. Price had freaked me out in the past but it was on sale. Cooked for Canadian thanksgiving as my butcher gave away my reserved turkey breast (despite confirming my reservation in their binder!). It turned out beautifully - better even then House of Prime Rib (our fave) in SF. We tried to recreate HOPR martinis as well for the perfect evening - we were very thankful.


Perfect recipe! As good as I get when visiting the tri-state region of Nebraska, Iowa, and SoDak. I made a "rack" of whole carrots, celery, and onions for the beef. Was a great addition to the finished jus.


Step 4, you add it to the pan drippings when making the jus.


I just made this Christmas Eve, using a two rib bone in roast. I applied a heavy koshersalt, ground pepper, and minimal EVOO rub just before roasting, and it came out better than nearly any restaurant prime rib I’ve had in years. Used a probe thermometer set at 120, which went off about 15 minutes earlier than expected, probably due to smaller roast. Having saved the roast at medium rare, the probe more than paid for itself.

Emily C

Literal perfection with salt and pepper. Did 50 minutes total for 2-rib 3 pound roast - horseradish sauce was the perfect addition.

celia mllton

I've made this recipe a dozen times, and it's just perfect. The only tiny variation I make is to coat the outside with olive oil to make the salt and pepper stick a little better. If I'm really feeling motivated, I also (as another reader commented) make a "rack" of carrots, onions and celery, which I then puree into the sauce. Thank you!!

jones p.

So dang easy and it came out perfect and tender.


Excellent recipe. Made it last night with a 2 rib, 5 lb roast. Previously I used a high heat/ low heat/ high heat method that I loved but too much smoke when opening the oven at the end. This recipe is a wonderful substitute.


Perfect recipe. No fuss and our 4lb rib roast turned out wonderfully!

Laura C

2.75 lb 2-rib roast. Came out lovely. Thought it was just right at 125F but it could have cooked a bit more (it was rare). Otherwise, whirled a whole head of garlic+course salt in small chopper and spread over both sides for about 2 hours. Deglazed the pan with red wine. Scrumptious. Merry Christmas

Oregon Abby

I've been following this recipe as is for 30 years (from How to Cook Everything, first edition.) For the first time this year doing a boneless roast. Convection oven (I can do regular or convection) wine in the pan and following a commenter's suggestion used garlic powder and pepper. Accompanying mashed potatoes and green beans. And a nice Napa Pinot Noir. Life is grand out here in Oregon.


Made this tonight for my husband's birthday dinner: Delicious. My issues with prime rib have always been about timing, and this is spot on. I did use Samin Nosrat's tip from "Salt Fat Acid Heat" and salted the roast liberally and let it stand uncovered in the fridge for two days. Rubbed it with a little bit of olive oil and pepper and rosemary (because I love rosemary). Had to use the log range of cook timing for a 5.3 lb roast and let it rest for 20 minutes. Never anything better.


Just made this for New Year’s dinner. Decided to sous vide rather than the oven. The bones fit into and weren’t a problem fitting in the sous vide bag. Usually the smaller rib roasts come out uneven in the oven. For a smaller prime rib this was ideal. Then seared again as directed. Best rib roast ever.

Kathy R

I used my grill to make my prime rib. I heated it to 400 and then seared it on all sides turning it every 5 to 7 minutes. Then keeping the temperature at 300 with the lid closed, i put the rib roast on the side where there was not flame. turning it every 5-7 minutes until it registered 120 degrees with a thermometer. I t could have gone another 10-15 minutes but it was perfection. Seasoned with kosher salt and garlic powder only.


I think it is better to cook the roast to 110 and let it rest while the popovers cook. It isn’t as well done and mush better.


In order to get mine to the level of rare that we prefer, I take it out at 105 to 110, then let it rest. I guess we are a family that likes seriously 'rare' beef?


I cooked a 7 1/2 lb roast &tried to extrapolate how long that would take. I had it figured at 15 minutes a pound at 350 after starting at 450, but in reality, it was about 20 min per pound. I used a 4 lb boneless roast. To compensate for boneless, in step 3 I checked temperature at 45 minutes - it was a perfect 125 degrees.


I always steam some potatoes then put them under the roast with some rosemary garlic and olive oil


Made this on Christmas Day. Super easy and it got rave reviews. I actually cut my original roast into 3lb and 5lb roasts. Did the 3lb Christmas Day and making the larger one tonight. It's nice when a recipe works as written. We like our roasts/beef very rare so I baked until internal temperature was 115F and it was perfectly rare with the ends being more medium.

Kristen Em

From his book, How to Cook Everything. I love this very easy recipe.

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Classic Prime Rib for a Small Crowd Recipe (2024)
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