Dispel your fears of freezer burn on prized prime cuts and stop asking yourself, ‘Can I freeze prime rib?’ When you freeze prime rib, as we suggest, you’ll be happily eating this exceptional meat for many months—not just once at large holiday gatherings.
Can You Freeze Prime Rib?
Yes, you can freeze prime rib to take advantage of any sales happening at your local supermarket or butcher. Freezing also comes in handy when you have leftovers and don’t want to rush to eat it before it goes bad. Don’t let any go to waste, including the prime rib bones.
To freeze prime rib successfully, we address the following issues;
- How long can I freeze it?
- Should it be cooked or uncooked?
- What is the best freezing method when it’s raw?
- What materials do I need to freeze it the right way?
- How do I safely thaw my raw or cooked prime rib?
We know you’re feeling relieved now. Let’s get to the answers.
When Is Freezing Your Prime Rib A Good Idea?
Most of us don’t get the opportunity to freeze prime rib. Maybe it’s because we know it’ll all be gobbled up at the big holiday meal we’re planning.
Unlike tossing a chicken in the freezer after a grocery run, no meat is as prized to us as a well-smoked or bbq’d prime rib, fresh from the butcher.
We wait excitedly for the butcher to call and say our order is ready to pick up. But what if he calls too early? What if our guests cancel and can’t come for dinner? What if we don’t think the meat will last in the fridge? Don’t tell the butcher, but it’ll be alright if you freeze it.
Yes, fresh is best, but a spoiled prime rib is a travesty we can’t even contemplate.
It’s a nightmare scene, like when the neighborhood hounds grabbed the turkey in ‘A Christmas Story’ and made off with it.
If you come across a fantastic sale on prime rib, it may not matter that it’s nowhere near a large family dinner planned. You could and should buy it on sale. With inflation as it is, there’s no need to sacrifice a delicious dinner in the future simply because it’s not on sale.
Prepping Your Prime Rib For The Freezing Process
Freezing prime rib uncooked is vital to get right so you haven’t wasted hard-earned dollars or sacrificed the moisture and tenderness of the meat. Here are the steps necessary to freeze your prime rib in such a way that it protects the meat and prevents as much freezer burn as possible.
While you are at the grocery store, pick up good quality freezer paper. Freezer paper is a thicker stock of paper that resembles parchment paper. What makes it different is the layer of polyethylene that lines one side. This coating is precisely what makes freezer paper ideal for freezing food, particularly meats.
We recommend taking your meat off any styrofoam tray, wrapping it in the freezer paper, and vacuum sealing it in a Ziploc-style bag.
If you’re like me and don’t have a fancy vacuum sealer, you can try a couple of hacks.
- Place the wrapped meat in the bag and slowly lower it in a sink or large pot almost full of water. The water pressure will send the air out before you seal it.
- You can press most of the air out by hand, seal most of the zipper up, and use your mouth or a straw to suck out the air from the bag before you quickly pinch the final zip shut. Voila! Vacuum sealed.
The Freezing Timeline
Freezing your prime rib doesn’t mean it will survive the apocalypse; there is a time limit. That time is determined by whether you freeze it fresh or already cooked. Each avenue has its own pros and cons, so take note of how to make the most of your delicious prime rib.
Freezing From Fresh
The maximum time you want to store your fresh prime rib frozen is nine months. According to the FDA, you can keep cuts, like roasts, frozen for anywhere from 4 to 12 months, but we want to make sure you enjoy it with as much flavor as possible.
That is ample time for you to host a couple of special holiday dinners.
If you already know when these family dinners are—and how many hungry eaters are coming— you could prepare the prime rib to freeze using accurate portion sizes—no need to freeze the whole thing if you are dividing it into two dinners. No one wants to hack away at frozen meat just because you lacked a little foresight.
Also, be sure your freezer’s temperature doesn’t fluctuate to avoid freezer burn issues. If it fluctuates, you can get unwanted moisture growth that refreezes once it gets colder, which will “burn” the meat.
Address these issues before you begin your meat-freezing journey.
Freezing From Cooked
Freezing prime rib from a cooked state still preserves the flavor and locks in your master chef seasoning/bbq skills. After dinner, bring the leftover meat to room temperature before you freeze it. Do not leave it for longer than 30 minutes at room temperature before wrapping it up for freezing.
As I mentioned above, you’ll need a few extra things from the grocery store, but a little planning for leftovers now will give you a great quick dinner in the future.
Freeze larger sizes of your cooked leftovers to preserve their moisture. You may already have purchased freezer paper (see above note) but if not, grab a roll along with some quality plastic wrap that won’t puncture or tear when you stretch it around the ribs or freezer paper creases.
Identical to how you wrapped it when it was raw, wrap the largest cooked portions with freezer paper first to preserve the most moisture. Then, wrap tightly with plastic wrap.
Wrap the plastic around a couple of times, which will efficiently mimic vacuum sealing. Label your freezer package with the date. You should plan to consume it within 3 to 6 months.
The sooner, the better.
Time To Unfreeze/Thaw Your Prime Rib
Your leftover prime rib has been expertly wrapped and frozen for a couple of months, and it’s time to savor that beauty again. You need to know how to thaw it perfectly to preserve the juice and flavor. Place it wrapped in the fridge for several hours. A good rule of thumb is 8 hours for every pound of meat.
Thawing your meat safely is paramount. Depending on how you plan to cook it—smoking low and slow, bbq or oven—allow ample time to fully thaw your prime rib in the fridge.
Plan for at least 36-48 hours to safely thaw in the fridge. If, for some reason, your alarm to thaw the meat on time is not working (ahem! Set that cell phone timer next time!), you can expedite thawing by placing your plastic-wrapped rib cuts in a sink of ice-cold water for a few hours.
Fill the sink with enough water to completely immerse the sealed packages. Place the beef (still in its sealed plastic package) into the water, replacing it with fresh cold water every 30 minutes.
Plan on it taking about 30 minutes per pound to thaw the beef using this method. Keeping the beef below 40 degrees Fahrenheit is the key to safe defrosting over a longer time period, avoiding the growth of bacteria, so be vigilant about changing the cold water.
Then pop it in the fridge while you prepare to cook.
Expert Suggestions On How To Reheat Your Frozen Prime Rib
If you have an excellent medium rare cut that you want to stay that way, keep it cold and enjoy it in a sandwich as a delicious cold cut! You can also lightly reheat it in the microwave as a quick dinner solution. Just wrap it in microwave-safe wrapping to preserve the juiciness.
If you want to make it look like you just created this masterpiece for a special guest—use the oven. You’ll want to ensure that all previously cooked food is reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F.
Use a clean meat thermometer to check the internal food temperature. The food also has to reach 165°F within 2 hours. If you don’t think that will happen, reheat it in smaller batches to shorten the reheating time.
Few people ask, ‘Can you freeze a prime rib?’ because they assume the answer is ‘no.’ This causes people to overeat and force leftovers on people who may have overindulged the night before.
Prime rib should be a treat and will be just as rewarding after you freeze it and save it for another special occasion. Who even needs a special occasion? We say “treat yo self” whenever you want with this delicious cut of beef that you can keep in your freezer for future enjoyment.
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!