You’re planning your next great family dinner and a savory, fall-off-the-bone prime rib is on the menu. But you know there will be leftovers, so you’re wondering how long can you keep prime rib refrigerated. Here’s everything you need to know about buying, storing, and preparing prime rib.
How Long Can You Keep Prime Rib Refrigerated?
Prime rib can last between 3-5 days in the fridge, depending on whether or not it’s cooked. When prime rib is vacuum sealed, it can last a little over one full week. The fridge is your best friend when you have leftovers because it won’t dry it out as much as freezing does and is more readily available. This cut of beef is so good you can eat it cold right out of the Tupperware.
Storing In The Fridge
It’s essential to have an air-tight seal securing your prime rib. Without it, outside air can cause harmful bacteria to grow, which not only destroys the succulent taste of prime rib but could send you to the hospital.
The “danger zone,” where dangerous bacteria can grow within and on the surface of your prime rib, is when the cut is exposed to temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for an excess of 2 hours.
When storing prime rib in the fridge, your cut is best stored at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for a safe and delicious taste.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), prime rib or any meat, for that matter, can last in the fridge for 3-5 days when left uncooked. For cooking tips and tricks, check the link here for guaranteed finger-licking goodness.
The USDA recommends that cooked prime rib be consumed within four days of cooking. Speaking from personal experience, leftover prime rib is really all that and a bag of chips. When you store cooked prime rib to enjoy later, it has more time to marinate in its juices and the marinade sauce.
For the best results for leftover prime rib, wrap your cut in aluminum foil and use your oven instead of the microwave when heating. The microwave generally tends to overcook meat quickly and reduces the tenderness of prime rib, making it chewy and stringy.
Especially in the case of prime rib being a low-heat cook, you don’t want to rush the reheating process and instead use your oven. Your taste buds will thank you.
Can You Freeze Prime Rib?
You can freeze prime rib, both cooked and uncooked, as cooked prime rib can last in the freezer for 4-6 months, while uncooked can last over one year.
When thawing frozen food, it’s always best to plan ahead to avoid unwanted bacteria and food-borne illnesses. You can thaw your prime rib from the freezer by using either the fridge or cold water.
The Fridge — The best way to thaw your cut is by transferring your prime rib from the freezer to the fridge. Note that every 5 pounds of meat require 24 hours for thawing. Keep in mind that some areas of the refrigerator (like the bottom shelf) will keep your meat colder for longer. Always be sure your fridge is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and under.
Cold Water — Faster than the fridge but requires more attention on your part. The meat must be submerged in cold water, with the water being replaced every 30 minutes. You can safely estimate 30 minutes per pound of prime rib. Be sure to use a leak-proof package or plastic bag to ensure bacteria from the air and water aren’t introduced to the cut.
- Microwave Thaw—Some areas of your prime rib will become warmer than others, which begins the cooking process and allows for bacteria to grow and multiply in a short period of time.
- Thaw On The Counter—This method is deemed unsafe by the USDA.
- Cook Without Thawing—Safety is not guaranteed when cooking meats from their frozen state; the cook will take 50% more time and will result in inconsistent quality.
Can You Cook Prime Rib After The Sell-By Date?
The good news is yes; you can cook prime rib after the sell-by date. Sell-by dates are only used by butcher shops and stores to better understand how long they should be displaying foods for their inventory management.
On the other hand, best-by dates are used by manufacturers and butchers to make sure the consumer gets the best quality meat they possibly can.
Meats can peak in quality days after their sell-by date, so long as the cut has been stored safely. The chances of a verbatim sell-by date directly relating to the quality of your prime rib are slim to none.
How Far In Advance Should You Be Buying Prime Rib?
You should buy prime rib precisely five days before you plan on cooking it, allowing it to age. Any quality butcher shop or grocery store will offer vacuum-sealed, cryovac packaging to ensure your prime rib is protected from air exposure and other sources of bacteria.
Wet vs. Dry Aging
Some grill masters and enthusiasts argue that vacuum sealing meats—otherwise known as “wet-aging“—enhance your prime rib’s flavor. Wet aging is used to improve the tenderness of your beef, where the natural enzymes in the beef slowly break down the muscle fibers over an extended period of time.
Inversely, “dry-aging” is the old-school way of doing things. Remember the butcher shop from The Sopranos? Yup, exactly like that (minus the mob bosses).
Butchers hang their meat in a cold, well-ventilated room, where during the aging process, the meat loses fluid, giving it a more concentrated, complex flavor. Dry aging is favored for its moisture retention.
Dry aging is incredibly hard to replicate at home unless you have a walk-in cooler in the garage. Like most of us, however, we don’t, and wet-aging is the best way to ensure your prime rib is aged for the best, incomparable flavor after you buy.
How Much Prime Rib Should You Buy?
Half a pound per person is a rule of thumb when it comes to buying prime rib as part of a larger menu with many courses. If prime rib is the meal’s main course, consider a full pound per person.
Each rib should feed 2-3 guests, while a 4-bone, 8 lb. prime rib will feed between 8 and 10 people. The entire 7-bone roast will feed 12 or more, depending on the weight of the meat.
Keep in mind how hungry your friends and family are going to be sitting down at the table. Did anyone fill up on appies? Are there any kids? Are we saving any for the dog? Do we want leftovers?
With a better understanding of how much to buy and cook, you’ll be able to decide on how you’ll store your prime rib before and after dinner.
Has Your Prime Rib Gone Bad?
The two ways to tell if any meat has gone bad are by color and smell. For prime rib, this is no exception, and these are the tell-tale signs:
Color—If your prime rib is a deep red color, this means your cut has not been exposed to air and is safe to eat. If it’s gray, oxygen has penetrated the meat, and/or your packaging has a leak, the breeding ground for bacteria.
Smell—I think we’ve all smelled spoiled meat at some point or another. Bad prime rib will give off a rancid, foul odor; do not cook or consume.
Always be cautious and check your prime rib’s color and smell after storing or thawing and before cooking.
Prime rib is a delicacy to enjoy with good company, great friends, and plenty of napkins. For the best prime rib, it’s important to know how long can you keep prime rib refrigerated or in the freezer correctly so you can enjoy that unparalleled taste without worry.
You never want to rush a cut of beef this good. That applies to both cooking and enjoying any leftovers. For many of us, this delicacy is rare, so we want to enjoy it to the last bite.