Prime Rib Fat Side Up Or Down: What’s the Best Way to Cook it?

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prime rib fat side up or down

When cooking a prime rib, every small detail matters. This is a premium cut of beef, and you want to ensure you get your money’s worth and impress your guests simultaneously. Let’s examine each theory so you can make the most mouth-watering, succulent, and savory prime rib roast that will make everyone jealous of your cooking skills. 

Prime Rib Fat Side Up Or Down

Cook your prime rib with the fat side up for the most efficient cook time and temperature. There are examples of cooking fat side down, but if you’re in a hurry and need the most reliable method, fat side up is the way to go. 

Benefits Of Fat Side Up

  • Fat gets reabsorbed
  • Seasoning sticks more efficiently
  • Presentation is much better

Many chefs and home cooks alike prescribe the fat-side up method of cooking prime rib. The theory behind this is simple, as the meat cooks, the fat will slowly melt and be reabsorbed back into the meat to add incredible flavor. 

This is a mouth-watering procedure since prime rib is typically cooked at a low temperature. It keeps the fat from seizing up and makes it very gelatinous. This texture is the holy grail for cooks and BBQers so if you’re drooling excessively, it’s a sure sign that you prepared it correctly. 

Fat side up also works great for getting seasoning to stick better. You always want to let your roast come up to room temperature before putting it in the oven. The fat has already softened at this temperature and is more receptive to the grains of seasoning you choose.  

Benefits Of Fat Side Down

  • Protects the meat from overcooking
  • Creates crispier outer layer
  • Cooks slower, making it easier to manage temperature

Despite what many other self-proclaimed experts say, there is a time when cooking your prime rib fat side down is preferred. If you’re using a heat source from the bottom, you should always cook your prime rib with the fat side down

Prime rib needs to be cooked to a precise temperature; if you don’t have a lot of practice, it can be easy to overcook it. For reverse-flow smokers, for example, lots of heat is generated under the cooking chamber, and this residual heat can cause your prime rib to cook too fast

If your fat side is down, it acts as a barrier to the meat and will help disperse the heat evenly, so your roast doesn’t overcook. Cooking this way will also create a crispier outside layer that some people prefer.

The main reason you don’t see this as often is that it hurts the presentation value. If you want to cook your prime rib for a great Instagram post, don’t cook it fat side down.  

Boneless Vs. Bone-In

We recommend always getting a prime rib with bones if it’s an option for you, just like our caveman ancestors. Boneless prime rib is still better than no prime rib, but there’s nothing like a big ol’ six-bone prime rib to impress your friends and family. 

Bone-in provides more flavor and gives you more of that delicious meat that resides right next to the bone. This cut allows you to cook your prime rib with the fat side up no matter your heat source. The bones will act as a shield against intense heat and will help the inside of your roast cook evenly and slowly. 

prime rib fat side up or down

Boneless prime rib needs more attention as it can be overcooked very quickly. If you are using a reverse-flow smoker, then be sure to cook your boneless roast fat side down. Yes, this will hurt your presentation value, but the crispier fat and juicy center compensate for it.   

The Art Of Trimming

Trimming the fat on your roast will also affect how you cook it. Knowing what your cooking method is will determine how you trim. 

  • If you want to cook fat side down, you can leave some extra fat on it since it will render off into your drip pan below (which will make an excellent au jus). 
  • For fat-side-up cooking, you can trim a bit more to ensure an even layer covering the top. This allows even cooking and will ensure all the fat is edible and looks great for those Instagram pics.   

Smoker Vs. Oven

If it’s your first time cooking a prime rib, I suggest you use an oven. It’s a lot easier to control the temperature, and since prime rib comes at a premium price, you don’t want to ruin your first one. 

For oven cooking, always cook your boneless or bone-in prime rib with the fat side up. Ovens are perfect for even and all-around cooking, so there is no fear of extra heat rising from the bottom. 

Using smokers is a little different since there are many types. If you use a Weber or a reverse-flow smoker, the heat source will come from beneath your roast. This might be a reason to cook your prime rib with the fat side down to protect the precious meat in the middle. 

If you are comfortable with your smoker, then feel free to give it a try with the fat side up. Choose a cut that is bone-in to provide yourself with the largest margin for error. 

Fat side up or downOven Smoker

To Cover Or Not To Cover?

A prime rib is not the type of cut you want to cover. This will negatively affect the presentation and make your roast look under-cooked even though the temperature is spot-on. Covering will guarantee that if your fat side is up, you will NOT get any type of crust or crispy fat

If you want to cover for fear of an unreliable heat source, then cook your prime rib fat side down. The flavor will be intense and delicious, but it will look grey and not worthy of any posts on social media. 

Should I Truss With Fat Side Up Or Down?

Trussing is not required, but if you have a larger cut with more than three bones, we recommend it. This will ensure the internal meat cooks at the same speed, so every bite is perfection. 

prime rib fat side up or down

Trussing has no bearing on whether you cook fat side up or down. It will affect your presentation if you cook fat side up, though. So if you aim to impress, forgo the truss and concentrate on keeping the right temperature and getting the right color on the outside. Also, trussing is kinda hard, don’t tell anyone I said that. 


Can You Get Prime Rib For One Person?

Yes, you can get prime rib for one person, but it will resemble a ribeye. If it has only one bone, it may be hard to render the fat as efficiently as when you have three or more bones. It’s also very easy to overcook a prime rib this small.  

Do You Eat The Fat On A Prime Rib?

Yes, you eat the fat on a prime rib if cooked correctly. The quality of this cut is one of the most tender out of all meats available. The fat should be soft and very tender and should fall apart with nothing more than the pressure from the side of your fork. This is considered a delicacy and one of the highlights of cooking such a prime piece of meat. 

What Is The Best Internal Temperature for Cooking Prime Rib?

Prime rib should always be cooked to medium-rare, which equates to 130°F – 135°F. It’s always a good idea to remove your roast from the heat once it hits about 125°F – 130°F because it will continue to cook while resting. Depending on how big it is, the outside will be a bit more cooked than the inside, so anyone who likes their meat medium will be happy with an outer slice.  

Should You Score The Fat On A Prime Rib?

No, this is unnecessary because the fat cap on a prime rib is not as thick as other types of roasts that require scoring. Since you’re cooking prime rib so slowly, there is no fear of the fat preventing heat from reaching the middle. You can score if you want to for presentation value but be careful you don’t overcook by keeping a close eye on the internal temperature.

Final Thoughts 

To make life easier with such an expensive cut of meat, always cook it with the fat side up. This ensures a juicy final product that will look great and give you the dreamy, soft texture we all love. If you have a smoker, then you can experiment and try fat side down. As long as you get the internal temperature correct, you’ll enjoy your prime rib fat side up or fat side down.

If you don’t enjoy it, send it to me; I’ll give it a good home.

Darren Wayland Avatar


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