A prime rib is a big investment, which is why most of us prefer to indulge in this delicacy only around the holidays. The trouble is, retailers know that people will be looking for prime rib in late December, and they’re not afraid to charge a lot for it.
When is the best time to buy prime rib for Christmas dinner? Here’s how to get the best bang for your buck—and help the meat retain its best qualities in the meantime.
When Should I Buy My Prime Rib For Christmas?
Try to buy your Christmas prime rib a week or so before the holiday. That’s when the larger supermarkets will be running their specials. If you wait until the weekend, the selection will go way down. As an alternative, you can place a special order at your local grocery store and pick it up on a designated day.
Understanding the Terminology
When you’re scouring the grocery ads for sales on prime rib, you might be wondering if there’s a difference between a standing rib roast and prime rib. Most of the time, retailers will use these terms interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference.
Prime rib is a cut of beef from the rib primal of the cow. It’s taken from the section of the primal between the 6th and the 12th bones. If the cut comes from any of the ribs outside this portion, it can’t be classified as prime rib.
However, if a roast does come from the outside ribs, you can still prepare it as you would a prime rib roast. It would just be called a standing rib roast instead.
There’s nothing wrong with a standing rib roast. In fact, you might be able to score a better deal on this cut. But the presentation isn’t quite as impressive, which is why prime rib is such a popular product to begin with.
In case you were wondering, the term “prime,” in this case, doesn’t refer to the grade of the meat. It’s only there to remind consumers that this is a highly sought-after cut. Every cow, regardless of the beef grade, will have a prime rib section.
When Should I Buy My Prime Rib For Christmas?
I’ve noticed that grocery stores start running ads on prime rib sales during the week before Christmas. It depends on what day of the week the holiday falls on that year, but they tend to start around December 15th or so.
By way of example, Kroger supermarkets run their ads on Wednesdays. Let’s assume Christmas falls on a Friday. The store will begin running their ad for sales on popular festive meat products—including prime rib—on December 16th, which is 9 days prior.
If possible, I would recommend going out to buy your prime rib before the weekend hits. More people will be shopping on the weekend, which means your selection will go way down. You’ll be able to choose from the cream of the crop if you head out as soon as the ad appears.
What If It’s Too Early?
It’s better to buy your roast too early than to be stuck without one. Obviously, you don’t want the meat to spoil, but there are ways to avoid this. Select your prime rib from the store of your choice, and worry about storage once you’ve brought it home.
If cost isn’t an issue and you want to make sure your roast is as fresh as possible, you can place a special order with your local butcher. Many small grocery stores offer this service to their loyal customers, and you won’t have to worry about the quality.
Options for Preserving Prime Rib
When stored in the fridge, prime rib should keep for 3 to 5 days. Since I recommend buying the meat at least 1 week before Christmas, you might be wondering how the timing works out.
There are a couple of methods you can use to ensure that the meat won’t go bad. The first and easiest way would be to store it in the freezer until 3 days before Christmas. It should thaw in about 48 hours, but this will give you a 24-hour cushion just in case.
You can also try to dry age the meat in your fridge. A home refrigerator isn’t the ideal environment for dry aging, but you only need the meat to remain fresh for a couple of days outside the normal storage period.
When you dry age a cut of meat, you remove a great deal of its moisture. This makes it a less hospitable environment for spoilage bacteria. It also gives the meat a deeper, richer flavor and promotes browning.
How To Dry Age Prime Rib
First of all, take the meat out of its original packaging. Pat it dry using paper towels.
Wrap the entire roast in cheesecloth. If you don’t have any of this on hand, you can substitute more paper towels. However, I think it’s a good idea for serious home chefs to keep a supply of cheesecloth on hand at all times.
Set the prime rib on a sheet pan, roasting pan, or any container that’s large enough to hold the entire thing. Be sure you’ve cleared out plenty of space in your fridge, too.
Set the roast on the bottom shelf of the fridge, taking care to ensure that it isn’t touching any other items. Let it sit for about one week, or until you’re ready to cook it.
During this time, the cheesecloth will allow moisture to evaporate without letting the surface of the meat firm up too much. Once you remove the cloth, you may have to trim away any hard parts or discolored fat to reveal the cherry-red beef underneath.
Season and cook the prime rib according to your chosen recipe.
You might be tempted to wait until a couple of days before Christmas to buy your prime rib. Unless you’ve placed a special order, that’s not the best idea.
If you’re not comfortable with dry aging the beef for a week, go ahead and freeze it instead. Make sure to allow plenty of time for defrosting, and adjust the cooking time accordingly if you don’t think the meat is completely thawed once you begin.