Holiday Recipe: How to Smoke a Prime Rib on a Big Green Egg

Are you excited about cooking a holiday meal this Christmas that will linger in the memories of those who enjoy it with you? Or planning a fancy-ish menu for a party or business conference?

Smoked prime rib roast is perfect for a festive meal or when you want something more elegant than grilled chicken or smoked brisket.

If this is your first time smoking a prime rib, it may feel intimidating, but my tips and tricks in this recipe will help you smoke a prime rib you can be proud of. Even if it isn’t perfect it will be delicious, and you might even surprise yourself!

A beef roast cooked by this method is best cooked to medium rare or medium doneness. If some of your guests don’t appreciate a good steak, they might not care for this dish either. My suggestion is to prepare a second meat option, such as chicken or pork. If you’re cooking a holiday meal, you could offer a double-smoked ham with a cranberry glaze.

Have any outdoor cooking questions? Need some supplies for cooking a holiday meal on your smoker or grill? We'd love to help! Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA during store hours (listed at the bottom of this page).

Purchase the Roast

I purchased a whole 18-pound boneless ribeye roast. If that’s too much meat for you, you can get one cut down to five or six pounds. If your grocery store doesn’t have any in the display case, talk to the butcher about breaking one down for you. They might even tie it up for you.

The roast I cooked was a choice grade from Sam's Club. Their prime grade ribeyes (referring to the grading system, not the cut) are nearly twice the cost per pound and they were out of stock, so I decided to go with choice.

If you can find prime grade and want to spend the extra money for better marbling, it would give you more exquisite results, but for most people on a budget, choice offers the best balance of cost and quality.

I like to prepare the meat the night before I plan to cook it for two reasons: First, it gives the dry brine time to work its magic in the fridge, and second, we won’t have to worry about spending an hour prepping the meat the day of the cook. If you’re cooking this on a special day, you might be glad the meat is ready to season and set on the smoker.


Take your time to trim the roast because you want to build up a tasty bark that won't need to be discarded at serving time.

Carefully trim off the fat cap and the silverskin. Remove anything on the surface of the meat that you don’t want to eat so that the bark can build directly on the meat.

The meat will cook more evenly if it’s shaped like a cylinder. If the meat is oblong or tear-shaped, I recommend you tie some loops around the roast with cooking twine every couple of inches to hold the roast into a more round shape. The twine also helps keep the muscles from separating during the cook and heating unevenly.

Dry Brine

This step helps to keep the final product more juicy.

Salt the outside of the roast all over with kosher salt. It takes roughly 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound of meat. You can substitute kosher salt with table salt (use 1/4 teaspoon per pound). You can also just eyeball it if you’re careful not to cake it on too much.

Set the roast in a pan, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge overnight, or at least four hours.


I seasoned the entire surface with Oakridge Carne Crosta Steakhouse Rub, a coffee-infused seasoning designed to create an irresistible crust on beef roasts and steaks! The directions say you should apply the rub at least 30 minutes before putting the meat on the smoker.

If you prefer mixing your own beef rub, you can use this one:

Meathead’s Cow Crust

Mix the following ingredients in a bowl and season the meat with it, or elevate the flavors by turning it into a paste, which amplifies the flavors of the rub. Simply add 1 part water to 1 part dry rub, pour the paste on the meat, and rub it in. The meat may be put on the smoker immediately.

  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves, lightly crushed or broken
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon American paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne powder

Makes enough for 10–12 pounds of beef. Multiply as needed.


For this cook, I’m using my Big Green Egg XL. My roast has just enough room on this size grill. I fired the Egg with Rockwood lump charcoal and and three chunks of pecan smoking wood.

Have any outdoor cooking questions? Need some supplies for cooking a holiday meal on your smoker or grill? We'd love to help! Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA during store hours (listed at the bottom of this page).

Cook the roast with indirect heat at 225 degrees F until the center is within 10–15 degrees of your target temperature. I was aiming for medium-rare in the center, so my final target temperature was 135 degrees.

Mine took 3-1/2 hours to reach 120 degrees. As an estimate, figure 30–40 minutes per inch of diameter.

How to Fire a Big Green Egg for Indirect 225 Degree F Cooking

  • Add enough charcoal to fill the Kick Ash Basket, or if you’re not using a basket, up to the top of the firebox ring.
  • Open the top and bottom vents all the way. Use the screen vent in the bottom to keep embers from dropping out the bottom of the grill.
  • Light two wax fire starter squares (available in our store) and cover them with several pieces of charcoal.
  • Replace the convEGGctor and cooking grate.
  • Close the grill lid after about 10 minutes and wait for the temperature to rise.
  • Once the temperature is within 5–10 degrees of your target temperature, slide both vents to around 3/4". Watch the thermometer for 10 seconds and determine whether it’s going up or down. Make vent adjustments as needed to dial it in. (Give the grill more air to raise the temperature and less air to lower the temperature.) For this cook, I was running with the top vent open about 1/4” at the widest part and the bottom vent at roughly 1/2” open, but that will depend on how the grill is fired and how long you open the lid. It should not take major adjustments throughout the cook to keep it on track.
Pecan Smoking Wood

Pecan Smoking Wood

Rockwood Lump Charcoal and Wood

Rockwood Lump Charcoal and Wood

Top Vent Open All the Way

Top Vent Wide Open

Bottom Vent Open All the Way

Bottom Vent Wide Open

At Cooking Temperature

Grill at Target Temperature

Bottom Vent Adjusted to Stabilize Temperature

The goal is to finish the center without drying out the meat near the surface, so it’s important to use a low and slow method. Aim for 225 degrees to be safe.

The biggest challenge in cooking prime rib is getting a consistent internal temperature in all parts of the roast. There are basically three reasons for this:

  1. One end tends to be smaller in diameter than the other.
  2. The roast comes tear-shaped.
  3. Heat has to travel through the surface of the meat to cook the center.

To overcome this, we will heat it up very gently to minimize overcooking the outer ring of meat before the center is ready. Tying the roast with cooking twine also helps it cook more evenly.

I set the roast directly on the cooking grate with the convEGGctor under it, but if you would elevate the roast and put a drip pan containing some liquid under it, that could help insulate it from the heat so it might cook more evenly. If you are using a different style of smoker, and the heat is very intense at the lower grate level, keep the heat low and make sure it doesn’t burn.

The key is also to make sure you don’t overcook the meat! Check the internal temperature about 45–60 minutes into the cook and then every 30 minutes or so. If you don’t have a leave-in thermometer, use an instant-read thermometer, such as the Thermapen MK-4. If the bottom side of the meat starts getting too dark, turn it to help it cook more evenly.


Once the center reaches 120–125 degrees, remove the strings and sear the roast over direct heat for several minutes per side. Be very careful not to char it. You only want to deepen the color and release the oils in the rub.

Strings removed and ready for searing:

For this step, I opened the vents on the Egg all the way and removed the convEGGctor. I should have only opened the vents partway because my fire was pretty frisky, so I couldn’t leave it on direct heat as long as I wanted to. As you can tell in the photos, I actually blackened part of it accidentally. It’s embarrassing to admit a mistake like this, but if I can help you avoid the same mistake, that’s worth something. 

Remember, keep a very close watch on the meat during this part of the cook!

If the fire isn’t too hot, you can sear it for a total of 20 minutes, turning it all around to cover the whole surface during that time.

Double check the internal temperature to see if it has reached your target temperature of 130–135 degrees for medium rare.

For some reason, one side of my roast cooked faster than the rest, so I have a band of about medium doneness along that edge. It’s not on the edge that was facing the fire for the first phase of the cook, so I’m not sure what caused that, unless it happened when I was searing that side.

The comforting fact is that using a quality piece of meat and dry brining will help keep the parts that are a bit more done from drying out. In fact, I almost prefer the texture of a medium doneness to a shy medium rare.

It’s hard to get it perfect every time, so I hope you are inspired to relax and enjoy the adventure!

Slice and Serve

As soon as the roast is done searing, slice it into ½” thick slices and serve it with the sides you’ve prepared. Some sides our family enjoys are chunked and roasted potatoes, sweet potato fries, skillet-fried or steamed vegetables, and garden salad.

If you’re planning a holiday meal on your smoker, consider tackling a prime rib! It seems intimidating but it really isn’t that hard. Even if you’re new to it, using the tricks I’ve showed you, you should be able to smoke a delicious and memorable prime rib for your family this Christmas!

You can make a homemade seasoning blend with herbs and spices or make it easy on yourself and pick up a bag of Oakridge Carne Crosta Steakhouse Rub here at our store. This stuff has a coffee flavor and is designed to put an amazing crust on beef. Once you smell and taste it, I think you’ll fall in love with this seasoning and want to keep some on hand for your grilled steaks too!

Have any outdoor cooking questions? Need some supplies for cooking a holiday meal on your smoker or grill? We'd love to help! Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA during store hours (listed at the bottom of this page).

About the author: Lavern Gingerich is a writer and the digital marketing manager for Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply.

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Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply is a specialty BBQ equipment and supply store in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Phone: 717-355-0779

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