Prime Rib Rub

Good on steak, too.

I’m going out to spend a few days with a friend at his house out on Lopez Island next week and, as usual, I’m bringing a ton of food from my garden, as well as eggs from my chickens. He has already promised me sea asparagus, which grows wild at his place, and a 13-year old bottle of wine he said he’s been saving for me. And what would be better with a nicely aged wine than a roasted prime rib? I just happen to have a small one in my freezer from the 1/4 cow I bought not long ago.

The last time I made a prime rib was years ago on my Traeger. My friend Mike had bought the meat at Costco and handed it over for me to cook. When I saw the price on it — $52! — I went into panic mode. What if I ruined this expensive cut of meat?

I had never cooked a prime rib and I went online for instructions. I was living in my Mobile Mansion at the time, so I didn’t have an oven big enough to cook it in. It had to go on the Traeger. I found a recipe for a Prime Rib Rub (see below), rubbed it on, stuck a thermometer in the meat — Mike had bought me a new wireless one; my old one was still packed in Arizona — and put it on the Traeger at whatever the recommended settings were. A few hours later, we had the most amazing prime rib dinner.

In the years since, I’ve used the rub extensively when grilling beef. As a matter of fact, I used up the last of my most recent batch on a nice filet mignon that I grilled up the other night. I went in search of the recipe to make another batch and figured it might be a good idea to just document it here for future reference. So here it is.



  • 1/3 cup coarse kosher salt or 1/4 cup fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic or dried minced garlic or 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds


  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or jar.
  2. Rub on beef prior to grilling or smoking.
  3. Store leftover in a tightly sealed container.

I made two batches this morning: one for me and one for my friend.

Tip: For lamb or goat, try ras el hanout, which I mention in this recipe.

13 thoughts on “Prime Rib Rub

  1. For me, the best part about prime rib is the crispy, smoky, crunchy crust and the spice-infused meat and fat layer right next to it. I’d much rather get a few choice chunks off the ‘small end’ rather than the usual pale, bloody, under-cooked slice off the big end.

    I suspect I’m in the minority here, as I’ve frequently watched them bring out a whole new piece of meat at a buffet just when it seems to me that they’re finally getting down to the good stuff! Hopefully they’re saving all those small end bits for stews or prime rib sandwiches or similar, I’d hate to think they were throwing away the best part!

    • I am so with you on that. I often ask for an “end cut,” which is just as you describe. Unfortunately, more often than not it’s also completely overcooked, even beyond the medium-well or well done stage. But the flavor is there and a little au jus makes it edible.

      I find bloody red meat absolutely disgusting. To me, it’s the texture of the meat more than the color. It can be pink, as long as it’s not flesh like or cold. Ick.

      We’ll roast this one in my friend’s oven, but the one I made on the Traeger was totally amazing. I lucked out with the timing and everything; I doubt I could make it that good again.

    • One of these days I’m going to own a Traeger grill, the combination of controlled heat with long-duration smokiness adds great flavor to virtually every kind of meat. The fact that it’s mostly automated is definitely icing on the cake. In my current location I doubt I’d get five years out of one, the constant humidity and salt fog is murder on anything ferrous left exposed to the outdoors, no matter how well painted or coated.

      Have you tried it on fish yet? When I smoke salmon I use a Little Chief electric smoker, there’s any number of great guide books and websites devoted to smoking salmon, with tons of different recipes. The key to getting good smoked fish is the prep work that goes before, the brining and air-drying. There’s no point of even putting it into the smoker unless those steps are done right, since the quality of what you get out is directly proportional to how ready it was to go in. Of course, it helps to have super-fresh, high-quality salmon to start with, which is highly dependent on location. My favorite is a dead-simple salt and brown sugar brine combined with a relatively long air-drying period. You absolutely have to form a good, firm “pellicle” on the fish before the smoking cycle, otherwise you get jerky on the outside and mush on the inside, neither of which is fit to eat.

      Another smoked specialty that I’d love to try is pastrami, which is basically smoked corned beef. Having grown up as a Jersey girl you’re probably familiar with the excellent deli-style pastrami you can get at any number of specialty shops back east. The sad examples you see behind the glass at butcher counters in supermarkets out west are pathetic imitations by comparison. Proper pastrami has a crust like a good dry-smoked brisket, but more peppery. It manages to be both succulent and firm at the same time, without being overwhelmingly salty. A heaping helping of crusty, peppery, steaming hot pastrami loaded with home-made sauerkraut and stone-ground mustard on a couple slices of hearty rye bread is deli-lunch-counter heaven, almost worth a trip to NYC all by itself.

    • I haven’t had a good pastrami sandwich in years. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to when I get back to New York. I was supposed to go this autumn but put it off for a year in favor of a “business vacation.”

      The Traeger is great, but there are clones, too, and they might be more affordable. Do some homework before buying. Being able to set it and forget it is key with anything that requires long smoking. I’m doing up a batch of St. Louis ribs for a friend of mine on Saturday; I’ll smoke them 5 hours, wrap them up, take them to his house, and finish them up on his barbecue grill with some homemade barbecue sauce. I’ve also had good success smoking racks, cutting them into thirds, and vacuum-sealing and freezing each portion. Defrost, brush with sauce, and finish on a grill. It makes it possible for me to enjoy smoked ribs when I’m on the road in the winter months.

      Can you point me to a good website for salmon smoking information? I’ll be salmon fishing next week and if I catch enough to take home, I’d like to try it.

    • Hello Maria, sorry it took so long to get back to you. We’re in the process of replacing a failed concrete foundation wall in our house, a fairly major project. I haven’t had much time to look into this but here’s one site about smoking salmon that seems like they know what they’re doing.

      There are probably as many different recipes for smoking fish as there are people who catch fish, but the simple brown sugar/kosher salt brine they use in this article is pretty much what I use as well. I’ve tried lots of different recipes, some with a lot of ingredients, but I keep coming back to this simple one. Hope it works well for you, let us know how it goes!

    • Thanks so much for this! So timely — I was out fishing with a friend off the coast of San Juan Island on Thursday and caught a 26-inch Chinook. I’m going to try this recipe with half of it.

    • Hope it works out, kings are excellent eating fish no matter how you prepare them. Smoked salmon cognoscenti often trim the collar (section between the head the main part of the fillet) and the belly strips (the very bottom of the fish) to smoke as separate pieces. Since these are some of the fattiest (and therefore tastiest) parts of the fish they often need a different smoking time and temperature to turn out best. The thinner the piece and the fattier it is the lower the smoking heat and the shorter the overall smoking time. In fact, some people cut their fish (especially kings and sockeye) to take the belly strip intact. Instead of gutting the fish with a central ventral incision, they cut horizontally through both sides of the belly cavity starting just below the collar and continuing all the way back to the anal fin. You end up keeping the two pelvic fins, but the strip doesn’t go as far up the side as the pectoral fins. Of course, unless you’re smoking a lot of fish, it’s unlikely that the belly strips will ever make it to the vacuum packing / freezing / storage stage. They’re so tasty when they’re fresh and warm out of the smoker they’re irresistible!

    • After brining for about 24 hours and drying for about 3 hours, I smoked it yesterday. First problem: my smoker’s lowest setting is 180° — recipe calls for starting at 145°. For a while, I tried to control temperature by cracking the lid open. Then I switched to “smoke” setting which is lower than 180° once the grill has heated up. Basted per recipe with maple syrup. Turned temp to 180° (vs. 175°) after 2 hours and smoked another hour. The results were probably not perfect, but certainly edible. A little on the salty side for my taste. (I have high blood pressure and use a lot less salt than the average person.) I ate half of it as a movie snack last night and will eat the rest for dinner on a salad today.

      Sadly, I did not get the fish collar. I caught the fish while out on Lopez Island with a friend and he encouraged me to clean the fish before taking it home. Per his instructions, that meant cutting off the head and tail and gutting it. There was a ton of meat with the head; it’ll end up in one of his crab traps later this season or next year (he freezes them). Oh, well. Next time, I’ll gut it and keep the head.

      An acquaintance (who I think wants to me a lot more than that) has asked me to go fishing with him this week. He keeps texting me photos of these huge fish he’s caught. Although I’d like to go, I don’t want to encourage him. Maybe next year, I’ll take my boat down there and see how I do.

      Oddly, the thing I came away with from my fishing trip last week was a desire for a new kind of boat. My friend has a C-Dory 22 Foot Classic. I’m really liking the 25-foot version, which includes a head and a bit more space. If I get enough work this winter and next cherry season is good, I might spring for one.

    • Glad to hear that your first try at smoked salmon turned out…edible! My first batch was a bust, looked great on the outside, mush on the inside. The dogs liked it just fine, but they also like week-dead fish heads rotting on the beach, so that’s not much of a recommendation. The problem was that I got impatient, I didn’t let it dry long enough between the brine and the smoker, a classic rookie mistake.

      If you find it too salty you can rinse off all or most of the brine before drying, the flesh absorbs enough of the salt to keep it from going off during the drying process. It also partly depends on how you cut your fish, I never smoke whole fillets since I want smaller portions to pull out of the freezer as I use them. You probably noticed that there’s a LOT of slimy liquid when you pull the fish out the brine, that’s the fluids pulled out of the flesh though osmotic pressure imbalance. The smaller the sections / portions you brine, the more surface area there is per volume to absorb the salt/sugar and the more shrinkage you get on the fish.

      Good luck with your boat shopping, the C-dory series is very popular up here as well.

What do you think?