Learn step by step how to make a smoked prime rib on a Traeger pellet grill and why this is such an easy way to prepare this ultimate rib roast.
How Big a Prime Rib Roast Should I Buy to Smoke on my Traeger?
Prime rib roast generally come with the bones removed, but then tied back on by the butcher for presentation and to held them against the meat while cooking.
You will see some prime rib roasts with 3-4 bones and others with as many as 6. Usually the roast will be about 2 lbs in weight per bone.
Consider buying 1 lb of prime rib roast per person to be safe.
Most prime rib roasts can be found anywhere from 4-8 lbs.
Some water weight will be lost during the cook and you also have to factor in the weight of any bones and fat that doesn't get eaten, so it really ends up being about an 8-10 oz portion per person once the prime rib done cooking on the Traeger.
How to Prepare a Prime Rib Roast for the Traeger Pellet Grill
Let's start with the #1 tip right off the bat:
Don't remove the strings before cooking!
These strings are holding the bones in place and you want to keep everything held together while it is cooking.
You shouldn't have to trim too much fat or do anything else to your prime rib.
This is a Top O' the Line cut of beef you paid for and your butcher should have trimmed it up, removed the bones, then tied them back in place like a beautiful meaty holiday present.
Did we mention not to cut the strings? 🙂
The Best Seasonings for Smoking Prime Rib on a Traeger
When it comes to an expensive cut of meat like a prime rib, or ribeye roast, you want to keep the seasonings simple and let the meat shine through.
For our recipe below, we simply mix kosher salt, black pepper, fresh minced garlic, rosemary, paprika, onion powder and a dash of cayenne.
Ideally use a HIGH smoke point oil to help the rub adhere to the meat such as avocado or grapeseed oil, especially if you plan to reverse sear at the end of the cook as we go into detail on below.
If you want to just buy a quality beef rub for your prime rib, we are big fans of Bad Byron's Butt Rub Seasoning on smoked beef because it is heavy on flavor, and has no sugar.
It also works great anytime you are reverse searing of cooking something "Hot and Fast," and you don't want a sugary rub to burn at those higher smoking temperatures.
We apply a thin layer of the high smoke point cooking oil, then a generous amount of the rub.
After that, we like to wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
This gives the salt loads of time to penetrate the prime rib and really flavor it all the way through.
The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking a Prime Rib Roast on a Traeger Pellet Grill
You have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing the right wood pellets to cook a prime rib on a Traeger pellet grill.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor.
Alternatively, you can also go for a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood pellets. Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry all give great results on smoked beef.
For prime rib, we are big fans of Bear Mountain Red and White Smoky Oak Pellets
For best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container rather than in the Traeger's hopper outside.
Traeger pellets do not last forever, but will defintily last a LOT longer if stored indoors.
How a Traeger Pellet Grill Works
In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Traeger pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.
***Completely New to Using a Pellet Grill? No Worries!****
Hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works first if you are interested in learning more. We'll be here when you get back!***
Add your Hardwood Pellets
First, you add hardwood pellets into a side hopper.
The Traeger pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.
The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.
How to Start up the Traeger
There is a specific start up process for the Traeger brand pellet grills you can read all about in depth here if you aren't sure how to fire it up the first time.
Otherwise, here is the basic process for how to start a Traeger before throwing on your prime rib:
- Plug in the grill.
- Flip the power switch to ON and turn the dial to "Smoke".
- You will hear the fan kick on and the auger start to move and begin to kick pellets into the fire pot. Your fire rod will begin to heat up as well.
- Leave the lid open for about 5-7 minutes until you start to see white billowing smoke come out of the grill. This happens when the pellets are first igniting.
- Once a smoke is being produced, close the lid and change the temperature dial to your desired temperature setting.
- Allow about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
- While you are waiting, make sure you've got the drip pan in place and the grease bucket hanging to catch any grease that comes out during the cook.
- Put your grates on if they aren't already in place.
- Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates if there is any leftover stuck on food from the last cook.
- When the pellet grill comes up to temperature go ahead and put on your food!
How to Smoke a Prime Rib Roast on a Traeger Pellet Grill
Now that the prime rib has been seasoned and the slat has permeated the meat in the refigerator for at least a few hours, all that's left to do is cook it!
With a Traeger, this is the easy part!
Like we described above, just add your chosen pellets to the hopper, plug in and start the Traeger grill up.
Let the Traeger go through its start up process and once it has come up to temperature and stopped producing the thick white "start- up" smoke, put the prime rib either directly on the grill grates, or in an aluminum foil pan to help catch the juices and keep it contained.
What Temperature do you Smoke a Prime Rib Roast on a Traeger Pellet Grill?
We recommend initially setting up the smoker to cook at 250°F.
This seems to be the sweet spot where its low enough that the outside doesn't overcook but also high enough that the prime rib roast doesn't cook for so long that it dries out.
Watch the Internal Temperature Closely
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your smoked prime rib while its cooking on the Traeger.
Ideally you want a good leave in probe thermometer like the Thermopro as well as a second instant read to spot check different depths and areas on the roast.
While we have used and recommended ThermoPro for years, lately we have also become big fans of the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don't need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It's got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, and current internal temperature.
It's like a GPS for your meat!
Anyways, back to our smoked prime rib roast...
We are going to slowly bring the internal temperature up to about 110°F, then crank the heat as hot as we can to reverse sear the prime rib until the internal temperature hits about 120°F and then remove it from the Traeger.
Perfect medium rare in the center means an internal temperature of about 130-135°F, and a good rule of thumb is to pull big roasts like this when they are 10°F shy of your target temperature.
You can't do all this without accurate thermometers. There is very little room for error when smoking a prime rib roast.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
So keep it handy and use it often.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Prime Rib on a Traeger?
A general guide is that it will take about 15-20 minutes per pound to smoke a prime rib roast at 250°F up to 110°F.
So plan on a 6 lb prime rib roast to take about 90-120 minutes to initially smoke during the "Low" portion of the cook.
Then we will crank the heat for another 15-20 minutes depending how long it takes to raise the internal temperature the rest of the way up to 120-125°F.
Then you will need to let the meat rest for 45-60 minutes after cooking it before carving.
Unless you want those delicious juices running all over your cutting board instead of staying in the meat where you want them, you need to set aside time for the meat to rest, and a large piece of beef like a prime rib roast needs extra time.
Reverse Searing a Smoked Prime Rib Roast on a Traeger
"Reverse Searing" is just a fancy term for searing your meat at the very end, once it is pretty much all the way cooked through, in order to get a nice crispy exterior crust that you sometimes just can't get from low and slow smoking alone.
In this case, we are not technically going to sear the prime rib roast like we might do with a steak in a pan like we did with our smoked ribeye steak recipe.
Rather, we are going to crank the temperature of our Traeger up as high as it will go right at the very end of cooking, and only for a few minutes, in order to get a nice, golden brown crust on the outside of our smoked prime rib roast without overcooking the inside.
How to Reverse Sear your Prime Rib on a Traeger
If you wish to reverse sear the meat, you will want to smoke it at 250°F only until it reaches an internal temperature of about 110°F. At this point it will still be very, very rare in the center.
Next, you will turn up the temperature setting on your Traeger to "High", or the highest temperature setting it has available, depending on your model.
You need to watch your prime rib roast VERY closely at this point as it may only need maybe 4-6 minutes total once the Traeger comes fully up to the new high temperature.
Watch for the exterior fat to begin to sizzle and crisp up, watch for the color to turn from grayish to medium-dark brown, and whatever you do, do no leave it unattended to burn or over cook!
Use your instant meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature has reached 120-125°F and no further.
Remember, it will continue to rise another 10°F as it rests after you remove it.
How to Carve and Serve a Traeger Smoked Prime Rib Roast
You will then remove the smoked prime rib roast from the hot Traeger and let it rest.
You can tent loosely with foil but DO NOT wrap it tightly or it will overcook from its own residual heat.
Let the smoked ribeye roast rest for 45-60 minutes before carving.
Cut the Ties and Remove the Bones
Once the smoked prime rib has rested you will want to cut the ties an remove them from the roast.
The roast should separate easily from the slab of bones where the butcher cut them apart.
Set the rib bones aside but do not discard them!
These are delicious and can be sliced and eaten like a rack of ribs or you can use the meat for other purposes.
Place the rest of the main roast on the cutting board.
Carving the Smoked Prime Rib Roast
Although we mostly slow smoked the prime rib for ideal even cooking, the portions closer to the outside will still be more done than the very center.
This is nice because as you slice you can give the more done pieces on the ends to those that prefer them.
Then give the more medium rare slices from the center to those that prefer their meat less done.
Use a good meat slicing knife and cut the prime rib roast into nice thick slices based on how many guests you are serving.
We particularly like this meat slicing knife from Mairico.
The outside slices will be more done than the very center if you have guests who prefer various levels of doneness.
Traeger Smoked Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream
- Traeger Pellet Grill
- Cutting Board
- Meat Slicing Knife
- Aluminum foil pan
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Dual Probe Thermometer
- Pellets for smoking, preferably hickory and oak.
- 1 Prime Rib Roast bones removed but tied on, 5-8 lbs (plan on 1 lb per person served)
- Cooking Oil High smoke point oil like avocado or grapeseed oil
Savory Beef Rub for Prime Rib
- ½ cup Kosher Salt
- ½ cup Black Pepper
- ¼ cup Fresh minced garlic about 10 cloves fresh
- 1 tablespoon Paprika
- 1 tablespoon Dried rosemary or can substitute fresh rosemary, finely minced
- ½ tablespoon Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
Horseradish Cream (optional)
- 1 cup Sour cream
- ¼ cup Horseradish
- 1 tablespoon Stone ground or dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Season the Prime Rib
- Take prime rib out of the packaging but DO NOT cut and remove strings.1 Prime Rib Roast
- Rub with a thin layer of cooking oil.Cooking Oil
- Mix all the rub ingredients and thoroughly and coat the entire outside of the prime rib including the sides with the mixture.½ cup Kosher Salt, ½ cup Black Pepper, ¼ cup Fresh minced garlic, 1 tablespoon Paprika, 1 tablespoon Dried rosemary, ½ tablespoon Onion Powder, 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
- Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to put on the Traeger.
Start the Traeger Grill
- Load the hopper of the Traeger with your chosen wood pellets.
- Turn on the Traeger and move the dial to the "Smoke" setting.
- Leave the lid open for 5-7 minutes until you start seeing white billowing smoke coming out of the grill. This means the initial pellets are igniting.
- Close the lid and turn the temperature dial to 250°F. Allow 10-15 minutes for the grill to come up to temperature.
Smoke the Prime Rib on the Traeger
- Remove the prime rib roast from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.
- Once the temperature of the Traeger hits 250°F, place the roast in the cooking chamber. Place a temperature probe into the deepest part of the rib roast.
- Cook at this temperature until the internal temperature reaches about 110°F.
Prepare the Horseradish Cream Sauce (optional)
- While the prime rib is smoking on the Traeger, you can prepare the horseradish cream sauce if you wish.
- Combine all the horseradish cream sauce ingredients in a small bowl and mix well to incorporate. Add extra salt as needed.1 cup Sour cream, ¼ cup Horseradish, 1 tablespoon Stone ground or dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar, Fresh cracked black pepper
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to serve with the prime rib later.
Reverse Sear the Prime Rib on the Traeger
- Once the internal temperature of the prime rib reaches 110°F, turn the temperature of the Traeger as high as it will go.
- Watch closely to make sure it does not burn and cook until the internal temperature rises to about 120-125°F then remove from the Traeger.
Remove, Rest, and Slice the Smoked Prime Rib
- Let the smoked prime rib rest in an aluminum foil pan, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
- Cut the ties off the prime rib roast and gently remove the slab of bones away from the rest of the roast. Do not discard, these are delicious.
- Place the main part of the roast on a cutting board and slice in thick slices for each guest.
- Serve immediately with horseradish cream sauce on the side.