I should have listened to Obi-Wan


Rare is the person I come into contact with who likes beef as much as me. Medium rare is the way I like my beef. Especially if it’s prime rib. This is the sorrowful tale that can only lead anyone who reads it to the conclusion that I should have listened to Obi-Wan.

Let’s start at the beginning, because those are always the best stories.

First, the earth was an igneous mass…oh, wait, that’s Police Squad…let me start again.

I have ever been a lover of beef. Meats in general, but beef in particular. And let me assure you, “love” is the correct word. I could eat beef everyday in all its myriad forms. Some weeks, I’m not sure that I don’t.

Among the many years of cooking my own meats, from grill to oven to stove, there is one particular favorite of mine I’ve never tried on my own: a prime rib roast.

Those of you who have luxuriated in the succulent taste of a properly prepared prime rib know whereof I speak. Worthy of the pricey charges at finer restaurants (if done right), it’s a cut and cook I’ve never attempted.

This year’s cooking challenge!

Owing to the continuation of last year’s cooking challenge, I decided to add it to this year’s list. As I mentioned in my early post this year, I wanted to keep going with cooking something new every month.

So, I was dismayed when I couldn’t find a rib roast at Penn Dutch last week. I stared and glared and moped, but none was to be found amidst the dozens of feet of displayed meat.

Finally, I sallied up to a meat stocker and mentioned my blindness. He assured me I did not need new glasses. No rib roasts were out.

But he could cut me one if I wanted.

Shazam! He asked if I wanted two bones or three. I said, well, I guess three but there’s only me. He said three would serve 6-8 and I should probably get just a two-boner. I acceded and he brought me a gorgeous rib roast, with roping and everything.

Now, to the adventure!

The mission

Poring over dozens (no lie!) of recipes and articles, I determined the “best” way to cook my prime rib was low heat. Sure, there are arguments to other ways, but the predominant view was that lower was better. I opted for 250º.

Pre-launch prep

Many recipes called simply for a salt and pepper seasoning. Meh. I knew going in I was going to be using garlic and I found a number of chefs who agreed with me (online).

I cracked some black pepper and used my trusty Badia garlic powder and rubbed that roast like it was my best friend. (Think clean thoughts, people).

Ah, just the wafting of those two seasonings made my heart (and nose) sing!


Placed “fat cap” up (the side with the fat – I don’t know why they just don’t say put the bone side down) on a wire rack tray and set timer.

As part of the anticipation for this event, I purchased my first ever meat thermometer. In 30 years of oven and grill cooking, I never used a meat thermometer. I just knew from experience when to stop cooking.

But this was prime rib! No way did I want to mess this up, so I bowed to the “experts”.

During the next few hours, the aroma filling my home was delectable.

Time to target

The specific recipe I was using said 3½ to 4 hours for the size roast I was cooking (4.65 pounds). In order to come out medium rare, the only proper way to serve prime rib, I set the timer for 3½ hours.

I began to grow a little concerned when I noted some other cooks recommending 20 minutes per pound. That would only be 1½ hours. Even those that said 30 minutes per pound meant only around 2 1/2 hours.

I fidgeted. At 2 hours, I got so nervous, I stuck the thermometer in. Only 65º. Well below the 130º I was supposed to shoot for.

At 3 hours, it only read 67º. Now I was really concerned. Was there something wrong with my thermometer or was the roast more challenging that I thought?

Mission critical

I took readings again at 3½ and 4 hours. But, the temperature still read below 80º. Enough! I pulled the roast out and tried cutting into it.

How can I put this? Han never showed up. Vader vaporized me and the Death Star went on to control the galaxy.


Don’t let that initial picture fool you. All meats continue cooking well after they are removed from the cooking fires. And especially in a big roast.

What initially was a full grade lower at medium, swiftly turned into medium well. It is a travesty and inconceivable to treat a prime rib that way. In fact, it was fully ruined. (By the way, the seasonings were perfect)

In the ruins of a decimated rebellion

This was an unfortunate turn of events that could have been so easily avoided.

Never in my past have I used a meat thermometer. My oven is now 9 years old. As for my grill, it’s 17 years old. I know those cooking surfaces. I’m a student of their heat and their effects on food.

I should have ignored that stupid thermometer and gone with my gut. Fear of failure made me second guess myself. Because, as we all know, fear leads to the dark side (in this case, literally).

My instincts told me that the roast was in too long, I just didn’t trust them. I should have listened to Obi-Wan.


8 Responses to “I should have listened to Obi-Wan”

    • JMD

      Good god man, you’re a savage. No wait, a savage would like it rare…um, okay, you’re a heretic. Yeah. That’ll do.

  1. Eric

    Ya shoulda called me. I’ve cooked standing rib roasts (aka prime rib) for years and would’ve gladly told you to listen to the experts (and your gut) and not to worry about the meat thermometer.

    Sorry you injured that poor roast. Hopefully you enjoyed eating it even though it was past the “done-ness” that you craved.

    I would’ve, and I like mine on the rare side of medium rare..

    You know for next time, my friend.

    • JMD

      Good to know, buddy. I learned some valuable (and expensive lessons) that day.

      I managed to find a couple of “edible” pieces to enjoy, but the bulk of the meat was far past my level of doneness.

      That said, it now becomes a mix in a variety of other foods (soups, eggs, etc.) and a reminder for the next time I cook one (and I’m already drooling over that anticipation).


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