We thought we knew how to cook prime rib to a faretheewell. Then we experienced this smoked prime rib and had to rethink everything we thought we’d known. The spice rub in tandem with the gentle infusion of smoke produces a prime rib unlike any other.Angie Zoobkoff

What is the best wood to smoke prime rib with?

Given the loveliness—and priciness—of prime rib, we suggest a less intense wood, such as apple or cherry. Common barbecue woods such as hickory or oak will overwhelm that beefiness.

A smoked prime rib sliced in half on a wooden board with a green-handled knife beside it.

Smoked Prime Rib

5 / 4 votes
This smoked prime rib, coated with a sugar spice rub and smothered with a horseradish mustard mixture, becomes slowly infused with smoky flavor and is simply the best prime rib we’ve ever tried.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories1174 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time3 hours


  • Smoker; wood chips, chunks, or pellets (depending on your smoker)


  • 5 pounds dry-aged bone-in prime rib
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons horseradish mustard


  • Prepare your smoker according to manufacturer’s directions with a temperature of 325°F (160°C). Let the meat rest at room temperature while the smoker preheats.
  • In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the salt, pepper, mustard seeds, and sugar.
  • Pat the prime rib dry with paper towels and evenly coat the surface of the meat with the horseradish mustard. Season on all sides with the spice mixture. You may have some spice mixture left over and that’s ok.
  • When the smoker is heated and the smoke runs clear, add the prime rib. Cook, maintaining the smoker at 325°F (160°C), until the beef reaches an internal temperature of 125°F (50°C) for rare or 135°F (57°C) for medium, 2 to 3 hours. For the best results, use a probe thermometer to continually monitor the meat’s temperature.
  • Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Slice to the desired thickness and serve.
Michael Symon's Playing With Fire Cookbook

Adapted From

Playing With Fire

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 1174 kcalCarbohydrates: 9 gProtein: 53 gFat: 102 gSaturated Fat: 42 gMonounsaturated Fat: 44 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 229 mgSodium: 4971 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2018 Michael Symon. Photo © 2018 Ed Anderson. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This smoked prime rib was divine. We wanted a nice dinner for ourselves before we saw our families for the holidays and this really fit the bill. When you need something spectacular and don’t want to fuss or worry over the meat, this is your dish. It will give you plenty of time to pull together your sides or just time for entertaining before the meal. This is goof-proof and will turn out beautifully every time.

It was extremely fast to get it ready for the smoker and we smoked it to medium rare for a total time of 2 1/2 hours. We pulled it off, let it rest, and served it with the Old-Fashioned Potato Gratin from this site and a nice Brussels sprout dish.

Not many recipes earn a perfect 10 score, but this one does in spades. The smoke flavor combined with the spice rub produces a prime rib like none other. For me, prime rib is a cut of meat for a special occasion (in this case, Christmas) and this recipe made it extra special. Everyone raved about it.

Prime rib is the perfect foil for horseradish mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, and mustard seed. These are bold flavors and you need a cut that can stand up to them. Prime rib does it.

I found that cooking the prime rib on the smoker had many advantages in addition to the flavor including being able to use the oven for other dishes and no messy oven when the meat was finished cooking.

Take the prime rib out of the refrigerator an hour or so before it goes on the smoker so you’re not putting a cold roast on the smoker. The meat should be room temperature so you get an even cook.

The hardest part of this recipe—and I use the word “hardest” loosely—is keeping an eye on the smoker and the meat temperature. My roast was a little bigger than what the recipe called for and yet it was done—perfectly—at about 3 hours.

There was more than enough rub. The timing was accurate. I cooked mine, which was a little more than 5 pounds, for 3 hours. We got 6 servings along with mascarpone mashed potatoes, a mushroom bake, and grilled broccoli.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    The best prime rib hands down. The rub is simple yet tasty, the smoke adds umami you just don’t get in the oven and it really couldn’t be easier. I added a step of searing it at the end, so I pulled it off the smoker at about 120. Oh, and by cooking the roast on the smoker, the oven is free for all the other goodies!

    1. That looks absolutely perfect, Greg. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your photo.

    1. Ada, there are many factors that will impact your smoking time, including smoker temperature, roast starting temperature, and desired doneness. I suspect it will take you somewhere between 3 and 4 hours, but start checking the internal temperature early to avoid overcooking the roast.

    2. Ada, you always want to cook the beef until it reaches your preferred internal temperature–125°F (50°C) for rare or 135°F (57°C) for medium. An instant-read thermometer is crucial for this. As far as time, that depends upon so many factors. This recipe smokes the beef at 325°F (163°C). A rue of thumb is 30 minutes per pound, but check it often. To be 100% certain of the timing of such a lovely (and expensive) cut of beef, I’d suggest consulting the Traeger Smoker instructions. That way you’ll be absolutely sure.

  2. I’m salivating and can’t stand up. You did not gauge the concerns that those pictures after the information would have on we Boomers. I think I’ll get over it.