What’s cooking today: Prime rib of beef with thyme butter

What’s cooking today: Prime rib of beef with thyme butter
A pair of prime rib portions tied up to roast together, basted with thyme butter. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

A prime rib joint of beef standing tall and proud is a fine thing and a meat lover’s delight. Baste it with thyme butter to earn happy sighs.

Keep it simple. The more ingredients you add, the more you move away from the simple deliciousness of thyme butter. You really don’t need more than those two elements, other than salt and pepper.

A whole standing prime rib contains seven bones. You can roast it in one piece, but the bone that runs through at the base causes a problem if you want to serve a whole joint of it to each person. One solution is to cut the whole meat section away from the bones before or after cooking. Or you can ask your butcher to saw right through all the bones, and then tie them together as I prefer to do it. This leaves you with single intact portions, each with a proud bone to make an arresting display on the plate and possibly earn you a round of applause.

I roasted two sections, but of course you can adapt the number to your own requirements. Increase the quantities of thyme and butter accordingly.


1 generous prime rib single bone section per portion

¼ cup butter

4 thyme sprigs, picked


Ground black pepper


Early in the day you’re planning to roast the prime rib/s, bring them to room temperature and salt them all over. Keep them covered in a cool area of the kitchen.

Preheat the oven to its very highest heat. Mine reaches 270℃.

Wipe the rib sections down to dab up any moisture that the salting has drawn out. Wrap foil around the bones.

Place the ribs alongside each other and tie in two places with kitchen string: mid-bone, and mid-steak (use the photo as a guide). Tie firmly.

Salt again, and dust with ground pepper.

Melt butter and thyme leaves (picked from their stems, which you can discard) and brush this all over the steaks.

Roast in the super hot oven for 15 minutes, or as a Facebook friend commented when he saw the photo of them, “bliksem them” (in the bliksem-hot oven). Then turn the heat down to 180 and continue roasting for another 50 to 60 minutes or, if it is a very thick cut, up to an hour and 15 minutes. Personally, I find that less time is more with steaks or beef roasts, so I would err on the size of up to an hour.

Baste once or twice while they’re roasting. If there’s hardly any thyme butter left, make some more.

Once done to your liking, let them rest in the turned-off oven for 10 minutes or so with the door wide open. 

Remember the eye test when using an inserted skewer to test for doneness: juices running clear means well done, juices running pale pink means medium rare (or close to well done), if they run darker pink it means it’s most likely perfectly medium rare, and red means it’s likely to walk off the plate. If no juices are running at all and you can hardly get the skewer in, well, that means you’ve messed that one up royally, unless you like your meat dry and tough. So, as a rule, test sooner than later. DM/TGIFood

Our Thank God It’s Food newsletter is sent to subscribers every Friday at 6pm, and published on the TGIFood platform on Daily Maverick. It’s all about great reads on the themes of food and life. Subscribe here.

Send your recipes to [email protected] with a hi-resolution horizontal (landscape) photo.

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted