Make the holidays a little fancier with a rib roast

Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Beef is delicious.

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I Had to get that off my chest. Although traditionally we have turkey for Thanksgiving and Ham for Christmas, don’t leave beef out of the equation. Today, I’m going to share some new ideas to serve your guests. Don’t worry, all of the following options are crowd pleasing, show stopping, super classy dishes that will be just as good as the old reliable ham … if not better.

During the holidays, it’s ok to spend more money for specialty meat. It’s once a year. To quote my favorite characters Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford from the hit TV show Parks and Recreation, “treat yo-self.” Prime rib and lamb are some higher end choices for your holiday feast. These fancy meats and poultry may cost more because they are exceptionally tender or high quality. I’m also going to suggest pork loin as an option. Although is an inexpensive meat, it feeds many and can be made very fancy. But first, beef terms.

The terms used to describe roasts from the rib section of beef can be confusing.  The three terms that cause the most confusion are “rib roast,” “ribeye roast,” and “prime rib.” Here’s the difference so you know what to buy:

A rib roast, like the name says, has the bones left in. It also is sometimes referred to as “ribeye roast bone-In” or a “standing rib roast” (which can include 2 to 7 rib bones). The term “standing rib roast” is sometimes used because this roast is most often roasted “standing” on the rib bone rather than placed on a rack.

A ribeye roast is a rib roast with the bones removed. Sometimes it is called a “boneless rib roast.” You can purchase a “large end” or a “small end” ribeye roast. The small end cut is leaner and creates a beautiful display on a holiday table.

A prime rib doesn’t refer to a specific cut of beef. Rather, it is another name for sliced portions from a beef rib roast or ribeye roast after it is roasted. These roasts come from the rib primal section that consists of the sixth through 12th ribs.

Note: When you go to the store, ask the butcher for a “rib” or “ribeye” roast instead asking for a “prime” rib. “Prime” is a grade of beef produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It’s characterized by its fat marbling, which contributes to the level of tenderness. It is the most expensive grade of beef and not needed for producing a delicious roast. The meat you normally buy at a grocery store is a “choice” grade and is quite tasty in a roast.

In order to cook these meats properly and ensure a satisfactory product, I’d suggest roasting. To roast, meat is placed on a rack in a shallow, uncovered pan and is cooked by the indirect dry heat of an oven. To keep the meat tender and minimize shrinkage due to the evaporation of moisture, a moderately low oven temperature of 325 degrees should be used. Have your meat thermometer on hand so you can test the internal temperature for doneness and reduce the risk of over cooking the meat.

Side note: If you need a meat thermometer, give me a call. I have some at the Boyle County Extension Office. Come get yours for FREE while supplies last.

Cook raw beef, lamb, pork and veal steaks, roasts and chops to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for 4 minutes before carving or eating. To rest, just remove the meat from the oven, create a tent out of aluminum foil and leave it alone for a few minutes. Letting the meat rest gives the juices time to re-enter the meat for maximum flavor absorption. For reasons of personal preference, meat may be cooked to higher temperatures. Cook all poultry and wild game to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. Trust me, nobody likes a rare bird — nobody.

While we are on the subject of alternative entrées, let’s look into some new side dish options. The easiest way to change your side dish lineup is to make them a bit healthier. Nobody expects healthier foods to taste good, but it’s really easy to do. Before you skip this whole section due to healthy food talk, please note: yes, you can still use butter; yes, potatoes will be involved; and yes, there will be lots of flavor in every dish. OK, now that we have gotten all your worries out of the way, let’s have at those healthy sides.

Side dishes usually start with a vegetable, which is a good thing. The issue in unhealthy side dishes is that other ingredients overshadow the healthy vegetable. The key to a delicious and healthy side is to keep it simple. No peeling, no mashing, just cut, toss, and cook.

My favorite go to recipe for a fancy side dish is roasted root vegetables. Yes, you can use potatoes. Yes, you can use salt. Yes, it’s really easy. Gather your favorite root veggies such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets. Wash them, cut them into similar sized pieces, and toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper. If you want to get really fancy, use some chopped fresh herbs such as thyme or rosemary. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees until they are fork tender.

The best part is that you don’t have to peel the veggies. That fiber is good for you, so just leave it be. One of my favorite tips for roasting veggies is to line your baking sheet with aluminum foil. That way you can just throw it away when you’re done. Clean up is a breeze.

Check out the recipes I’ve suggested. They’re simple and packed with flavor. Step outside the box and try some new dishes this holiday season; I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information, contact me by email at


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