Smoked Prime Rib is an Amazing Feast! A Excellent Healthier Alternative is Smoked Buffalo Prime Rib

In our family we traditionally have a smoked prime rib on Christmas eve. This really started when we lived in Mexico. But there are other reasons as well. As much as I love turkey, I confess that after Thanksgiving I am pretty much done with turkey for a while. Perhaps this has come to be from my years as a chef and cooking turkey for thousands over the years in the restaurant business. So as Christmas rolls around, in our home we have a much-anticipated Prime Rib dinner. Our traditional Christmas dinner has been prime rib for the last 15 years, frequently one that has been smoked. 

Around our table we are adapting to a wonderful and healthy alternative to our normal beef prime rib. This year’s choice is a buffalo/bison prime rib. Many of us have experimented with grass-fed beef, or tried a buffalo burger in the search for a healthier alternative to our beef.  Buffalo or bison is a great alternative to beef and one that can be considered a sustainable choice as well. Buffalo and bison are being raised in just about every state now, and certainly on the West coast and Southwestern states. Whole Foods Market is a great source for buffalo, and there are several excellent online sources for buffalo.



This recipe produces 10 to 12 servings

7 lbs. Choice or Prime Rib or buffalo prime rib

Spice Rub of your choice, or try our Great Spice Rubs RRR Rib & Chicken Rub 

3-4 cups of wood chips, mesquite, hickory or oak

Salt and black pepper to taste or preference

A meat thermometer


Preparing Your Prime Rib or Buffalo Prime Rib for the BBQ or Smoker

Select your spice rub for your prime rib. I like our RRR Rib and Chicken Rub However, mesquite rub or any good steak will work nicely. Season well. Check your label on the spice rub for salt content; some commercial brands already have salt added. If you are making your own spice rub or the one you have chosen does not have salt, then sprinkle the prime rib with kosher or sea salt. 

Allow the meat to marinate with the rub for a couple of hours or even overnight. Prepare your grill or smoker. One of the keys for cooking an excellent prime rib, whether buffalo or beef, is a low temperature and slow cooking process. It is especially important for lean meat such as buffalo.  We cook our Buffalo prime rib at 225 to 250 degrees.  As buffalo is lean meat, we do not need to render fat out it. Plan on smoking your prime rib for roughly 20 minutes per pound, at these low temperatures. It is important to have a meat thermometer handy since it is the best way to ensure the meat is cooked to your preference. Follow the guidelines below for temperatures.

Using a Smoker

If you are using a smoker, load your wood box. Load your prime rib onto the grates and close up the smoker. Open your vents ¼ to ½ inch.  For a stronger smoke flavor, soak your wood chips for a half hour before burning. Make sure that your drip pan is under the Prime Rib

Using a Gas Grill

When using a gas grill as a smoker, make three or four foil packets containing the wood chips, seal them up, and poke small holes in the foil with a fork to allow the smoke to escape. Be careful not to make them too big, or the chips will catch fire and you will lose the benefit. I use dry wood chips for this application.

Using a gas grill, you will make an indirect cooking zone by not turning on the burners directly under the prime rib. If your grill is equipped with an upper shelf, that is ideal. Identify where that is with the door closed and place a foil pan or “grill proof” pan under the spot where the roast will cook to catch the juices. If no shelf is equipped, place the foil pan under the grates to catch the juices. The reason for this is two fold: to catch the flavorful juices to add to the Au Jus sauce and to prevent flare ups. Place around a ½ cup of water in that drip pan.

Using a Charcoal Grill

Whenever using a charcoal grill, I recommend using a chimney style lighter. These eliminate the need for the lighter fluid and, in my opinion, are a healthier option for lighting.

When using your charcoal grill as a smoker, make three or four foil packets containing the wood chips, seal them up, and poke small holes in the foil with a fork to allow the smoke to escape Be careful not to make them too big, or the chips will catch fire and you will lose the benefit. I use dry wood chips for this application. Using a charcoal grill such as the trusty, venerable Weber kettle, you will want to build your coals on two sides of the grill and place the foil drip pan in the middle, under where the roast will sit on the grates. This is easy when using the chimney starter. You simply pour the coals where you want them. Place a small amount of water in the pan, around a half-cup. With a charcoal grill I recommend keeping your vents open around ½ an inch. 

If using charcoal, keep an eye on the temps, and if your coals are diminishing, light some more charcoal or add some on top of the existing coals, being mindful of your temperatures.  Keep an eye on the smoke escaping, and after it has stopped for a few minutes place a new packet on the grill, coals.

Continue to cook and smoke for roughly 20 minute per pound at the 225-250 degrees. If your temperatures use your thermometer to judge the degree of doneness. Plan accordingly since a five pound roast will take roughly 100 minutes of cooking time, a bit over an hour and a half plus an additional 20 minute of resting time prior to serving. 

While your Prime Rib is smoking, and about an hour before it is done, prepare your Au Jus Sauce.


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Au Jus Sauce

1 32 oz. Homemade beef stock or stock usually packed in a box-carton

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons cold water

Salt to taste or preference

Pan drippings (optional) Highly reccomended 

Place the beef broth in a saucepan and simmer until the volume is 50% of the original. If you desire a thicker Au Jus, mix the cornstarch with the cold water and pour the mixture into the boiling broth or stock. Simmer for three minutes, stir, and adjust salt.  Keep warm at 140 degrees for serving. If desired, just before serving you can add the pan drippings from the grill pan. Skim or pour off any fat prior to adding to the Au Jus. 


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Allow 20 minutes for the prime rib to rest prior to slicing.  

Slice your smoked prime rib and serve with the Au Jus sauce and horseradish. Your guests will come back for seconds! 

Some excellent side dish ideas to accompany your Smoked Prime Rib or Buffalo Prime Rib would be:

Grill Roasted Artichokes

Potatoes Au Gratin


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