Prime Rib on Traeger: A Guide to Smoky Perfection

August 25, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

I do have a special spot for the Traeger brand which is why I smoke prime rib on Traeger quite so often.

Over the years, I have worked on my recipe and technique until I have found one that I would like to share with you – here it is!

Prime rib on traeger

Smoking Prime Rib Roast on the Traeger

Before you move onto making your Traeger smoked prime rib, there are a few startup steps that you need to follow first.

To begin with, you need to fill up the hopper of your pellet grill. This will ensure that you have enough of wood to last the duration of the cook. Thus, you will be able to smoke the prime rib roast, uninterrupted.

A Traeger pellet grill will burn about 1 to 3lbs of wood per hour. As you will be smoking a prime rib roast that is between 5 and 10lbs on low heat, this would mean that you may need 5 or so pounds of pellets. However, it is best to err on the side of caution so that you don’t end up running out at the wrong moment.

Plug in and power up your Traeger with the setting set to Smoke. Keep the lid closed and allow to preheat for 10 minutes. After this, you can increase the temperature and get started in your Traeger prime rib.

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Smoke Setting vs. Smoking at a Higher Temperature

On Traeger grills, the smoke setting has a range of between 150 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. When making Traeger smoked prime rib, though, these temperatures are a little too low. While you can cook in this range, your meat is going to take a lot longer to cook.

This is why most people – including me – smoke Traeger prime rib at a higher temperature. This means that once the pellet smoker is done preheating, I set it to a higher temperature before I smoke prime rib.

Grilled Meat on Black Grill

Should You Dry Brine Your Prime Rib Roast?

I think it is always a good idea to dry brine a cut of meat as large as the prime rib. This technique tenderizes the meat, ensures that it maintains moisture throughout the smoking process, and offers up a cracklier exterior as well.

The key to a really great Traeger smoked prime rib is to apply the kosher salt onto the meat at least 45 minutes before it is smoked. For the best results, though, it is best to let the meat brine overnight.

Some people like to sprinkle in some cracked black pepper along with the salt. This is something that you can do or add the pepper later on, with the rest of the prime rib rub.

Trimming the Prime Rib

Most butchers will trim your prime rib for you beforehand. If you get an untrimmed cut, then cut down the fat cap until it is just 1/4 of an inch on top of the rib roast.

While some fat adds flavor and moisture, too much gets in the way of the smoking process, preventing your Traeger prime rib from cooking as it should.

Smoked Prime Rib Recipe


  • 5 – 8lbs prime rib roast

Dry Rub

  • 2 tbs. of olive oil
  • 2 tbs. of kosher salt
  • 2 tbs. of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tbs. of fresh thyme
Smoked Prime Rib


Step 1

Take the prime rib roast out of the refrigerator up to 45 minutes before smoking.

In a bowl, combine prime rib rub in a small bowl.

Apply olive oil to the prime rib. Sprinkle the rub all over the prime rib and press into the surface of the meat.

Step 2

Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F.

Step 3

Place the prime rib on the Traeger grill grates.

Smoke prime rib until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

This may take around 40 minutes of cooking time per pound.

Step 4

Take the Traeger prime rib out of the pellet grill and let rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Choosing Your Prime Rib Roast

Prior to learning how to smoke a prime rib roast to perfection, you first have to know how to buy prime rib.

I know this is not a cut that everyone is familiar with so I will be providing a few pointers on how to make your choice.

Baby Back Ribs Cooking on the Grill

Prime rib can be pricey, but I would suggest choosing a high quality beef – spending a few extra dollars on the Prime grade as it offers superior levels of fat and marbling. This means a more flavorful prime rib and once that is more tender to boot as well!

Remember that any cut of this meat that isn’t labelled as prime is a standing rib roast. In case it is boneless, it is referred to as a ribeye roast.

If you would rather not splurge, Choice works just fine for this recipe.

The other thing to look for is bone in prime rib – the rib bones offer flavor and also ensures that your rib roast ends up nice and moist as well. Yes, the meat can take a bit longer to cook but it is well worth the additional wait.

Watch out for the fat layer on the prime rib – while a thin layer is good, don’t buy one that has too much fat on it. This is because you will end up trimming a lot of it away. Thus, you will simply be spending more money on a section that you will be getting rid of later on.

Last but not least, I want to talk to you about size. If you want to feed a larger crowd, then you are going to want a larger Traeger smoked prime rib. Despite this, I would suggest two or more smaller roasts instead of one very large cut.

This simply has to do with smoking time. Larger cuts take a lot longer to smoke. It can also be tough to ensure that an irregularly shaped prime rib cooks at the same rate. It is far easier to cook smaller prime rib roasts.

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Creating Your Own Dry Rub

When it comes to smoked prime rib, I like to keep my dry rub simple. This is because I don’t want to overwhelm the natural and delicious flavors of the cut.

Of course, everyone is different. There are plenty of people who like to load up their prime rib with even more flavor. Some will mix in Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, and fresh herbs like fresh thyme and fresh rosemary and slather this on.

There are also those who will combine softened butter with spices and herbs and spread this on the prime rib before smoking.

As I said, all of these are great ideas. I would suggest first starting off simple, though. Once you have tried your hand at Traeger smoked prime rib, then go ahead and pile on the herbs and spices and experiment with various outcomes.

When choosing the additional flavors, though, I would suggest thinking about the side dishes in your lineup, particularly if you are making your Traeger prime rib for Christmas dinner. It is important for those flavors to work well with everything else too.

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Grilled Meat on Griddle

The Binding Agent

As you will see in this Traeger smoked prime rib recipe, I have used olive oil as a binding agent for the rub. The mild flavors of the oil allows the taste of the beef and the spices and herbs to really stand out. This is why I like it.

If you want something with a bit more of a tang, then I would suggest applying a thin layer of either yellow or Dijon mustard. Don’t worry, as most of it evaporates as the prime rib is being smoked the remaining flavor isn’t overly strong.

Choosing the Wood

Now with most beef cuts, people tend to choose stronger flavored woods like hickory or mesquite. In the case of prime rib, though, I would advise against it.

For one thing, this cut of meat is a bit more delicate so you do have to be careful about how you cook it. For another, I don’t want to mess with the natural flavors that result from a prime rib smoked to perfection.

In this case, I would say that even oak is a little too strong. Any of the more potent hardwoods are simply going to cause your Traeger smoked prime rib to be bitter. Thus, it really isn’t worth the risk.

This is why I stick with fruitwoods like apple or cherry – pecan can work as well if you are feeling adventurous. They provide the best smoky flavor for your smoked prime rib.

The Right Temperature Setting

Most people assume that as they are dealing with a larger cut that they can set the temperature to higher. This is a misconception, though. If you want a flavorful prime rib that is also deliciously tender, then low and slow is the way to go.

This is why I choose 225 F degrees as my smoking temperature. Yes, it is going to take a little longer but just think about how much money you spent on your prime rib. The last thing that you want to do is to overshoot the cooking temperature and then end up with a dried out hunk of meat on your hands.

Going up to 250 degrees F shouldn’t make too much of a difference here but I would advise yo to keep a close watch on the internal temperature nonetheless.

Now, finding the right smoking temp is only half the battle. You also need to make sure that this desired temperature is maintained throughout the smoke.

Now, many of the newer and more sophisticated Traeger models already come equipped with a hood thermometer. As such, you can keep track of the temp of the cooking chamber this way.

I do have to warn you that these thermometers aren’t the most accurate and can sometimes be off by as much as 10 degrees. This is why I always recommend buying another hood thermometer and sticking this on here. You will then be able to get a more accurate reading.

This may seem like overkill but if you want to ensure that all of your hard work pays off then attention to detail matters.

A Matter of Internal Temperature

Now, prime rib tastes best when cooked to medium rare. This level of doneness is reached when the meat registers at 130 to 135 degrees F. It is best not to go over this or the meat will lose some of its tenderness.

You may be wondering why I take the meat off the grill at 125 degrees F if it needs to be cooked to medium rare, though. Well, this is due to a process known as carryover cooking. Even you take the meat off the heat, the internal temperature can still rise by as much as 10 degrees.

To ensure that your prime rib is cooked to just the right level of medium rare, you need to take it off the smoker ahead of time.

In general, though, make sure to track the internal temp carefully throughout the cook. Place the the probe in the thickest part of the roast. Then, monitor the temp at intervals.

If you have a connected Traeger, then you will have WiFire technology which means that you can track the temp using the phone on your app. While this does give you the freedom to step away from the grill, keep an eye on the temp at all times.

Raw Meat on Black Outdoor Grill

Different Options for Smoking Prime Rib

Now, the method that I have outlined in this recipe is the easiest and tastiest option that I have tested out. However, there are other ways of preparing smoked prime rib and I want to share these with you.

This way, you can experiment with them as well and decide which option suits you best of all!

Reverse Searing the Prime Rib

This is when you increase the temperature to 400 degrees F shortly before you take your smoked prime rib off the grill. This is done to sear the surface of the roast, resulting in a beautifully charred exterior.

The reason that this is known as a reverse sear is because you work in opposite steps to how you would originally sear a steak or roast. In the traditional way, you would first sear the meat and then cook or smoke it. Here, though, the searing is the final step.

If you do wish to do this, make sure to increase the temperature of the grill when it is around 110 degrees. This way, you cut down on the risk of overcooking your smoked prime rib.

Then, sear one side for a few minutes before flipping to the other side. Just make sure to keep track of the internal temp and to take off the heat when it hits 125 degrees.

Cooking Prime Rib in Broth

If you want to ensure that your smoked prime rib is going to be as tender as possible, then you can smoke it in beef broth.

Here, place the prime in an aluminum pan and place in the Traeger grill. Smoke for about an hour. Then, pour in two cups of beef broth. Smoke until cooked to your desired temperature.

Move the meat away and place on a cutting board. Strain the broth and the juices and use for au jus.

Resting the Meat

It should go without saying but it really is very important for you to rest your smoked prime rib after it comes off the grill. Some people prefer to tent it while I find that leaving it on the cutting board works just as well.

It is best to let the prime rib be for at least half an hour before slicing and serving.

Wrapping It Up

Making your very own Traeger prime rib has never been so easy! With a great recipe in your hands and plenty of useful tips and tricks, you can guarantee that your smoked prime rib is going to taste amazing. Go ahead and get started!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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