The perfect dish for a refined cowboy, this hay-smoked prime rib is haute barnyard at its best.
The smoke from the charred hay fills your kitchen with the warm aroma of a campfire, while the texture and flavor of the meat measures up to the quality of a fine-dining restaurant. The soot-flecked, igloo-like salt dome not only offers a dramatic and unexpected presentation, it also seasons the meat, enhancing its beefy richness while trapping all of its juices within.
- Smoke in your eyes. While preparing your hay, try not to smoke out your kitchen. To avoid setting off fire alarms, ignite your hay near your stovetop exhaust fan, or do your first round of hay-smoking outdoors to survey the smoke situation safely.
- Salt perks. Baking in a salt crust ensures that the meat cooks evenly and slowly, with minimal moisture loss during the roasting process. The result? The juiciest steak you’ve ever prepared.
- Trust the temperature. With a crusty salt dome around your prime rib, you won’t be able to cut into the meat to see how rare it looks, and that’s a good thing. A thermometer reading will give you an accurate indication of your meat’s doneness – there’s no need to cut through the meat and release its juices before they’ve had time to rest.
- The cooking continues. For a medium-rare steak, remove the meat from the oven when its internal temperature reaches 120°F and keep in mind that it will continue to cook on your kitchen counter. If you take its temperature again 5 minutes after it comes out of the oven, you’ll see that its temperature has probably risen another 5 degrees.
These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.
- Kitchen torch.This hand-held butane torch gives home cooks a safe, adjustable flame for caramelizing the surface of crème brûlée, browning a meringue or melting grated cheese atop a casserole. Here, we use the torch to ignite hay and smoke meat without leaving the kitchen.
- Digital Probe Thermometer. Trust the temperature – with a crusty salt dome around your prime rib, you won’t be able to cut into the meat to see how rare it looks – and that’s a good thing. A thermometer reading will give you an accurate indication of your meat’s doneness so there’s no need to cut through the meat and release its juices before they’ve had time to rest. The chord allows you to read the temperature outside of your oven. After all of your work of building your salt crust and hay-smoking your beef, don’t let overly-done, dry meat do your dish in – ensure a juicy, tender prime rib with the ease of this thermometer.
- Le Creuset Stoneware Baking Pan. When you’re cooking something low and slow you want to use a heavy-bottomed baking dish such as clay or cast-iron, because it distributes the heat evenly, ensuring a properly cooked product every time.
The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.
Two large bowls
Tin foil or medium-sized baking sheet
Large baking dish (approximately 12″ x 9″)
- 2 quarts loosely packed hay*
- 6 cups kosher salt (about 2 boxes)
- 4 cups egg whites (or carton of pasteurized egg whites)
- 1 cup water
- Seared prime rib
*Note: Hay can be purchased at a feed store or most pet stores.
Total time: 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, depending on cooking time
Active time: 30 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Place kosher salt in one very large bowl – or split it between two large bowls, if you don’t have a bowl that’s big enough to accommodate all the salt with room to spare.
- Gather half of the hay in a large metal bowl. Snip with scissors into 3-inch long pieces. Turn on the exhaust fan over your stovetop and open up nearby windows to avoid setting off smoke alarms. Ignite hay with a small kitchen torch, letting small flames develop around the perimeter of the bowl. After 1 to 2 minutes, when smoke has developed, cover the bowl with tin foil or a small baking sheet or put out with metal tongs until the flames have died.
- Add burnt hay to the salt-filled bowl (or bowls) and stir to evenly mix in.
- Add egg whites and water and stir to mix.
- Line two baking dishes with an even layer of ¾-inch to 1-inch thick salt mixture. Press the salt flat. Add ½ of the remaining hay in a flat layer on top of the salt mix. Torch the hay, let it burn for 30 seconds and then place the seared prime ribs on top to put it out.
- Cover the prime ribs with the rest of the hay and torch that. Let that burn for 20 seconds and then carefully cover the steaks with the rest of the salt mix so that there’s an even layer of approximately ¾-inch to 1-inch thick salt mixture surrounding the single, 2 pound prime rib. Press the salt mix around the meat to form two salt crusts. Use a skewer to create a small hole in the top center of the crust over each prime rib. This will be where you insert the meat thermometer to check for doneness.
- Place the baking dish into the oven and roast at 425°F for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F and continue roasting for 20 minutes to 1 hour and begin taking the temperature after 20 minutes. Continue checking every 10 minutes until the thermometer reads 120°F. Remove from the oven once the internal temperature reaches 120°F. Note: the time will vary depending on the size of the prime rib, the baking dish and the thickness of the salt crust. A digital thermometer is essential to tell when the meat is done. Once it is resting on your counter, it will continue to cook to the perfect doneness.
- Let rest for at least 15 minutes. Use a butter knife to cut the meat out of the salt crust – you don’t want to damage your chef’s knife by cutting through the salt. Brush off all salt and little pieces of hay. Slice meat off of bone and serve with vinaigrette.
Prime rib with sautéed salsify & watercress
The smokiness of this beef is perfect with sautéed salsify glazed in stock and butter. Lighten this dish up by serving it with fresh watercress.