How Long to Thaw Prime Rib (and the Best Ways to Do That)

Most people know that to extend the lifespan of a piece of meat, you should store it in the freezer. However, it can be difficult to figure out how long to thaw meat and which are the best ways to do this since different meats and the size of the joints will affect your options.

The USDA states that the best way to that prime rib is in the refrigerator, and the length of time this takes is dependent on the size of the joint. A steak will take between 12 and 24 hours to thaw in the refrigerator, while for a large prime rib joint, you should allow around 6 hours of thawing time per pound in weight. A 5lb prime rib joint will take approximately 30 hours to thaw in the refrigerator.

Best Way to Thaw Prime Rib

The safest way to thaw prime rib is by moving it from the freezer to the refrigerator. This is because the refrigerator provides a consistently cool temperature for the meat, never allowing it to reach a low enough temperature where bacteria could multiply. By comparison, setting a frozen prime rib joint on your countertop to defrost at room temperature will encourage the growth of bacteria, making the prime rib unsafe to eat by the time it has fully thawed right through to the middle.

Thawing prime rib in the refrigerator is considered to be the best way to defrost this type of meat ready for cooking because it is guaranteed to be the safest way. However, it is unfortunately also the slowest way to thaw prime rib. Depending on the size of the meat, you can be looking at anywhere from 12 hours to 2 or 3 days of defrosting time.

This, of course, means that you need to plan your meals in advance, and you won’t be able to make the last-minute decision to pull your prime rib out of the freezer and have it ready to cook in a few hours. If you are good at organizing your time and your meals, then thawing prime rib in the refrigerator should not be a problem. However, if you often forget to move foods from the freezer to the refrigerator to defrost, then quicker thawing methods might work better for you.

Fast Methods for Thawing Prime Rib

Thawing Prime Rib

If you have visitors coming for dinner and you’ve forgotten to defrost your prime rib in advance, then you’re going to need to find a way to thaw it in a shorter space of time than refrigerator defrosting requires. Here we look at some of the possible alternatives to thawing prime rib in the refrigerator.

Cool water

The best way to thaw prime rib if you don’t have enough time to thaw it in the refrigerator is by using cool water. To do this, you will need a pot or bowl big enough to submerge the joint of meat in, and the prime rib should be sealed inside watertight packaging. Place the prime rib in the bowl and cover it over with water out of the kitchen faucet, then leave the filled bowl on the countertop.

The low temperature of the frozen prime rib will cause the temperature of the water to drop, so you will need to empty the water out of the bowl every 30 minutes and replace it with fresh water. This will help to ensure the prime rib thaws more quickly while keeping it at a safe temperature and minimizing the chance of bacteria breeding. Using this method will cut your thawing time by more than half compared with using the refrigerator.

Depending on the size of the joint, you can expect this method to have fully defrosted your prime rib and be ready for cooking in between 4 and 8 hours. The main drawback of this method is that it requires you to change the water every 30 minutes, so you can’t simply set up the cool water bowl before you go to work and expect it to be thawed by the time you get home.

Warm water

Some sources recommend using warm water to thaw prime rib in the same way that cool water is used; however, this is not a safe way to defrost any type of meat. There is no way to regulate the temperature of warmed water, and it is possible that you will use water that is too hot and inadvertently slow boil the beef. The use of warm water can also cause bacteria to multiply, making your prime rib unsafe to eat. Using warm water to defrost beef is not a technique approved by the USDA.

Room temperature

Some meats can be thawed at room temperature; however, the hefty nature of prime rib joints means that they are not well suited to this defrosting technique. The large size of prime rib joints means that when thawed at room temperature, the outside of the meat is defrosted long before the middle of the meat.

You would need to leave the prime rib at room temperature for around 12 to 16 hours to fully defrost it, and during that time, the outer portions would start to spoil. It is not safe to eat any type of meat that has been left at room temperature for this length of time, as it becomes an easy breeding ground for bacteria.


If you have a microwave with a ‘defrost’ or ‘thaw’ setting, then you can use this to thaw your frozen prime rib joint. This is likely the quickest and most convenient method for thawing, though you will need to check your microwave manual for specific time guidelines, as these will differ depending on the weight of the meat and the power of the appliance.

Can You Cook Prime Rib From Frozen?

Can You Cook Prime Rib From Frozen

If you don’t have any time at all to thaw your frozen prime rib, then you can actually cook it straight out of the freezer. Beef, along with pork and poultry, can be cooked from frozen in the oven.

The guidelines for cooking prime rib from frozen indicate that you will need to double your cooking time compared to if you were cooking the meat from its fresh state. This is going to save you a lot of time compared to even the quickest thawing method and get you out of a fix if you have forgotten to defrost your prime rib in time for a special occasion.

How Long Does Prime Rib Last?

Fresh prime rib can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or you can keep it in the freezer for up to 6 months. Most meats are safe to store for up to 12 months in the freezer; however, they can start to lose flavor and take on an unappealing color in this time frame.

If you have thawed your prime rib, it is recommended that you cook and eat it right away; however, it will be safe to store in the refrigerator for a further 4 to 5 days. Once prime rib is cooked it should be consumed immediately, but if you have leftovers, you can store these in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a further 2 to 3 days.

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