Perfect Lamb Chops, Perfectly Easy
There are people out there who don’t like eating lamb. Those people are crazy and it is probably best to avoid associating with them.
Lamb is one of my absolute favorite meats and I have yet to meet a cut that I haven’t enjoyed, from succulent slowly braised neck to a glorious roasted leg, and literally everything in between. Well, except for lamb fries, but only because I haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet (mind you, considering my sexy-time crush on Chris Cosentino, it’s only a matter of time before they’re filling my plate). My favorite cut of lamb, however, is the ubiquitous chop; tender, versatile, and indescribably elegant and sophisticated.
Nothing screams “special occasion” like a beautiful lamb chop. There are few things in the world that I enjoy as much as gingerly picking up a ruby rare chop, holding the bone in exactly the same position that one would use to sip their tea from bone china, and nibbling myself into a stupor. When cooked properly, the meat is tender, succulent, and utterly worth the occasional indulgent splurge. When cooked improperly, however, the Kitchen Gods cry tears made of vinegary mint sauce. True story.
The good news is that it is incredibly easy to cook a basic rack of lamb so that it is flavorful, juicy, and well seared on the outside but evenly cooked within. The key to this is a simple technique, and that’s what I really want to show you, but I will also share my favorite Middle Eastern spice paste. It is sweet, tangy, exciting on the palate and an absolute perfect match for the tender and decadent chops.
Perfect Lamb Chops, Perfectly Easy
Serves 2-3….but usually 2!
- 1 rack of lamb *
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Spiced Pomegranate Glaze
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses **
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/8 tsp allspice
* The rack of lamb should weigh approximately 1.5 pounds and have 8 bones, which is really the average rack that you will find in North America. However, if by chance your rack is skinnier or heavier than this, you will need to adjust cooking times slightly.
** Pomegranate molasses is a syrup made from concentrated pomegranate juice and sugar. It is both very sweet and very, very tart. This is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking and can be found at most Middle Eastern grocers, some specialty food stores, and even many well stocked supermarkets. Or, of course, you can make your own.
Your rack of lamb is probably ‘frenched’, which means that the excess meat and connective tissue has been cut away from the bone (see picture above). This is done mostly for pretty presentation, and to allow you a clean bone to pick up. However, it is also not necessary. Some people like best of all the crispy bits of meat between the bones! If your rack has not been cleaned/frenched, you certainly don’t need to do this, but I do recommend that you cut down between the bones just until you approach the top of the medallion. This will help the meat to cook evenly and will also make it easier for you to carve later.
Season the rack generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.
If you’re just reading this for technique, you can slather the lamb with whatever you prefer (Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary is a popular choice), but I really want to show you my personal favorite, a spiced sweet and tangy Middle Eastern glaze. To make that, finely mince or press two cloves of garlic into a small bowl. Add the remainder of the pomegranate glaze ingredients. Pro tip: if you measure in the olive oil first, the pomegranate molasses won’t stick to your spoon.
Stir to combine the glaze ingredients into a thick sauce. Slather half of the glaze all over the meat, reserving the rest for later. Let the meat marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a whole day if you’re in no rush.
Preheat your oven to 450ºF. You want to start off with an oven that is hot, hot, HOT!
Put the lamb fat side up (or bone side down) on a rack set above a baking sheet. This will encourage air flow and even cooking. Let the lamb roast at high temperature for seven (7) minutes.
Remove the lamb from the oven and turn the heat down to 325ºF. Slather the meaty side of the lamb with the remaining glaze.
Pop the lamb back in the oven for an additional twelve (12) minutes for medium rare. If you like your lamb very rare, reduce that time to 10 minutes. If you prefer it closer to medium, increase the time to 14 minutes. If you like your lamb well done, go braise a shank instead because this is not the recipe for you.
It is worth noting that some ovens run hotter or colder than others, so to be sure that the rack is cooked to your liking, feel free to take the internal temperature using a digital meat thermometer and know that the temperature will increase by a few degrees as the meat rests. Also, please don’t stress yourself out trying to get a temperature that is exact. If you are 2-3 degrees up or down, it’s not the end of the world and your lamb will still be delicious. Trust me.
Rare: 120 – 125ºF
Medium Rare: 130 – 135ºF
Medium: 140 – 145ºF
Let the meat rest, tented with foil, for around 10 minutes before cutting the rack between each bone into evenly sized chops.
With meat this rich and delicious (you WILL clean the bones like Jack’s giant, I hope!), I suggest keeping side dishes fairly light and with flavors that complement your marinade or glaze. To play up the sweet and tangy Middle Eastern flavors of the spiced pomegranate glaze, we paired the lamb with a refreshing minted cucumber and yogurt salad, and cauliflower couscous.
Cooking the perfect lamb chops really is perfectly easy by following this technique. The next time that you’re making a fancy-shmancy meal for two, I urge you to impress your beloved with these succulent chops!