Perfect Lamb Chops

Good lamb meat is quite pricey, you just don't want to mess it up. Here's how I've learned to cook lamb chops perfectly each and every time, just by minding the clock.

Perfect Lamb Chops

At the farmers market a few years back, I overheard a young couple order a whole hog – tip to tail and “everything but the squeak,” as they say – from a farmer who then raised pasture-grazed pigs. It was a long conversation, whether to take the pig’s feet (the trotters, isn’t that an apt name?!), whether the processor would cure the bacon.

That conversation launched a fascination with whole animals – both cooking whole animals for parties and purchasing a whole animal. I know, I know, to think that for six years, I was a vegetarian, especially since this is in-your-face meat without the modern veil of plastic wrap and pre-marinated convenience.

Here’s what I like about it:
Knowing where and how the animal was raised, fed and yes, butchered
Really good meat, cut and packaged to fit our cooking and eating style

Here’s what’s hard about it:
When it comes to meat, I’ve been a by-the-cookbooks cook sticking to familiar cuts easily found and relatively inexpensive in the grocery store. Dealing with necks and shoulders and other meat cuts, I just don’t know what to do.

So I’ve decided to cook my way through an entire lamb, an entire steer and with any luck, an entire hog. This is a long-term project, one that will take awhile to get right. When I learn something that really works, like the timing for perfectly cooked lamb chops, I'll share the recipe.

Thanks to Susan from Farmgirl Fare on whose farm in southern Missouri where our lamb is raised, our chops are “doubles” cut 1-1/4-inch thick. Still, each one yields only 3 ounces of meat, a nice lady-like portion. The men always eat two, some times three! If you have another favorite marinade, by all means, use it. The trick here is in the timing, not the marinade.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

QUICK SUPPER:
PERFECT LAMB CHOPS

For perfect lamb chops every time, just watch the clock
Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes – several hours
Serves 4
  • 4 lamb chops (see TIPS)
    MARINADE
  • 1/2 cup good red wine or Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, flattened with side of knife
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

MARINATE Combine lamb chops, wine, garlic and rosemary in a large plastic bag or a shallow glass or ceramic pan (not metal). Let marinate for one to twelve hours (even 30 minutes makes a big difference), turning occasionally if possible. If cooking in an hour, the meat can marinate on the counter, otherwise, it should marinate in the refrigerator.

BRING TO ROOM TEMPERATURE Drain and discard the marinade. If needed, let lamb chops come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. While meat warms up, preheat oven to 400F.

SEAR In a cast iron or heavy oven-safe skillet, heat olive oil until shimmery. (The skillet is hot enough when water flicked off your fingertips sizzles.)

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper, both sides. Without crowd and without moving, cook chops for 3 minutes on one side, then 3 minutes on the other. Depending on size and number of chops, you might need to cook these in batches.

BAKE Place chops in the oven and bake for 7 - 8 minutes for rare to medium rare. Watch the meat – thickness, how cooked they got in the skillet, all these will make a difference. But I have to tell you, 3 minutes a side and 7 to 8 minutes, the timing has produced one perfect lamb chop after another.

ALANNA's TIPS Two easy ways to make meat look even more appetizing. First, use a grill pan when searing the meat. Second, put a little "brown" (almost a burn) on the exterior by using a slightly hotter skillet when searing or by putting under the broiler for a minute just before serving.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Chop: 158 Calories; 8g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 54mg Cholesterol; 64mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 18g Protein; Weight Watchers Old Points 4 & PointsPlus 4

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I'm really impressed that you're cooking your way through an entire animal! I've thought about that, but we just don't eat enough meat to make it feasible. Your method of cooking lamb chops - sear, then finish in the oven - is the way I cook an awful lot of meat (steak in particular). Good stuff - thanks.
 
I am a complete noob when it comes to cooking most meats, so please bear with my most basic of questions. :)

I read in the story portion that you get "double" cuts, which you describe as being 1-1/4" thick. By the term and definition, I'm assuming that chops you normally would buy at a grocery store would be half the thickness (so maybe approximately 5/8" thick).

So, my question is, can you tell me how the cooking time varies, if any, between a "double" cut and a regular, bought-at-a-supermarket-butcher cut?

Thanks for all your stories and recipes, I have only tried a couple but I loved those, and always find them interesting! Like Kitchen Riffs, I'm pretty impressed by the entire animal plan, and look forward to hearing more! :)
 
She's_An_Angel - Thanks for the kind words. And no problem with basic questions, ask away, any time! And actually your question is a really good one, I'm going to buy a couple of lamb chops to test the timing. But in the mean time:

The "double cuts" span the 'width' of the chops. If you look at the photo, you can see the bone through the center, usually butchers cut through that bone to yield two tiny lamb chops.

As for thickness, if I had a lamb chop 5/8" thick, I'd do a minute a side in the skillet, then put into the oven, starting to check after 5 minutes.
 
Your lamb chops look so good, Alanna! I've never cooked them this way - usually we just toss them on the grill. I'm intrigued by the oven finishing; what a great technique.

One of the best things about selling butcher lambs is discovering new recipes and cooking tips from our customers. I love the idea of cooking your way through a whole lamb and can't wait to see what else you come up with! :)
 
I agree with the title of this, turned out perfectly! thanks!
Tried them on the BBQ last time I made them, but I found this way they had more of a lamb flavour.
 
I replaced the red wine with red wine vinegar, blueberry vinegar, worchestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar and it was still really yummy!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna