A simple aromatic fresh herb marinade and a hot iron skillet are all you need to make these show-stopping lamb chops, and because they’re easy enough for a busy weeknight yet decadent enough for company, this recipe is sure to become the culinary ace up your sleeve.
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Let’s be honest, beef, chicken, and pork dominate the butcher’s counter at most grocery stores. Perhaps it is for that reason that many home cooks shy away from making lamb chops, assuming that they are somehow difficult to work with, or best reserved for a special occasion. That could not be farther from the truth though. Making this savory, succulent pan seared lamb chop recipe is so simple you’re going to wonder where it has been all your life.
By marinating the lamb meat in fragrant fresh herbs, garlic, and olive oil, you will ensure that each bite is like a little taste of springtime. Then, you will sear each side in a hot skillet to lock in all that juicy, tender, deliciousness. It is just that easy to make a truly wow-worthy main dish.
For centuries, people have been preparing meat by first soaking it in a seasoned liquid before cooking. This process serves two purposes. First, the salt, and sometimes acid, in marinades tenderizes the meat, breaking down the proteins and making it easier to cut and chew. Second, the marinade adds flavor and depth to the dish.
With this recipe, you can marinate the meat for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours. A longer marinade will allow the meat to soak up more of the herb and garlic flavor, but even half an hour of marinating will produce tender, flavorful results.
While marinating, the garlic and herbs will diffuse into the oil, which will then allow the meat to absorb their flavor more efficiently. Marinades often call for an acid like citrus juice or soy sauce to act as a tenderizer. However, lamb meat is already quite tender, so the acid is unnecessary, and, leaving it out means you can marinate the meat for hours without the risk of it breaking down too much and becoming mushy.
How Should Lamb be Seasoned?
Lamb chops are naturally flavorful, so you can season them with even the most robust herbs and spices. Here, we have used fresh rosemary, parsley, oregano, thyme, and mint, but you could also use sage, basil, or cilantro.
This recipe calls for fresh herbs, but you can also substitute dried herbs if need be. A good rule of thumb when using dried herbs in place of fresh ones is to reduce the amount by ⅔. For instance, if the recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, you would use just a teaspoon of dried herbs in their place.
Try spicing up your marinade with red pepper flakes, cumin, coriander, paprika, mustard powder, onion powder, or chili powder. Once you get the hang of cooking lamb chops, the flavor possibilities are endless.
What Does Lamb Taste Like?
A lamb is a sheep that is less than a year old. Because of its young age, the meat from a lamb is very tender, and its flavor is rich and earthy, but not as gamey as mutton or venison.
Lamb has a denser texture than chicken but is more tender than beef. It is rich in iron, protein, vitamins, and beneficial fats, so it is not only tasty but also nutritious.
How Should I Select Lamb Chops?
Lamb chops can come from the animal’s shoulder, loin, or rib, and they are usually sold bone-in.
A lamb rib chop looks something like a meat-lover’s lollipop, with all the meat on one end of the long rib bone. These are sometimes “frenched” which just means that the butcher has trimmed away the fat from one side to expose the rib bone. This is purely aesthetic, so there is no need to do it at home unless you’re feeling fancy. When the rib chops are sold still together, as one piece, it’s called a rack of lamb.
Lamb loin chops have a distinctive t-shaped bone in the center, while sirloin chops have a round bone in the middle. Any of these chops will work well in this recipe, but be aware that sirloin chops are a bit tougher and have a slightly gamier flavor. For this reason, they will need to marinate and cook a bit longer than loin chops or rib chops.
When buying lamb chops, look for cuts that are at least an inch thick, so that you can get a good sear on the outside, but still have a center that is tender and juicy.
Choose chops that are nicely marbled. The fat will melt as your chops cook, giving them a rich, decadent flavor.
To what temperature should lamb chops be cooked?
Lamb is best served medium rare, to medium. They will continue cooking even after you’ve removed them from the pan, so it’s best to take them out just before they are done. Using a meat thermometer will ensure that you get perfectly cooked chops. For medium rare, remove the chops from the heat when they reach 125°F. Wait until the thermometer reads 135°F for medium.
Allowing the meat to rest for 10 minutes is key. When you remove them from the heat, the chops will continue to cook. Then, they will relax and the juices will be redistributed so that they do not leak out when the meat is cut. Resting is crucial to achieving tender, juicy, mouthwatering lamb chops.
What to Serve With Lamb Chops
Lamb chops are a versatile protein that can be served alongside any of your favorite dishes. Whatever you like to serve with pork chops or steak will go just as well with lamb chops. Consider them the little black dress of the culinary world. You can dress them up by accessorizing them with sophisticated sides, or keep them casual with more rustic everyday fare.
Try these seasonal pairings:
- Spring: These herbaceous chops are perfect for a simple springtime supper. Serve them with new potatoes, sweet spring peas, or asparagus, and a hunk of buttered French bread.
- Summer: Lamb chops are fantastic for summer evenings because you don’t have to heat up the oven. Pair them with sweet corn on the cob, marinated tomatoes, or a fresh green salad.
- Fall: In autumn, try lamb chops with a side of roasted sweet potatoes or savory baked beans, steamed broccoli and sauteed mushrooms.
- Winter: Lamb chops will brighten even the longest days of the year when served with collard greens or brussel sprouts, and risotto or rich, creamy mashed potatoes.
- Preparing: Before cooking, allow the lamb meat to come to room temperature, or close to it. Doing so will help you achieve a more even sear. It’s also important to pat both sides dry with a paper towel before seasoning so that the flavors will come into direct contact with the meat.
- Cooking: You can cook marinated lamb chops on the grill, but an iron skillet over medium high heat is the easiest and most reliable method. It does an outstanding job of cooking evenly and giving your chops a gorgeous crust. Also, always allow the meat to sear undisturbed for the suggested time. When it has properly seared it will turn easily, but if you try to flip it too soon, it will stick to the pan.
- Serving: Lamb chops are smaller than most steaks or pork chops, so plan for two to three per person.
- Saucing: If you’d like to make a sauce while the chops rest, add an additional pat of butter to the pan that you used to cook the meat. In the hot butter, sauté a chopped shallot and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves. Then, deglaze the pan with ½ a cup of wine or chicken broth, and a squeeze of lemon juice, scraping the brown bits as you stir and reduce. Pour this mixture over the meat before serving and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
- Storing: Cooked lamb chops can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. They may also be frozen for 2-3 months in a resealable freezer bag. To reheat after freezing, allow them to thaw in the refrigerator, then follow the previous instructions.
- Reheat from the refrigerator: The key to perfect lamb chops is to avoid overcooking, and the same is true for reheating them. The best method by far, is to reheat them slowly in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the lamb chops in a dish that’s safe for oven use, and drizzle a little water or stock over them. Cover with aluminum foil. Reheat for about 10 minutes, then check for doneness. The internal temperature should be around 165 degrees. If need be, flip them, and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until warmed through.
- Reheating from the freezer: If you are in a hurry, you can reheat lamb chops in the microwave. Just sprinkle them with water or stock and cover them with plastic wrap. Then, microwave your chops in short 30 second bursts so that you don’t overdo it.
Lamb Chops with Garlic & Herbs
- 4 lamb chops cut about 1 inch thick
- kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
- For the marinade:
- 6 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 tsp chopped rosemary
- 2 tsp chopped thyme
- 2 tsp chopped parsley
- 2 tsp mint
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- For cooking:
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- Prepare the Chops: Rinse the chops and pat them dry. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper, and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.
- Marinate the Lamb Chops: Combine garlic, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl. Rub the mixture on both sides of the chops and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Sear the Surface: Heat a frying pan big enough to comfortably accommodate your chops over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. When hot, but not smoking, place the chops into the butter mixture. Sear without disturbing for about 4 minutes, or until the surface has a rich golden brown color.
- Check For Doneness: Flip and continue cooking until your meat thermometer registers 125 for medium rare or 135 for medium (about 3-4 minutes). As the meat cooks, baste it with the pan juices.
- Rest the Meat: Remove the chops from the pan and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes. Then, serve and enjoy!