5 Tips for Your Best Lamb Chops Recipe
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Who wouldn’t want to spoil their loved ones with a dinner featuring a perfectly cooked dish? Especially if the dish is fancy and “looks” like it took lots of time and “special” cooking skills. Say hello to lamb chops!
If you think that restaurant quality lamb chops cannot be prepared at home, let me put your mind at ease. Not only can you cook them in your kitchen, but you can also do it quickly and with minimal effort.
Let me share with you the 5 simple, yet effective, tips I’ve learned after cooking lamb chops more times than I can count. The final result always left my loved ones with a big appreciative smile at the end of dinner.
I encourage you to incorporate the following 5 tips (even if one at a time) to your own recipe and prepare to bask in the standing ovation coming your way. These truly take a good set of lamb chops to the next level 🙂
1. Decide on Tenderness, Flavor or Money.
Choosing which lamb chops to buy is simple. Think of these three factors; tenderness preference, flavor preference, and your budget. Each factor will influence the cut of lamb chops you ultimately choose. However, do not be discouraged by your budget constraints as even tougher lamb chops can be tenderized with the marinade which also reduces the pungency of the lamb meat (see below).
I’ll focus on comparing rib chops, loin chops and sirloin chops. Check out American Lamb cutting board and click on different cuts at the top of the page to see how each type of chops look like.
For tenderness, loin chops are the tenderest, closely followed by rib chops.
Rib chops are the cuts of lamb that have the “handle”. Loin chops do not have a handle but have a tiny T-bone on the outer edge and kinda look round and slightly bigger in size than the rib chops. Sirloin chops are the least tender of all the cuts and usually have two rib-eye bones in them, but are larger in size.
For flavor, rib chops, in my opinion, are the most flavorful and succulent. Loin chops are second.
The determining factor is the fat content on the chops, both outer fat that surrounds the chop and/or the marbling inside the cut. Bear in mind, lamb is pungent meat and I like to say that it’s an acquired “smell” (do I make any sense?). Fat content also determines how succulent, aka juicy, your chops will be. So, decide how flavorful and succulent you want your chops. Sirloin chops aren’t as flavorful, and I would say they are mild on the lamb smell scale 🙂
For the money, loin chops are the most expensive since they are the tenderest and contain less fat (but you can always trim off the excess from other cuts), followed by rib chops that are marbled and, thus, fattier. The most economical is the sirloin chops. But, again, they aren’t as tender or flavorful. Not a problem a good long marinade can’t fix if you are on a tighter budget.
Personally, I love rib chops for the following reasons:
1. There is something about that handle that is sooo beautiful in the way the chops sit on the plate. Screams romantic and special.
2. I do not have a problem trimming the outer fat leaving the thin veins of fat (marble) on the inside do their magic in the flavor department.
3. They are tender and the marinade makes them even more so.
4. Lastly, they are middle of the ground in terms of price and I do not feel guilty about entertaining every once in a while.
2. Do NOT Skip the Garlic and Acid in Marinade.
Marinating meat serves two purposes. Adding flavor and tenderizing. Garlic and acid do exactly that. Actually, going back to the previous point about the smell of lamb, adding crushed or finely chopped garlic after rubbing it onto your chops will add flavor while simultaneously balance out that strong smell.
Acid, whether it’s lemon juice or apple cider vinegar will help break down the tissue of the lamb chops which, in turn, make the meat tenderer and cook faster.
So, here is how I do it. I mix a bit of olive oil, some lemon juice (not more than a tablespoon for 8 lamb rib chops), crushed garlic (about 3 cloves), and herbs (rosemary pairs really well with lamb). Usually, I do not add salt since the actual seasoning happens prior to cooking (check my bonus tips below).
Make sure you massage your chops with your marinade. Don’t overdo it though. Nice and slow does it!
Marinating shouldn’t take more than 2 hours in the fridge. However, the longer, the better. Test different timings and let me know if you taste any difference 🙂
3. Do NOT Cook the Meat When it is Cold.
The jury is still out on this tip, but I swear by it. Every time I let my chops come to room temperature, or thereabouts, they end up juicier. My guess is that the meat doesn’t get shocked by the hot skillet while still being fridge-cold. That helps the juices to stay within the meat rather than seep onto the skillet if you were to slap it on right outta fridge.
I usually leave it on the counter for 20 minutes.
4. Pan-Baste the Lamb Chops.
Pan-basting is a cooking technique that’s loosely defined as “means of moistening, flavoring, and adding texture to foods by spooning melted fat, sauce or cooking juices over them while they cook.” It is a trick that chefs use and I once tried it thinking why not be fancy.
Then, I didn’t know what exactly this pan-basting trick did, but the results were great! Later, I learned that pan-basting serves several purposes.
First, it speeds up the cooking process on the size that isn’t touching the pan so that when you flip your chops, you won’t need to fry it as long as the first side. Time saved! Second, the process keeps your chops crusty and crispy but not dry. Third, it keeps your chops moist with the cooking liquids such as your oils and juices seeping from your chops. No one likes dry meat!
Please be careful so that you don’t splash that hot oil with fast moves. Easy does it. Remember that the objective is to have juices over your meat. The video below should give you an idea.
5. Let the Lamb Chops Rest.
Yes! I am repeating what you must have already heard many a time but there is a reason for it. Resting your chops truly makes a difference and it is true for any red meat you cook.
Knowing why resting your chops is important will convert you if you’re a non-believer. So your chops are hot and all the juices inside them are flowing within the confines of that crispy skin you’ve been pan-basting (I am salivating writing this :-)) and there you come and slice the chops!
Naturally, all the juices end up on your plate, or worse the pan, leaving your chops dry and rubbery.
By simply taking your chops off the skillet onto a plate and covering them with foil to rest for a mere 5-minute break you will take those chops from great to BEST! The juices will settle onto the chops and won’t run all over rendering the chops juicy and tender.
Voila! Those are my tips that I swear by.
But I won’t leave you at that! Below are additional 4 Bonus Tips because I just want you all to impress everyone even more with those lamb chops 🙂
Bonus Tip #1: Before searing, pat your chops with a paper towel to dry them up. But, don’t squeeze the marinade. Just tap, blot, tap and after 20 minutes they’ll dry up more and gain a beautiful sear when they hit the skillet.
Bonus Tip #2: Season your chops well with sea salt and don’t be shy with it. Just a pinch more than you think is enough.
Bonus Tip #3: Prior to pan-basting, add a fresh chunk of butter and wait for it to completely melt.
Bonus Tip #4: Invest in a cast iron skillet. It’ll distribute the heat evenly and give a nice crust.
Do try out these tips next time you fancy a nice dinner for two and please let me know how it goes.
If you have other tips, questions, or just a comment, drop me a line. I’d love to see how these lamb chops could get even better.