Relax, It's Just a Rack of Lamb

A perfectly cooked lamb chop is the pinnacle of elegance — and simplicity. Follow this step-by-step guide to guarantee optimal flavor and texture.

It's All in the Timing

Few dishes make more of a statement than elegant rack of lamb, with its ivory-hued bones and juicy pink meat. Pricey? Sure, but it's so easy to make, and pretty speedy as well. You might layer on a quick marinade or a simple sauce, especially if it's a special occasion... and when you are serving rack of lamb, it probably is. The key to perfection is timing, so once you've splurged on a rack, it's worth investing a few bucks in a meat thermometer. How you season the lamb and what you serve it with is entirely up to you. But whatever you decide, the pink and tender chops themselves will surely be the star of the show.

Photography by Katie Workman and Sarah Crowder

French the Chops

Most of the time, lamb chops and racks of lamb are "frenched," which means the butcher scrapes the fat from the bones, trimming off all but the thinnest layer of fat from the meat itself, and leaving them nice and clean. Some people like the fat, though, and prefer to have their chops a bit less elegant to look at and more inviting to nibble from stem to stern.

Make the Marinade

While a rack of lamb seasoned with just salt and pepper can be absolutely delicious, you may want to make some sort of wet or dry marinade or rub to season the meat, and in some cases to give it a nice crust.  

Season the Lamb

You can cook it immediately after seasoning it or let it sit in the fridge for a day, depending on the recipe and on how deeply you want the meat to be seasoned. The flavor of a good lamb chop is so tasty on its own, though, that you wouldn't want to mask it with a potent marinade. Try to keep the bones clean, for the nicest presentation.

Roast the Lamb

Make sure your meat is at room temperature before you begin, for even cooking. Place the racks in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, fat-side up, with the bones curving down. The most-critical factor in cooking rack of lamb is not to overcook it. Cook it at 125 degrees F to 130 degrees F for rare and 130 degrees F to 135 degrees F for medium rare; in general, you would not want to cook it more than that. About 20 minutes should do it for rare, and 25 for medium rare.

Make a Sauce

As with the marinade or crust, the sauce is optional. Mint jelly is the old-school accompaniment, but there are so many sauces that would go well with lamb — from an aioli to an herby pesto or pistou to a reduced wine sauce.

Let the Lamb Rest

As with almost all cooked meats, giving it time to rest after cooking means that you will keep the juices in the meat, where they belong. Also, these internal temperatures (125 degrees F to 130 degrees F for rare and 130 degrees F to 135 degrees F for medium rare) take into account that the temperature of the meat will continue to rise for a few minutes after the racks leave the oven, and the meat will cook a bit further. Resist the urge to cut the racks into chops before at least 8 to 10 minutes have passed.

Slice the Chops

And now the moment has arrived when you slice these pretty racks into perfect pink chops. Use a very large, sharp knife (not serrated) to do this, and make your cuts as smooth and clean as possible.

Plate the Chops

You can serve the chops as they are, or with some sort of sauce on the side. You can arrange them on one big serving platter — or, given the fact that this may well be a special meal, plate up individual servings for your guests in the kitchen. Both methods will have dramatic impact.

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