A rack of lamb is to lamb what prime rib is to beef—tender and loaded with flavor. It is a little bigger investment, but if the occasion is right it makes a fantastic meal. The secret is to keep it simple and to sear the lamb quickly over a hot fire then drop the heat to let the center roast. This will create the perfect caramelized crust while keeping the middle tender and juicy.
Picking the Right Rack of Lamb
Start by visiting a reliable butcher and getting a good rack of lamb. Lamb is always a very high-quality meat. Lamb is graded with the same system as beef but the vast majority of lamb is graded choice or prime so you will have no trouble getting a good cut of meat. Ask your butcher to make sure and remove the thin skin from the outside of the rack and ask him to cut off the chine bone to make it easier to carve. The chine bone is a square-shaped bone that is present between the shoulder blades.
A typical rack of lamb will be about eight bones and will weigh in around 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, though they seem to be getting heavier these days. On the bottom end of the cut, you have a thick, round piece of meat. On the rack, this is like a long, thin roast. Once cut it is a chop, similar to a small pork chop. Sticking up from the rack are the long bones. If you overcook or cook at too high a temperature these bones can burn and crumble. Learn what you can do to avoid this.
A single rack of lamb is the perfect amount for two people so it makes a great main course for an intimate dinner. If you plan on one rack for two people you will probably have a chop or two left over for a late night snack.
Prepping and Cooking the Rack of Lamb
Examine the rack of lamb to make sure that any loose pieces of fat have been removed. Dry it off with some paper towels and season it with salt and pepper. Now wrap the bone ends heavily in foil to protect them.
Place the rack on a hot, preheated grill for about two minutes per side to sear the surface. You want to keep the bones up, away from the fire. Place something on the grill, such as a loosely packed ball of aluminum foil, to prop the bones up.
Once you have seared the lamb, reduce the heat or move the rack to a cooler part of the grill to allow it to roast for about 20 to 25 minutes per side. You need a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature as you go. You definitely do not want to overcook this dish. Lamb reached rare at about 120 F (50 C) and medium about 150 F (65 C). The rack will gain a couple of degrees in temperature after you remove it from the grill, so you can take it off when it is a few degrees lower than the target. Allow about five to 10 minutes resting time before you carve it up.
Carving a Rack of Lamb
To carve the rack of lamb, stand it up on the meat side with the bones curving away from you. Slide a sharp knife down, between the bones cutting gently through the meat. You should be able to see the bones all the way down along the back side of the rack.
Now you've mastered a truly fantastic dish.