Selecting, Seasoning, and Grilling Lamb Chops

A Tender and Succulent Spring Tradition

Grilled lamb chops with pilau

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The coming of spring not only heralds the beginning of the outdoor cooking season, but it is also the traditional season of lamb. Lamb chops are a great way to enjoy grilled lamb, with less of a challenge than leg of lamb or rack of lamb.

You may get excuses when you invite friends and family for grilled lamb chops. Many people think lamb has too strong a flavor and will tell you that they just don't like it. The average American eats less than 1 pound of lamb per year.

If most people had a taste of a good, properly cooked lamb chop, they would change their tune. If you know the tricks to select a good lamb chop and grill and season it right, you may convert your family and friends to enjoying this great meat.

Selecting Lamb Chops

Start by selecting the right chop. This requires a careful examination of the label and possibly a short conversation with a butcher. What you are looking for is a loin, rib, or sirloin chop. If you get a shoulder or leg chop you'll need to use a marinade to make it tender.

The chops you choose should have a light red, finely textured meat with smooth, white fat. Marbling is not as important with lamb as it is with beef, but the fat on your chops should be evenly distributed. Also, the chops should be a little bit more than an inch thick.

American lamb has a milder flavor than New Zealand or Australian lamb because it is often fed grain rather than being pastured on grass. If you are serving guests who say they don't like the flavor of lamb, choose American lamb and steer away from those labeled "grass-fed" or "grass finished," which will have a stronger flavor. Once you've shown them what good lamb tastes like, you can begin to explore those types.

Seasonings

The second thing you need to do is select your flavors. Lamb is excellent when seasoned with garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory, fennel, and mustard. Any rub, marinade, or sauce made with these will enhance the flavor of your lamb chops.

Begin with a thin coating of olive oil and then a light sprinkling of seasonings, but you don't need to go overboard. You don't want to cover the flavor of the meat—you only want to add to it.

Grilling Lamb Chops

Lamb chops should be grilled on a covered grill over a medium-high heat. Ideally, you should grill them to medium rare or medium. There are few things worse than a dried out, over-cooked lamb chop, so keep a close eye on them and remove the chops from the grill when you reach an internal temperature of 140 F.

As always, let the meat rest for a few minutes before you serve it; in this case, five minutes will be good. That allows the juices to be absorbed back into the meat. If you cut the chops before that occurs, you will lose juices onto the plate and the chops will seem dry.