Juicy, mouthwatering, pan-seared lamb chops are restaurant quality but couldn’t be easier to prepare at home. Minimal ingredients and a hot skillet are all that’s required. As an added perk, the recipe can easily be prepared for one or two diners, or for a larger family.
Most holidays, our whole family is together and we spend quality time with two sets of grandparents and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Between turkeys, tenderloins, and spiral-cut hams (not to mention my mother-in-law’s legendary black bean soup!), there’s always enough food to feed a small army.
This year will be different. Like so many of you, we won’t be seeing any of our extended family. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy a special meal!
Lamb chops might not be on your regular menu rotation, but once you try this recipe, they may very well rise to that level. When serving to my family, I’ve never had a single chop leftover.
The best part? Given the end result, the effort seems almost too minimal. For those who’d like to fancy them up a little, I’ve included a bonus recipe (pictured in the rear of the photo, below), called Italian salsa verde. This flavorful sauce can be spooned over top and tastes equally wonderful on steak, chicken, fish, potatoes, cauliflower, and other roasted vegetables.
Lamb chops were seldom served when I was young, but that changed when I began dating my husband. We had dinner at his grandmother’s house on a regular basis, and lamb chops were often the star of the meal. At some point, I realized lamb chops were the always the star of the meal!
The sides were the same, too: steamed broccoli, white rice tossed with butter, and a side salad topped with sliced avocado, grapefruit, and Thousand Island dressing. Dessert was a boxed Pepperidge Farm layer cake, which she kept in her chest freezer until the afternoon of our visit. Often, it was still a little icy come dessert time.
Years into this pattern, Maw Maw, as she was known, mentioned how my husband had once told her that this was his favorite meal, so she decided to serve it every single time we joined her for dinner.
For the record, he claimed to have never called this his favorite meal (and he did not care for the salad), but he really did love everything else. Of course, the memories of that singular meal are the best. And if you ask him these days, lamb chops definitely rank in his top three.
We like our lamb chops cooked well. Cooking for long enough to create a golden caramelization means more flavor and more time for the fat to render. When the chops are thinner (¾ to 1-inch thick), I sear them until they are nicely browned on both sides and don’t worry about the internal temperature – and I’ve yet to have a tough, dry outcome. In fact, we like the texture better.
If the chops are meatier (an inch thick or thicker) and you’d like to cook them to a different degree of doneness, follow the temperature guidelines (below) and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Note that the temperature of the meat will continue to rise by about 5℉ as the chops rest after being removed from the heat.
- Rare: 120-125℉
- Medium-rare: 125-130℉
- Medium: 130-135℉
- Medium-well: 135-140℉
- Well-done: 140+℉
The lamb chops we’ve purchased at the grocery store tend to run in the 1-inch thick range, give or take a little. Costco, on the other hand, often sells extremely thick chops, which will take longer to cook through. We tend to prefer the thinner ones.
I’ve included seasoning directions based on the weight of the meat. Taking a peek at the package weight will help to avoid over- or under-seasoning the chops. As always, feel free to adjust up or down based on personal preference or any dietary restrictions.
Sometimes, as in the pictured batch, the chops have been “Frenched,” which simply means that the fat cap has been removed from the bone. The resulting handle is perfect for those who enjoy finger food. These chops are also referred to as lollipop chops, a name that adds appeal to the kids (and kids at heart) among us.
Searing in the skillet is straightforward and easy. If you have a splatter guard, you may wish to use. Like most meats cooked this way, the lamb chops do speckle the stove with some grease. That said, I usually skip it and wipe up when finished.
Lamb chops also take well to the grill, so feel free to give that a try sometime, too.
As mentioned the sauce is worth making, even if you never cook a lamb chop. I’ve included a separate printable recipe along with a few more details under the main recipe card.
- 8-9 bone-in lamb rib, loin, or leg chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds*)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon per pound)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons EACH olive oil and butter, for the pan
- Optional for serving: Italian salsa verde (recipe follows)
Pat the lamb chops dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. If possible, allow the chops sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before cooking.
Heat the butter and oil in a large (12-inch) cast iron skillet or other heavy pan set over medium-high heat until the butter begins to turn light brown. Arrange the lamb chops in the pan, leaving a little space between them.
Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked to your liking. (See temperature guide above the recipe card.)
Remove pan from the heat, and let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving.
*Depending on where and when you buy lamb chops, they can range from thin (½- to ¾-inch thick – which are great finger food and what we call lollipop chops) to an inch or more. When seasoning, I use ½ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt per pound of chops as a guideline. I’ve also seen REALLY thick chops at Costco, which take a good bit longer to cook through. (For these, rely on the temperature guidelines mentioned above.) I find that people who don’t think of themselves as lamb fans tend to really enjoy the thinner options.
What is salsa verde?
Salsa verde, which means “green sauce” in Spanish and Italian, involves a method of blending herbs with a fat (olive oil) and an acid (citrus juice or vinegar) and offers a deliciously easy way to add flavor to a wide range of simply prepared ingredients.
Like its Mexican cousin, Italian salsa verde is green in color, not spicy, and will add flavor to almost anything. But beyond those characteristics, these two sauces are quite different.
The Italian rendition is anchored by an appealing balance of zesty, tangy, and briny, so while it may be mild in terms of spiciness, the flavor itself is bold and memorable.
For the best results, a food processor (or a mini processor or chopper for a half batch) is needed, but the sauce comes together quickly and easily. Capers and anchovies add exceptional flavor－and please don’t let those ingredients scare you away, as even those who don’t enjoy briny or fishy anything have raved about this sauce!
The other thing I love about the sauce is the texture. It’s thicker and less oily than another similar sauce－chimichurri. Less oil makes for more concentrated flavor. Put differently, too much oil ends up tasting like oil and produces what my younger son considers a “slippery” texture. (That’s a culinary term, right? 😉)