Wham bam thank you lamb!
Rack of lamb is a classic fancy restaurant meal and some of my favorite meat in the world. At $20 or so per pound, it better be good.
The rack is the same cut as a beef prime rib, the longissimus dorsi, and the meat is the equivalent of the beef ribeye. But it is a lot smaller, usually somewhere about 3 pounds for a whole rack of eight bones before trimming. After you trim it and cook it you have just enough for two, about 20 ounces with bones. Remove the bones so there is just an amazing ribeye and you have about 12 ounces, again, dinner for two.
You can cook the rack whole, you can make Lollipops, or you can make Ribeye Steaks. All three methods make an impressive presentation.
No matter which method, you need to remove the thick exterior fat layer and any silverskin underneath. The fat adds little flavor and prevents the meat from browning. Contrary to myth, fat caps do not improve flavor. Read this article on the subject of fat caps. Not only that, but lamb fat is not as tasty as beef or pork fat.
1) Grilled Lamb Lollipops Recipe
After trimming, I like to take one more step. In order to increase the marvelous Maillard and caramelization flavors of a brown surface, I cut the rack into four sections, each two bones wide. Cutting into single bone sections leaves me with chops that are too thin to get good and brown on the outside without overcooking the inside and it is tricky to get all eight chops the same thickness.
A lot of recipes call for "Frenching" the bones which is the process of removing all the meat between the bones so the bone is bare and showy. But that little sliver of meat in there between the bones is pretty good, even though it usually overcooks, so you might want to leave it.
These grilled lamb chops are called Lollipops because the knob of meat, perhaps 2" diameter and 1.5" thick, can easily be eaten without the aid of knife and fork in about six bites.
Course. Lunch. Dinner. Entree.
Makes. 2 servings
Takes. 15 minutes of prep, 1 hour of letting the wet rub marry, another hour or 3 to marinate the meat, and 30 minutes to cook.
1 (8 bone) rack or lamb
4 medium cloves of garlic, skinned, stemmed, pressed, crushed, or minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
Coarse salt to taste
Optional. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves.
1) Prep. Mix the garlic, rosemary, pepper, and water and let it sit for at least an hour so the water can extract the flavors. This is called a wet rub. Notice there is no salt. I like to salt it at the table with large grain salt that pops in my mouth.
2) Trim off all the fat cap and as much of the fat near the bone as possible, This is called Frenching. There is often a tough silverskin membrane beneath the fat cap that needs to go, too. Yes, this is a lot of waste from a cut that was expensive to begin with. Work carefully so you don't waste any of this expensive meat. Cut the rack into four fat chops by slicing between every second bone. Try to make them the same thickness so the will cook at the same rate.
3) Apply the wet rub. Use a lot. Much of it will fall off during cooking. You can let it marinate for a while, but it really won't penetrate much. One to three hours is enough.
4) Fire up. Preheat the grill for 2-zone cooking with the direct heat side at Warp 10.
5) Cook. Warm the meat gently on the indirect side with the lid down until it hits about 125°F. Then move the chops over the direct side to sear the exterior. Leave the lid open and place the bones over the edge away from the heat so they don't burn. This technique of warming the meat before grilling over direct heat is called reverse sear and it insures the most even colored interior possible. When you turn the meat try not to drag it across the grates and scrape off the rub, but turn often, about every 2 minutes. Take it up to 130°F or 135°F for medium rare (rosy color) or 140°F for medium (pink).
6) Serve. Usually I want you to salt meat long before you cook (dry brining), but this small cut is best if you save a coarse salt for the end, just after serving, like granules on a pretzel. Go easy, it won't need much.
2) Lamb Ribeye Steaks
Here's an alternative way to prepare rack of lamb. Trim the fat, remove the rib bones, and season and grill the 12 to 14 ounce tube or ribeye meat like a steak. Grill the ribs along side the meat, slice the meat into medallions, and serve them with the bones on the side. Great fun!
Video: A Better Way to Prepare Lamb
We demonstrate a better way to prepare a rack of lamb.
3) Whole Rack Of Lamb
Finally, the traditional method, whole rack of lamb. Many recipes call for coating the meat with mustard and breadcrumbs. But they cover the meat and get all the browning action. I brown meat not brown bread, so I just flavor with Dolly's Lamb Rub Recipe, grill over high heat, and sprinkle with large grain seasoned salt at the table.
"If I was placed midway between a perfectly cooked lamb ribeye and a perfectly cooked beef ribeye I would starve to death trying to pick which to eat."Meathead