West of London is Wales, a country of 3 million people and 10 million sheep. As they say in one of their mottos: “Ten million sheep can’t be wrong!” And it’s some of those sheep that give us the most succulent cuts of lamb on the planet. New Zealand and Australia are the leading lamb exporters and where most American lamb is sourced. Americans are not by nature lamb eaters, and that’s probably because we have memories of gamey, tough meat slathered in mint jelly. Knowing which cuts to purchase and the correct temperature to cook lamb chops may be the keys to opening a new world of lamb appreciation.
Defining Lamb Chops
If you’re sensitive to eating Mary’s Little Lamb, don’t shun deliciously grilled lamb loin chops. In the United States, all sheep products are called lamb. If you find a package of chops labeled “prime lamb” or “choice lamb,” know that they came from sheep aged 12‒14 months. The lamb loin chop is cut from the short loin, which is mid-center of the sheep, high up and behind the rib cage.
Similar to a porterhouse/T-bone steak, the lamb loin chop has a small steak on one side of the bone and a filet on the other. They run about 4 ounces each, including the bone, which means a lot of chops for a hungry crowd. Look for a chop that’s well marbled with little exterior fat running along the edge. And go for at least a 1-inch thickness, if not more, for those hearty eaters!
Grilled Lamb Chop Recipes
Whether you’re grilling lamb chops over charcoal, propane or on top of the stove, the best chops are marinated before they hit the heat. Herbs such as rosemary and mint, a garlic rub or a dry seasoned salt rubbed into the chop adds to their flavor. Swabbing them in red currant jelly lends a sweet taste, while hot and spicy red pepper jam gives your chops a zing. And if you insist on that mint sauce, make your own using fresh mint steeped in cider vinegar and sugar.
Once you’ve bathed the chops in the marinade, let them sit for at least an hour before grilling. Bring the grill temperature up to a sizzle and put each chop over the heat for about 7 minutes before turning them over to cook for another 5 minutes, or until a digital thermometer reads 120‒125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare.
Testing for Doneness
If you are grilling your loin lamb chops on the stovetop, sear each chop for 1 minute on each side and then place them in a 400F oven for 5‒7 minutes, depending on how well done you want your chops. You can poke the top of the chops with your finger to determine their doneness. Open your hand, press your middle finger to your thumb and touch the fleshy part of the hand underneath the thumb. If the meat gives like that flesh, it’s medium-rare.
Let Them Sit
As tempting as it may be, don’t serve your lamb loin chops immediately after removing them from the heat. They need to rest! Place them on a cutting board and let their juices settle down. And know that while they’re still hot, they do continue to cook a bit.
After about 5 minutes, they’re succulent, tender and ready to eat. Serve them with your freshly prepared mint sauce and put your grandmother’s lamb to shame!