How to Make Rack of Lamb
But the reality is that a rack of lamb is no more difficult to cook than a steak or pork chop (though a little pricier than a chop). For two people, it’s a perfectly-sized meal that you can bust out whenever you want to feel a little more fancy. Racks of lamb are small, usually about eight chops total, which means you don’t need to wait to feed a crowd with one roast.
Buying Tips for Rack of Lamb
How much rack of lamb do you need? Any butcher worth their kosher salt will be able to guide you to the right size rack of lamb for the party you’re serving.
American lamb tends to be larger and slightly fattier than Australian or New Zealand lamb. Though all lamb is grass-fed — sheep are grazing animals, after all —American lamb is frequently finished on grain, which can make it milder in taste than imported lamb.
What is a Frenched Rack of Lamb?
A frenched rack of lamb means the fat cap and meat between each rib bone have been removed. This is mostly for presentation — those little lamb chop lollipops look so nice. The fat cap on an unfrenched rack of lamb can also make the searing and roasting process messier because the fat will render as the meat cooks.
How to French a Rack of Lamb
If the rack of lamb isn’t frenched, you can ask the butcher to do it for you, or do it yourself. (You can also leave the rack as-is and cook it unfrenched as well.) Here’s how to french a rack of lamb at home:
- Make a deep cut through the fat layer where the rib bones meet the chop (about 2 inches above the meaty part of the chop) with a sharp chef’s knife or boning knife.
- Work your knife under the fat to slice off and remove the fat cap, pulling it away from the rack to expose the ribs.
- Carefully slice between each rib bone to remove the meat.
- Use your knife to scrape off any remaining bits of meat and sinew to clean up the bones. Just before you start cooking the marinated rack of lamb, you can cover the frenched bones with a piece of foil to keep them from browning in the oven. This also makes for a prettier presentation.
How to Cook Rack of Lamb
Cooking rack of lamb is easier than you’d expect. Here are some of my most trusted tips to ensure success.
Lamb doesn’t take long to cook, but it really benefits from a lengthy marinade. Rub the rack of lamb with a garlic-and-herb paste, refrigerate it for at least 12 hours, and let the flavors deeply penetrate the tender meat. To make sure every single bite is infused with rosemary and garlic, I like to extend the marinating time to a full 48 hours before I roast the meat.
Bring the marinated lamb out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to cook it. This helps bring the meat closer to room temperature so it will cook more evenly in the oven.
Sear it in a hot pan.
Searing the rack in a hot pan kickstarts the caramelization process that’s responsible for the tasty browned exterior. After searing, transfer the lamb to the oven to cook it the rest of the way through.
While you could use a traditional roasting pan or even a sheet pan for roasting your lamb, searing and roasting in the same pan is just easier. Fewer dishes to wash? Yes, please! Either a large cast iron skillet or large heavy-bottomed, oven-safe frying pan is great for the job.
Finish it in a hot oven.
Because a rack of lamb is such a lean cut, it benefits from a high heat method of cooking — i.e., roasting. Unlike a leg or shoulder cut, which have a lot of connective tissue and can be braised or stewed to achieve maximum tenderness, it only takes about 30 minutes to cook a rack of lamb.
Cook to medium-rare.
Lamb is traditionally cooked to medium-rare, which keeps the meat tender and juicy. A digital thermometer is your best friend when it comes to cooking lamb (or any cut of meat) to the right temperature.
Because the lamb will continue to cook off heat for a few minutes after it’s removed from the oven, we recommend roasting rack of lamb until the internal temperature reaches 130ºF. Pull it out and let it sit to redistribute the juices and bring the temperature up to 140-145 ºF.
What to Serve With Rack of Lamb
Mint sauce is a traditional accompaniment, but you can also incorporate mint and other fresh herbs into a cool and crunchy salad or slaw to contrast the rich meat.
Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes to 30 minutes
- 2 sprigs
- 6 sprigs
- 2 large cloves
- 3 tablespoons
olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
- 1 frenched rack
of lamb (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds)
Chef’s knife and cutting board
Covered container or large ziptop bag
Large cast iron skillet or large frying pan
Marinate the lamb:
Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Pick the leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs and coarsely chop until you have 2 teaspoons. Pick the leaves from 6 fresh thyme sprigs until you have 1 teaspoon. Mince 2 large garlic cloves.
Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine.
Rub evenly all over 1 frenched rack of lamb. Place in a covered container or in a large ziptop bag. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours and up to 48 hours.
Let the lamb sit at room temperature for 1 hour before roasting. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 450ºF.
If desired, wrap foil around the exposed bones of the rack to cover them completely to prevent browning during roasting and give them a cleaner look when served.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or large oven-safe heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Tilt the pan to coat the bottom with oil. Wipe the garlic bits from the fat side of the lamb off with paper towels. Place the lamb fat-side down in the pan and sear until the bottom is browned, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.
Flip the lamb in the hot skillet.
Transfer the pan into the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a chop registers 130ºF for medium rare, 12 to 25 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
Cut between the bones to cut into individual chops to serve.
To french a rack of lamb: With a sharp chef’s or boning knife, make a deep cut through the fat layer where the rib bones meet the chop, about 2 inches above the meaty part of the chop. Work your knife under the fat to slice off and remove the fat cap, pulling it away from the rack to expose the ribs. Carefully slice between each rib bone to remove the meat. Scrape off any remaining bits of meat and sinew with your knife to clean them up.
Thyme substitute: Fresh sage or marjoram can be substituted for the thyme.
Mustard option: Substitute 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard for 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the herb paste.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.