Pan-seared lamb chops are perfectly moist and juicy in the center with a crisp crust on the outside. They’re easier to make than you think, and here’s everything you need to know about how to quickly make flavorful lamb chops without an oven.
To quickly pan-sear lamb chops, let the chops come to room temperature. Season with garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and lemon juice for a fast marinade that infuses flavor. Then heat olive oil in a large skillet. When hot, sear the lamb chops for 4-6 minutes per side, until the internal temperature registers 145°F.
Those are the basics, but to really perfect your homemade lamb chops on the stove, and ensure that you’re buying the right cut of meat, read on for the details on how to perfectly sear lamb chops on the stove.
All about lamb chops
You might know your way around meat, chicken, or pork, but lamb is a whole different game. If you haven’t cooked with it before, there’s no need to be intimated. Lamb is a lean, flavorful meat that can be treated just like your favorite pork or chicken. As long as you know how to cook it, you’re in a great place.
There are two types of lamb chops: loin chops and rib chops.
- Loin chops are similar to T-bone steaks, in that they have a bone running through the center of the cut and a layer of white fat around the perimeter.
- Rib chops are cut from individual ribs along the animal’s back.
In general, when you see lamb chops on a restaurant menu, you can expect to be served a rib chop. It’s smaller, more delicate and has a softer, buttery texture compared to meatier loin chops. When you’re buying lamb at the grocery store, when in doubt, opt for rib chops.
Sometimes, a butcher will ask how you want the chops cut. 1-inch pieces is a good rule of thumb for fast cooking with enough meat on each bone to satisfy hungry guests.
To ensure you’re buying the freshest cut, look for meat that’s plump, firm, and shiny. It should not be grey or otherwise discolored, overly wet or have gaps in the meat.
What are Frenched Lamb Chops?
If your butcher asks if she should “french” your chops, she’s referring to a special way of preparing the chops that exposes the bone for a more elegant presentation. Frenching removes the fat along the bone and meat. This makes for a cleaner presentation and a more tender, exposed piece of meat for easier eating. If you’re serving your lamb chops as a finger-food appetizer, it’s nicer for your guests to grab hold of a clean, frenched bone. Otherwise, if you’re serving your chops with fork and knife, you can choose to have your lamb frenched or left as-is for a more rustic presentation with a bit more fat for flavor.
How to Pan-Sear Lamb Chops
Once you’ve brought your fresh lamb chops home from the store, frenched or otherwise, grab a few more ingredients and a skillet to get cooking.
Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand for your pan-seared lamb chops:
- 8 lamb chops
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Olive oil
Note that the above ingredient list makes enough lamb chops to feed four. As an entree, you can count on every adult eating two pan-seared lamb chops. As an appetizer, one lamb chop is sufficient, especially when served with a dipping sauce.
Prepping the lamb chops
Step 1: Defrost the lamb chops
If you had stored your lamb chops in the fridge, take them out and let them come up to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. If they were frozen, defrost the meat in the fridge overnight and let it come to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.
Step 2: Dry the lamb chops
Gently tap the lamb chops dry with paper towels. This helps remove excess moisture that can prevent your chops from developing a beautiful sear. Place the lamb on a large platter.
Step 3: Prepare the seasoning
In a small bowl, make an easy seasoning mixture by combining the minced garlic, juice of one lemon, dried oregano, and a teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Step 4: Season the lamb chops
Rub the seasoning mixture into the meat using your hands. Make sure to cover all sides of the lamb with seasoning. Then wrap the chops in foil and let them sit for 30 minutes. This helps develop the flavor.
Pan-sear the lamb chops
Step 1: Heat a skillet
Use a large, heavy-bottomed skillet for this job. Cast-iron is a great material for searing meat as it heats evenly and holds its temperature well. Place the skillet on the stove over high heat. Wait a minute or so to heat the skillet, then pour in the olive oil. Wait until the oil is moving freely and hot throughout the pan. It should be shimmering, but not smoking.
Step 2: Cook the lamb chops
Next, carefully place as many lamb chops as will comfortably fit in your skillet. Cook, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes per side (depending on the size of your chops), until you reach your desired doneness. A good rule of thumb is that 4-5 minutes per side will yield medium lamb chops. If you have a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature. Lamb is considered fully cooked when it registers 145°F internal temperature.
Step 3: Let the chops rest
As soon as your lamb reaches your desired donees, transfer the meat out of the skillet and to a cutting board. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Do lamb chops get tenderer the more you cook them?
While tougher cuts of lamb, such as lab shank and leg of lamb, benefit from long, slow cooking, that’s not the case with lamb chops. Lamb chops will be at their most tender at medium-rare. In fact, the longer you cook them after that, the tougher they’ll get.
Why are my lamb chops tough?
There are several reasons why your pan-seared lamb chop might be tougher than you’d like. First of all, if your meat wasn’t fully defrosted, it will cook unevenly. Another possibility is that the lamb chops were overcooked. The best way to avoid this is to keep a close eye on the meat in the skillet.
The not-so-obvious reasons are a bit trickier. One reason could be over-marinating. If the lamb chops are left to marinate for too long, they can become dry. Don’t marinate lamb chops that you intend to pan-sear for longer than one day.
What to Serve with Pan-Seared Lamb Chops
Turn your simple pan-seared lamb chops into a well-rounded dinner by pairing them with a sweet or spicy sauce, vegetable and grain. Apples and mint, in particular, are delicious flavor pairings with lamb chops. Farro makes a nice nutty starch to serve with lamb, and a wintery roasted vegetable like acorn squash or cauliflower are both great choices.
Lamb is a traditional food for celebrations like Easter and Christmas. But with quick-cooking one-pot lamb chops, you don’t have to wait for a once-a-year occasion to enjoy the juicy, tender flavor of well-seasoned lamb for dinner.
Store leftover pan-seared lamb chops in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Serve slices of cold lamb on a salad or sandwich for lunch the next day. Cooked lamb doesn’t freeze well.
Pan-Seared Lamb Chops
- Large skillet
- 8 lamb chops
- 1 lemon juiced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt to taste
- 1 tsp pepper to taste
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- olive oil for cooking
- Let the lamb chops come to room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Pat the meat dry on all sides. In a small bowl, combine the lemon jucie, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic. Rub the spice mixture onto the meat, cover with alumum foil and let it marinate for 20 mintues or up to overnight (in the fridge).
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the pork chops and cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature registers 145°F. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, tent with aluminium foil, and rest for 5 minutes before serving.