Sometimes all you want from a piece of meat is to plop it in a pan and be done with it. No fancy knife work or butchery—just a trip from the package to the plate with minimal effort. Steaks are a reliable choice for the task, and pork chops have their place, too. But lamb? It’s not often that we turn to lamb when thinking up quick and easy dinner mains.
Lamb chops aren’t all that different from their beefy and porky counterparts in the meat case, at least when it comes to cooking. And considering how amazing they can taste, full of gamey, rich flavor that is as amenable to simple salt and pepper as it is a cornucopia of spice, it’s a mystery as to why there’s so little lamb on our plates.
If your last exposure to a lamb chop was the puppet and not a piece of meat, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the cut. A chop can come from anywhere along the animal’s spine, including the shoulder and sirloin. But we’re when talking about lamb chops, we’re usually talking about slices from the loin or the rib. Loin chops are lamb’s equivalent of the t-bone steak, consisting of a piece of tenderloin and a piece of loin that join up to form a triangle. The two muscles are separated down the middle by a vertebral bone. Loin chops are usually cut on the thick side and have nicely lean meat, which makes them great candidates for pan-searing or grilling to a tender, pink medium rare. Rib chops, on the other hand, are recognizable by their neat, round lollipops of meat attached to a curved rib. They have a balance of meat and fat that delivers an especially lamb-y flavor.
The basic steps for cooking lamb chops will be familiar to anyone who has ever cooked a steak: simply sear both sides in a pan over high heat until a crust forms, then pop them into a pre-heated oven until they reach their desired temperature. Likewise, you can give them a nice char over a hot grill before moving them over to indirect heat to finish.
Even with just one universal technique for cooking lamb chops, the options for seasoning and dressing them up are pretty much limitless. Here are nine ideas that make the case that they should be a part of your regular dinner time rotation.
1. Basic Sear-Roasted Lamb Loin Chops
For the full low down on how to cook a lamb chop to perfection, check out this step-by-step guide that calls for nothing more than meat, oil, salt and pepper, and a pan. They’re delectable on their own, but feel free to pair them up with your favorite sauce and sides. Get our Basic Sear-Roasted Lamb Loin Chops recipe.
2. Vietnamese Lamb Chops
Lamb is so flavorful and tender that it doesn’t need a marinade. But can’t get a boost from one? Absolutely. Here, the chops go for a soak in a tangy-sweet mixture of lime, bourbon, and honey. Get our Vietnamese Lamb Chops recipe.
3. Szechuan Lambypops with Cilantro Chimichurri
When it comes to spices, cumin is pretty much lamb’s best friend, with an earthy flavor that harmonizes with the gamey meat. This spin on western Chinese-style lamb takes advantage of the fact, then intensifies it further with the addition of a bright green cilantro sauce. Get the recipe here.
4. Za'atar Lamb Chops
Za’atar does way more than add a blast of herb-flecked aromas to these chops. It also gives them a stunning, blackened crust that is as pretty on the plate as it is tasty on the tongue. Get the recipe here.
5. Garlic and Anchovy Roasted Lamb Chops
It’s rare that so many forceful flavors can make one happy whole, but somehow this combination of lamb, garlic, anchovy, butter, and sage accomplishes it in leaps and bounds. Get the recipe here.
6. Grilled Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic
Lamb takes brilliantly to the smokiness of the grill, perhaps more so than any other meat. It’s such a winning method that all you really need to accent it is a few simple ingredients, like the garlic, lemon, and rosemary in this backyard-rustic recipe. Get the recipe here.
7. Lamb Chops with Pistachio Salsa Verde
That smoke also makes for a nice contrast against the kickiness of a salsa. In this recipe, nuts, herbs, and citrus one are used to make an unconventional topper for these grill-seared beauties. Get the recipe here.
8. Tandoori Lamb Chops
Tandoori isn’t just for chicken. The mixture of yogurt and spices can give an unexpected, pleasant tang to lamb. Get the recipe here.
9. Zinfandel-Braised Lamb Chops with Dried Fruit
This recipe uses lamb shoulder chops, which contain a group muscles that can be a little nubbly. But they’re also full of some of the deepest, richest flavor on the animal. Shoulder chops do just swell in the pan or on the grill, but an even better option would be to give them a braise and enjoy them at their gamiest. Here, a bath of dried fruits and a big red wine infuse the meat tons of sweet and succulent juices. Get the recipe here.
Header image: Vietnamese Lamb Chops from CHOW
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.