Rack of lamb is an elegant main course that is worthy of a special occasion or even a holiday dinner. While rack of lamb can be expensive, it is easy to cook to perfection and never fails to impress.
Looking for a centerpiece for a festive meal? This stunning oven-roasted rack of lamb with a delectable garlic-herb crust is just the thing.
What is Rack of Lamb?
Rack of lamb is the equivalent of a prime rib in beef, but it’s much smaller because (obviously) lambs are smaller than cows. Essentially, a rack of lamb is seven or eight rib chops that come all in one piece.
When a rack of lamb is cut into individual chops, those chops are sometimes known as Lamb Lollipops because you can pick them up with your hands and eat then right off the bone.
Gordon Ramsey calls rack of lamb “the Rolls-Royce” of lamb. That’s because the meat from this cut of lamb is incredibly tender and full of flavor. Rack of lamb also looks impressive – especially when the racks are “Frenched,” which simply means that the meat and fat is trimmed off the ends of the ribs.
A rack of lamb typically contains eight individual chops. You should allow for two to three chops per person, so one rack of lamb will serve two to three people and two racks of lamb will serve five to six people.
Rack of lamb is not inexpensive. You can expect to pay $20 a pound for imported rack of lamb and closer to $30 a pound for domestic rack of lamb. See this post on How to Shop for and Cook Lamb to understand why imported lamb is cheaper than American lamb. So, yes, rack of lamb is likely more for a special occasion than for a weeknight dinner, but for that special occasion, rack of lamb is well worth the price tag.
How Do You Cook It?
If you are going to spend $20 or even $30 a pound for rack of lamb, you definitely want to feel confident cooking it. Luckily, rack of lamb is a forgiving cut of meat that is easy to cook. The key is not to overcook it. You want beautifully pink, medium-rare lamb chops that are tender and juicy.
To take the anxiety out of cooking rack of lamb, I highly recommend investing in an instant-read meat thermometer (like this one), if you don’t already own one. You want to cook the meat until the internal temperature is between 125 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare. The meat will continue to cook from the residual heat once it is removed from the oven and resting, so you end up with perfect medium-rare lamb.
You can cook rack of lamb in the oven, on the stovetop, or even on the grill.
Oven-roasting is by far the most hands-off method and is practically fool-proof. Twenty to twenty-five minutes in a hot, 450-degree Fahrenheit oven is all you need for a tender, juicy rack of lamb. For extra flavor, prior to roasting, you can season the rack of lamb with herbs or spices, or even coat it with a crust of herbs and bread crumbs, as I do here.
Because rack of lamb is relatively small, you can also pan-sear it on the stove like you would a steak. This technique works for one or at most two racks of lamb because you do not want to crowd the skillet. To cook rack of lamb on the stovetop, heat a few tablespoons of a neutral oil with a high smoking point, such as canola or sunflower, in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
Place the rack of lamb fat-side down in the hot skillet and sear until nicely browned. Turn the racks over and brown the underside. Keep cooking the lamb, adjusting the heat and turning the racks occasionally until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lastly, if the weather permits, you can also grill rack of lamb. For this technique, cover the tips of the bones with foil so that they do not char. Heat the grill over high heat and grill the racks of lamb fat side down for 7 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
However you cook your rack of lamb, allow it to rest for five to ten minutes prior to carving. You may want to bring the racks of lamb to the table whole because they look so impressive. You deserve all the oohs and ahs you will get! Once you have wowed your guests, it is very easy, with a sharp carving knife, to carve the racks into single or double chops for serving.Print
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
- 1 cup dry, unseasoned bread crumbs such as panko
- 1 cup flat-leaf or Italian parsley leaves, lightly packed
- 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 and ½ lbs. Frenched racks of lamb
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- To make the garlic-herb crust, place the garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, rosemary, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor and process a few times.
- With the motor running, pour in the olive oil and process until the ingredients form a paste. Set aside.
- At least one hour before cooking, season the racks of lamb on both sides with the salt and pepper.
- Spread the herb mixture over the top side of the racks, that is, the side with the fat.
- Place the racks of lamb on a baking sheet and refrigerate until needed.*
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Just before cooking, drizzle the top of the racks of lamb with a little more olive oil.
- Roast the racks of lamb for 20 to 25 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches between 125 and 130°F.
- Allow the lamb to rest for five minutes before carving into single or double chops for serving.
- Serve immediately.
*May be prepared up to one day in advance.