Lamb chops are cuts of lamb which are made by cutting at an angle perpendicular to the spine, generating a single serving of meat which is traditionally cooked and served with the bone in. Parts of the ribs and vertebrae are usually present in lamb chops, depending on the region of the lamb the chops are cut from. This meat chop is a common offering in the spring, when lambs are plentiful, although year-round demand for lamb has led some farmers to breed their sheep on a staggered schedule to ensure that this tender, flavorful meat is available consistently.
A lamb is a domestic sheep under one year of age. Lamb meat is very tender, due to the young age of the animal, and it has a very distinctive flavor which lacks the gaminess of meat from older sheep. Many cultures around the Mediterranean and Middle East have a tradition of eating lamb, and lambs were once associated with ritual sacrifice in this region of the world.
The best chops come from the loin, rib, and sirloin. These lamb chops are tender, easy to cook, and evenly textured. Lesser cuts come from the shoulder or leg, and generally require more work. In all cases, high-quality lamb chops are light red, with an even distribution of fat and finely textured meat. While marbling in lamb isn’t the holy grail that it is in beef, unevenly distributed fat generally results in an inferior flavor.
There are a number of ways to prepare lamb chops. They can be baked, broiled, grilled, or cooked on the stovetop, and they can be seasoned with a variety of herbs, marinades, and sauces. Lamb chops usually cook quickly, because they are thin, and if they are cooked to a medium or rare temperature, they are juicy, tender, and moist. Well-done lamb tends to be a bit dry, and it can become stringy. For safety, lamb chops should be cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius).
Dry rubs such as herb or spice rubs often work very well for lamb, and some cooks like to use a dry rub to create a crust, sealing in the juices from the meat and yielding a more tender, flavorful finished dish. If you marinate lamb before cooking, be aware that acidic marinades break down the meat, and can yield a mushy end product if the lamb is marinated too long.