If you're an omnivore, you're probably comfortable selecting different cuts of beef, chicken, and pork at the grocery store. Meats like chicken thighs, pork tenderloins, and sirloin tips are pretty straightforward and inexpensive, and most people know what to look for in terms of characteristics like marbling. When it comes to more expensive cuts that we don't buy as often, however, things get a little more murky. For instance, lamb chops can be pricey, and it's hard to know exactly what to buy if you're not sure what makes a good-quality cut. If you're out shopping for lamb chops, one important rule of thumb is to make sure you only buy chops that are at least an inch thick.
Lamb is a very delicate type of red meat, and the meat in the ribs and loin — where chops are cut from — doesn't have a lot of intramuscular fat, which is known as marbling. The lack of marbling makes it very easy to overcook lamb, which will result in tough, chewy chops. But if you make sure to always buy chops that are an inch thick, you'll have enough meat on the bone to sear both sides without overcooking the whole chop and wasting money on expensive meat.
Lamb Chop Types
Whether you're in the market for lamb chops for a special occasion or you just want something a little different for dinner tonight, the first thing to know about the tender bits is that there are two kinds of chops. If you're thinking of lamb chops with long rib bones attached, those are lamb rib chops. These are mostly sold as part of a full rack of lamb, but sometimes you can find them pre-cut in the grab-and-go coolers at bigger grocery stores. If not, the butcher at your grocery store will be happy to cut some rib chops for you by request.
The other style of lamb chops looks like tiny T-bone steaks with a slice of bone attached to the meat. These chops include both the loin and the tenderloin (which are two separate cuts), just like a steak — and these are simply known as lamb loin chops. Loin chops tend to be a little easier to find in the meat case than rib chops.
Rib chops will usually all be the same thickness because lambs are processed at around the same age and size, so the racks are fairly uniform in size. When the butcher cuts the ribs apart, they simply slice through the center of the meat between each rib bone. Loin chops, on the other hand, are cut with a meat saw, so they can be of any thickness. These are the chops you need to check for size.
Thicker Chops Are Easier To Cook To Temperature
Lamb chops that are less than an inch thick are difficult to cook properly because it takes at least five to six minutes to sear each side for a tasty, caramelized crust. Lamb cooks quickly, and every degree matters. Rare lamb chops will measure 115 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit; medium rare hits 125; medium is 130; and medium well is 145 degrees. With tiny cuts of meat, it's very easy to overcook things by 5 or 10 degrees in only a few minutes.
If you can't find thick enough lamb chops in the meat case, don't be shy about asking the butcher to cut you some thicker chops. Better yet, order them in advance by calling the store and asking for the meat department. Most butchers are happy to help you out with different cuts, especially if you approach them when the store isn't too busy.
When you get your chops home, be sure you have a working meat thermometer on hand before you start cooking. Once you have the meat on the heat, keep an eye on the time, and don't walk away from the stove or the grill when you're searing. If your cuts have the proper thickness, you should be able to get a nice brown crust on both sides of the meat without overcooking the center.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.