Rack of Lamb



If you’re short on time, a rack of lamb is a great choice for dinner. Just rub the lamb with a blend of your favorite flavorful ingredients—garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt—and put it in the oven. It cooks in less than 30 minutes, it’s the most tender piece of meat and it’s very easy to carve—there’s nothing to it. None of your guests will realize that this impressive main course required so little work. F&W's guide includes delicious recipes and wine-pairing suggestions for your next meal.

Most Recent

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Demi-Glace Butter

A thick paste of garlic, shallots, and herbs infuses this lamb with bold flavor; marinate overnight for best results. Don’t skip the Demi-Butter and the Balsamic Glaze; both recipes come together quickly, can be made ahead, and add game-changing flavor to this epic summer feast.
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Crispy Grilled Lamb Pitas with Radish-Watercress Salad

With the weather warming up, I’ve found myself dusting off the grill and doing more outdoor cooking. And I’m reminded of the magic that happens when smoke and char make their indelible mark on my food. I simply love unsubtle flavors—which are at the core of this hearty spring recipe that combines the meaty-oily richness of lamb, the pungent kick of garlic, the kiss of fire from the grill, and the peppery bite of radishes and watercress. First things first, the lamb-stuffed pitas—based on the Middle Eastern dish arayes—were a runaway hit with my family. And that’s because of the lamb. It’s seasoned with a good amount of za’atar (my brother-in-law brought me a 2-pound bag of it from Jordan!), parsley, onion, and garlic, so it ends up with a flavor akin to both gyro meat and kofta. Soft pitas are each split into two rounds, spread with the spiced ground lamb mixture, reassembled, and grilled. As they spend time over the coals, the meat juices soak into the bread and then crisp up in the most irresistible way. If you’re not a big fan of lamb, you can use ground beef instead—but choose grass-fed beef so that it has a richer, gamier flavor that will stand up to the seasonings. I serve these pitas with a sauce of tahini, lemon juice, and raw garlic. Even though the sandwiches have plenty of flavor on their own, they get even better when adorned with a creamy sauce. One quick tip: Don’t worry if the tahini seizes up when you first start to stir in the liquid. This happens because tahini, made from ground sesame seeds, is carbohydrate-rich. Adding liquid to it is almost akin to adding liquid to flour in that the carbohydrate holds onto the liquid. But when you add a little more liquid, it all thins and smooths out. If you need a little more liquid to get your sauce to the right consistency, just keep adding water a teaspoon at a time. The robust, fatty lamb needs a fresh, zippy counterpoint, so I serve the pitas with a salad featuring my all-time-favorite spring ingredient: radishes. I used three types: watermelon radishes for their gorgeous magenta hue, green daikon for softer color but more pungent bite, and cherry radishes for their crisp, juicy texture. This trio gets tangled in a pile of also-peppery watercress and dressed with the simplest combo of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. That way, the flavors of the main salad ingredients are the star—just given a little bit of bright embellishment.
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Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Shallots and White Wine

Pre-salting the lamb (the longer the better) will deepen its flavor and increase moisture and tenderness in the meat. Afterward, a simple sear then braise renders fork-tender shreds of meat. A spoonful of garlicky gremolata heightens those long-cooked flavors.
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Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine with Apricots

The natural juices from the lamb and onion create steam that bastes the meat as it cooks over a low flame. The gentle heat ensures that the environment inside the tagine remains moist and does not dry out or burn. Savory lamb, salty olives, and ras el hanout (a North African spice blend of coriander, cumin, and warming spices) are balanced by sweet butternut squash, apricots, and a touch of honey.
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Pan-Seared Lamb Steaks with Anchovy Butter

When I'm looking to put on the Ritz for a fancy dinner party, I often center the menu around a majestic lamb roast, either a whole bone-in leg of lamb or a rolled-and-stuffed shoulder. But when I crave lamb on a weeknight, it's lamb steaks all the way. Depending on where you shop, lamb steaks can be harder to find than other cuts, but their tender meatiness makes them worth seeking out. The best cuts for quick-cooking are sirloin and leg steaks (the sirloin, basically the upper leg or hip portion, will be boneless, while leg steaks contain a single round bone). The ideal thickness for lamb steaks is 3/4 to 1 inch, but thicker steaks are no problem, especially boneless sirloin ones. Just butterfly them by cutting the steaks almost in half horizontally and folding the meat open like a book to make thinner, quicker-cooking steaks. If the steaks have a thick cushion of fat around the edges, trim it down to a modest 1/4 inch, and, to keep leg steaks from curling during cooking, make shallow incisions every couple of inches around the perimeter to break up the membrane that will shrink and buckle in a hot skillet. Much of the excellence of lamb steaks comes from their natural tenderness, but if there's time, pre-seasoning the meat (anywhere from 1 to 8 hours ahead) will further enhance the texture and flavor. I keep the seasoning simple to allow the sweetness of the lamb shine through, but I do kick things up at the finish by slathering the hot steaks with a lusty anchovy butter. The flavored butter takes advantage of two things I learned about lamb long ago: lamb loves butter, and lamb loves anchovies. There's some magical alchemy that happens when the meaty lamb juices blend with the richness of the butter and the funky brine of the anchovy. A bit of fresh lemon zest and parsley provides the perfect counterpoint. Lamb steaks are best cooked to medium-rare, or medium, if you prefer; the most effective way to get it right is to brush the surface with olive oil and sear the steaks in a hot skillet or grill pan (cast iron works well). Once the surface develops a handsome crust, lower the heat and continue cooking until they reach the desired internal temperature (125°F to 130°F for medium-rare and 135°F to 140°F for medium). Transfer the steaks to plates or a carving board and immediately smear the tops with the flavored butter (the heat of the steaks melts the butter into an instant sauce), and let the steaks rest for 3 to 5 minutes before cutting into them. Of course, if it's grilling weather (or you’re one of those intrepid cooks who likes to grill no matter the forecast), by all means, cook them outdoors. A slight kiss of smoke will only make them better.
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Campfire Lamb Peka

Last summer, I had the good fortune to travel with my partner to Croatia. We spent two weeks traversing the coastline of Croatia, where, in a cinderblock cabin surrounded by olive trees outside the Istrian town of Pula, Croatia, we got a lesson in how to make Croatia’s most prized dish, peka. Peka is the name for both the bell-shaped, domed cooking vessel made of cast iron and the meal that is prepared in it. The process for making peka is ancient and involves placing the pan over a bed of glowing coal embers and scooping more embers on top of the domed lid to create an oven-like environment where meats or seafood and vegetables are slow-roasted inside. Our teacher was Nikola of Eat Istria, and our day began at the market in Pula, where Nikola led me and my partner from stall to stall to collect ingredients. We were asked if we preferred lamb necks or veal chops. Perhaps octopus? We chose lamb, and that meant a stop at the vegetable stand for potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic to accompany. At the cabin, we prepped the ingredients with minimal fuss, roughly cutting the carrots and onions, leaving the potatoes and garlic cloves whole, and layering them in the base of the dish with the lamb on top so the fat and juices would baste them throughout cooking. We plucked needles from a handful of rosemary sprigs snipped from the yard and doused the whole thing in white wine and a luxurious amount of extra-virgin olive oil that created a heady sauce of sorts in the bottom of the dish. As Nikola built a campfire on the side of a stone wall, he explained that we would wait for the fire to die down and then surround the peka with the residual ashy embers. These small chunks of coal produce just the right amount of heat to slowly cook the meal over the course of an hour or two. Once the embers were ready, we carried the weighty peka from the kitchen to the bed of coals and opened some local wines to while away the afternoon, patiently awaiting our one-pot feast. A waft of scented steam roared from the pot as Nikola lifted the dome to reveal the gloriously browned lamb necks. We peeked in and spied potatoes and carrots that were so dark in spots they were nearly burnt, but in a good way. The olive oil at the bottom was still bubbling and spitting as we gathered around the weathered wood table under a vine-covered pergola. Many of the homes we saw in Croatia had an outdoor fireplace for live-fire cooking—a centerpiece of the home, where meals are still made and families still gather. We spent the next few hours lingering at the table, talking about life in Croatia, politics, food—and most of all, wine. The large peninsula of Istria where our meal took place makes up Croatia’s northern coast; it is known for its gastronomic riches, including some of the best wines in the country. We tasted broody reds made from indigenous grapes like Teran, Refosco, and Borgonja and complex whites made from Malvasia. These regional varieties all matched perfectly with the meal, naturally, and we found the offerings from Piquentum particularly good. That experience inspired me to cook over a fire more often this past year. It makes me feel more connected to the elemental act of preparing food and sharing it with others, and it satisfies the soul the way no modern method can. For convenience, I’ve adapted this recipe to be prepared using a charcoal grill, as well as using your oven. But if you have the time, I encourage you to lean into tradition: build a fire, and settle in for a long, slow roast. It will be an experience neither you nor your guests will soon forget.
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More Rack of Lamb

Confit Lamb Shoulder with Polenta and Brussels Sprouts

Braising lamb shoulder in garlic-infused oil yields a super-tender, falling-off-the-bone bite of meat. Drizzle leftover braising oil on on each plate for a delicious garnish. If the polenta begins to clump as it sits, simply vigorously whisk it back to a smooth and creamy texture.
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Chermoula-Grilled Porterhouse Lamb Chops

Chermoula is a North African condiment with countless variations. This version is slightly smoky with a touch of heat and acid to complement the gamey flavors in lamb.
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Lamb Leg Steak With Pistachio Gremolata And Marsala Onions

At Tavernetta in Denver, Colorado, chef Ian Wortham’s tender and smoky grilled lamb steak—topped with a lemony pistachio gremolata, Cipollini onions caramelized in Marsala wine, and a garlicky caper dressing—is a stunning, mostly make-ahead main course. Wortham uses a cross-cut slice of leg, which he tenderizes with a Jaccard, a sharp-toothed butcher’s tool. (We love the easy-to-clean Bladed Meat Tenderizer from OXO, $20, amazon.com). Tender, but with the richness and flavor of a working muscle, Wortham says a lamb steak is one of the best cuts to cook in the summer, but he advises, “Be sure to thoroughly tenderize the steak, which will take four to five passes.”