Grilling and smoking lamb chops with rosemary and hickory smoke
There’s not much that can top some fresh young lamb for the grill. In this recipe we’ll pair it with some hickory and rosemary smoke, raw spring onions finely chopped and a delicious mint oil to go with your preferred side. Let’s roll!
What you need (to serve 4):
2 racks of young lamb (3 if they’re small, and small is good here)
A fistful of fresh rosemary
A fistful of hickory wood chips
6-8 spring onions
A cup of good olive oil of the extra virgin variety
A fistful of fresh mint
A Thermapen or similar instant-read thermometer is very useful for this one
How to make the mint oil (can be made a few days ahead, and should at least be made the night before for max flavor):
Finely chop the fresh mint
Combine with a pinch of good sea salt and about a cup of quality olive oil in a mortar, and crush away
Pour into a jar and leave it in the fridge overnight or for a couple days to let the oil take the flavor
How to grill the lamb:
Get your firestarter going, fill it up to the top with coals. For this you want the 50/50 setup so you can sear the chops on one side of the grill, and then move them over to the other side for finishing
Once your grill is nice and hot, might be a good time to dump some yams on there for a side dish, my recipe for ember-roasted yams is great with the mint oil.
Slice a nice little diamond pattern in the fatty parts of the rack, making sure not to slice into the meat. This is to help the fat render, and to help with the crispiness of the skin. Important!
Cut your lamb racks into “chops” in the order of two bones on each. Doing one boned chops is possible, but you’re going to need your grill to get REALLY hot to pull that off – so let’s go with two. It’s a handy compromise
Season the chops with salt & pepper
Once your yams (if youre doing those) are done and out of the way, get the grill real hot (you want the grate to be so hot it whitens for this one), and chuck in the rosemary and hickory chips right on the coals.
The smoke will start fairly instantly, so get your chops on there (I usually do fatty side down first), and put the lid on for about a minute. Repeat for all sides so you get a good sear all round.
When you’re done searing, move the chops to the “cold side” of the grill, and take their temp. Continue to do so until they’re all done (I usually go with 56C/132F, nice and pink in the middle, tastes great!)
Give the chops a five minute rest while you finely chop some spring onion
Serve on warm plates, with abovementioned yams sprinkled with mint oil and spring onion
I live in Norway, where the selection of grills and accessories is pretty scarce, so I have some good ideas and experiences when it comes to how to make do with a pretty simple setup. Here’s my opinion on what you need to get started doing real low & slow BBQ.
In Norway, gas grills are increasingly popular. I have one myself, but it’s been standing unused on the patio since I got my Weber kettle last year. I don’t recommend anyone to get a gas grill if they plan to do some slow-cooking at low temperatures. If you must have a gas grill for this, get an expensive one that has a separate burner for a smoke chamber. On the regular gas grills, making smoke usually means keeping at least one burner on half or full, which means it will get too hot in the grill for doing things like pork butt.
There’s actually a lot of stuff you can do with this very basic type of grill. As long as you have a lid, some valves for temperature adjustment and some creativity and DIY skills, you can do all sorts of fun stuff with a basic Weber kettle or similar. And they’re fairly cheap, last long, and have spare parts readily available. All in all the best place to start. It can do direct grilling, indirect grilling. I even make 12-16 hour pork butts and beef ribs on my Weber kettle with nothing but briquettes and smoke wood, and a steel pan from Ikea full of water to help me keep a steady temperature. Using this setup I’ve managed to keep a steady temp of 100-110 degrees centigrade (210-230F) for many, many hours. It takes some effort, practice and skill, but that’s also what makes the food taste extra good when it’s done, isn’t it?
Based on my experience, here are my recommendations for a good, cheap and versatile setup that will bring you years of BBQ joy:
Standard Weber kettle, 22-inch (best size for availability of various accessories)
Chimney starter (never use chemical firestarters again, I use newspaper soaked in some food oil, and it will light charcoal and briquettes easily)
Water source or fire extinguisher (safety is always important)
Some good grilling gloves, I use leather builder’s gloves from the local hardware store, they’re cheap so I just replace them when they get too dirty
A good pair of long tongs and a nice flat spatula with some surface area
A cheap, basic digital, probe thermometer for larger cuts of meat like pork butt or roasts
A hinged fish basket, preferrably one with a detachable handle so you can leave it on the kettle and still get the lid on properly. If you don’t find one with a detachable handle, get out your dremel or some other metal-cutting power tool, and make one without a handle. You can use your tongs and/or gloves to flip it.