Pesto’d Lamb Chops


The thing that I learned about meat a long time ago, is that you have to cook it properly. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Whether it’s grilling a steak, roasting a pork loin, or braising a rabbit, it’s all about cooking the meat properly. It doesn’t matter if you’re adding a sauce to the steak, roasting the pork with sweet potatoes, or braising the rabbit in tomatoes. It’s all about cooking the meat properly.

Now to most of you this might seem like a simpleton statement, but many years ago, it was an epiphany to me.

When I first started cooking a lot, which was when I got married, we couldn’t afford most “fancy” meats, unless it was a special occasion, so I was very used to braises and stews, even if these were globally inspired, such as Ethiopian Doro Wat with chicken, and French Boeuf Bourguignon with beef.

As our financial situation improved, I was able to buy steaks more often, which is my husband’s favorite cut of beef. Such a man thing. But I got to play around with other cuts as well.

Because I hadn’t had much experience with just cooking meat, I bought a few meat cookbooks. And the books really taught me nothing. Why? Because the recipes were all about the icing – a red wine sauce for a veal chop, or a salsa to top a chicken breast, or an orange glaze for duck breasts. No matter what the accessory ingredients were in the recipes, the meat was always cooked the same. For example:

4 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

4 duck breasts
Salt and pepper

4 – 1″ thick filet mignons
Salt and pepper

Pork chops
Salt and pepper

See what I mean? I really hadn’t thought much about this fact until after I read the meat cookbooks, and I really haven’t referred to them since. As long as you know how to properly cook cuts of meat, the rest is easy.

To me, it’s mostly about the rareness of the meat. I prefer my beef at 125 degrees, or medium-rare. The same with lamb. Both chicken and pork I stop cooking at 155 degrees. A thermometer is a good way to cook meat properly, or to your liking, until you get to the point where you can tell the doneness with your tongs.

So the doneness is quite important when cooking meat, and also the seasoning. There’s always salt and pepper, but of course, other spices and herbs can be used as well. But there’s always salt and pepper. Look at any meat chapter if you don’t believe me. No, don’t. I could be wrong…

Regarding salt and pepper, some chefs believe in adding them after the meat is cooked, mostly, if I understand correctly, so that the pepper doesn’t burn. I do a little of both, but I definitely don’t meat in dried herbs before searing them. They would burn.

So I’ve been craving lamb, and lo and behold my local grocery store had loin chops on the shelf today. Not my favorite cut, but I knew I could manage. And here’s my recipe:

5 loin lamb chops, approximately 3/4″ thick
Salt and pepper

Olive oil
Prepared pesto

Bring the lamb chops close to room temperature before cooking. If you prefer well done meat, then this step isn’t as critical.

Add a little oil to a large skillet over high heat. For a good sear on meat, the oil must be sizzling hot. Also have your ventilation system on.

Pat the chops dry, and season with the salt and pepper, if you believe in doing that.
Add the chops to the skillet, only about 2-3 at a time.

After a couple of minutes, turn them over and brown the other side.

As with steaks, there are two ways to go about finishing the chops. Because these lamb chops are fairly thin, they could easily have been cooked only in the skillet, lowering the heat after turning the chops over, and cooking until medium-rare, or your preferred doneness.

However, chops and steaks can also be placed in an oven and finished off at 350 or 400 degrees. This works especially well with thicker steaks and chops.

There’s nothing quite as delicious as a lamb chop simply seasoned with salt and pepper, but I wanted to serve myself these lamb chops topped with pesto* (no one else around here eats lamb). So I chose to sear the chops, then put them all back in the skillet, off of the stove. Then I topped the chops with pesto.
I turned on my broiler, but my rack was at the middle level, not at the very top. When the broiler was ready, I placed the skillet in the oven. Within about 4 minutes, the pesto was melted, and the chops had cooked a little more through.

I served the chops with a sweet potato mash and Brussels sprouts.

It’s not pictured, but I later took some of the oil and jus from the skillet and poured it all over the Brussels sprouts.


* My pesto does not contain cheese, because I make so many jars of pesto during the summer months and freeze them. So it’s quite condensed. But pesto that contains Parmesan would work just the same. You could always grate Parmesan over the top when you serve the chops.

note: Pesto is also good on chicken breasts and pork. Of course, we’re kind of addicted to pesto in this household.

20 thoughts on “Pesto’d Lamb Chops

  1. Lamb and pesto sounds like a lovely combination. And you’re so right about cooking the meat well being the key to any meat dish but it can take some practice to get cooking things like steaks and these lamb chops right. Yours looks perfect! :)

  2. This is so true! Great post! Meat is my nemesis. I once seriously overlooked a wagyu steak so much it was inedible. Such as $$$$ waste. A digital meat thermometer has really helped me to understand doneness

    • I’ve finally convinced my husband to use a thermometer when he grills, and he checks the temperature every minute or so, poking, poking, poking. Drives me crazy! But yes, they’re a lifesaver!

  3. I have the meat probe. It guarantees precise results every time. But I prefer to cook by sight and ‘feel’. I usually get it right and I believe one’s skill in being just able to tell when it’s done is honed by this approach.

    Lovely chops BTW.


  4. I love using pesto to spice up meat dishes a bit. For my fiancé that is, since I don’t eat meat. But he seems to approve of the combo so I just keep doing it :-) I might try this recipe some day.

  5. Hi Mimi, have just discovered your blog. Love your words about using cheaper cuts of meat. Lamb and pork shoulder are my preferred cuts for slow roasting. It’s spring here in Melbourne Australia and I might just be able to pick enough basil for your pesto sauce. Lamb and sweet potato is one of my favorite combinations. Happy Thanksgiving from Downunder.

  6. Yeah, yeah us too. Do you realise there was a time in the dark ages (pre 1970) in both America and Australia when basil was a rare exotic ingredient……thanks to all those Italian immigrants for shaking it up… that’s something to really be thankful for!

  7. I have to admit, before I started experimenting with actual cooking after I retired, my repertoire was just what you mentioned – meat/salt/pepper. Seems like I never had time to think of throwing anything else on top. Now lamb is another thing my husband says that he doesn’t like so I’ve never made it myself. I’d like to give it a try & disguise it then tell him that it’s a pork chop of something but I’m never sure of what cut of lamb to buy. Are chops a good option to start with experimentation?

    • I definitely think a lamb chop would be the best choice. or you could make a lamb burger, or like muglai kabobs, using half lamb and beef, like I did (my husband never knew). Otherwise, you’re stuck with a whole leg of lamb. At least at my store. The muglai kabobs are on my blog, but there are many recipes available. Just like burgers but they’re formed on skewers. sorry, you might know all of this already!

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