The older I get the less complicated I need things to be. Mindy will howl when she reads this. I do things the hard way, she used to say. Said my motto was “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing.” She hasn’t said that in a while, so maybe I’m getting better. Shopping for electric log splitters sounds like I might be.
On the grill I am definitely streamlining. If you used to read The Fire Zone, my weekly grilling column in the Tennessean, you might remember some of the things that went on the grill in the name of a good column. Sausage-stuffed heads of cabbage, heads of romaine for grilled salad, whole chestnuts around the holidays, and a batch of Chex mix once. Went through a pretty big chimichurri phase following a so-so experience at a “Brazilian” steak house.
For me, grilled lamb chops are simpler than ever now. No vinaigrette marinade, no mustard paste brushed on at the end. Salt, pepper, a little oil, one eye on the fire and the other on the internal temperature. A few thoughts on how to make great grilled lamb chops, the easy way.
1. Unwrap the chops and wipe off any blood or moisture with a paper towel. Set them on a platter.
2. Season all sides of the chops with Kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.
3. Rub all sides of the chops with a little vegetable oil, nothing fancy. The goal is to prevent any meat surface from sticking to the grill and tearing when turning with tongs.
4. I like a medium-high heat for quick-cooking cuts like chops and steaks. Too fiery and things burn before they cook through. I use a well-oiled rectangular cast iron grate on top of the grill grate. Dunk a paper towel into a little cup of oil and generously rub oil into the grate every time. The smaller grate lets you quickly pull the meat off the heat if things get too hot. Control is good in a hot situation. The Barbecue Grill Grate from Lodge is a good one and I have three. Nothing over-doing about that.
5. Another reason for a medium-high fire is that all meats need to be left alone for 4 or 5 minutes before they’re turned or moved with tongs or the surface of the meat will stick and tear. So, place meat on the grill carefully, once, and don’t touch it. And if, when you try to lift a cut and it resists, leave it a little longer, unless it’s charring too quickly. The removable/movable grate-on-the-grill trick is a meat-saver when this happens, and it does.
6. The many flat sides of double-cut lamb chops let you flip them on all sides. Once seared flip them all you want for maximum (even) exposure to the heat and a handsome char. When an instant-read thermometer stuck into the center of the thickest part and not touching bone says 125-130°F, I take them off for a nice medium-rare pink.
7. The mushrooms were a last minute idea. Grill them along with the chops. Skip the mess of coating them with oil and toss them on as-is. After the ribs have cooked a while, grab each mushroom by the stem and rub the top against the chops to pick up a little meat fat and a nice sheen.
If you’re a fire pit fanatic and are fortunate enough to have a rectangular-shaped one that handily holds a cooking grate, the cast iron grate is a fantastic and sturdy cooking surface over fire.