This grilled lamb chops recipe, aka scottadito in Italian, is easy and succulent as can be. It relies on a simple marinade of harissa, lemon, garlic, and olive oil.
These grilled lamb chops helped us finally understand why “lamb chop” is oft used as a term of endearment. Another term of endearment used in this recipe is “scottadito.” According to the authors, it’s loosely translated in Rome “as “finger-blistering hot.” An allusion to the fact that no one can wait for the meat to cool before eating.” It’s a compliment, trust us. Something you’ll understand as soon as you try these. Just try not to mind as everyone devours the diminutive dinner in not-so-dainty fashion, eschewing forks and knives and using their fingers instead. –Renee Schettler
Grilled Lamb Chops FAQs
Can you eat lamb chops medium-rare?
Not only can your lamb be pink in the middle but, and we’ll never get tired of saying this, it’s actually better that way. Overcooking lamb will only result in a dried-out, less-than-tender, disappointing dinner.
Grilled Lamb Chops
- 2 cloves garlic minced to a paste
- 2 to 4 tablespoons harissa
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Two 8-rib racks of lamb frenched [See definition]
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 lemons quartered
- In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, harissa, olive oil, and lemon juice. Pour half the harissa mixture into a second bowl.
- Cut each rack of lamb in half into 4-rib pieces. (The lamb will be easier to cook plus everyone can have one or two crispy “end chops.”) Arrange the chops in a roasting pan and brush with the harissa sauce from one of the bowls. Discard any harissa sauce that remains in that bowl. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate for 4 hours.
- Prepare a medium-hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill. If using a gas grill, fire up the back burner to medium-hot heat. Grill the lamb in the center of the grill, moving it to a cooler spot if there are flare-ups. Turn the lamb as a brown crust develops. When the meat is browned all over, move it to the coolest spot on the grill to finish cooking, turning it occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 125°F (52°C) for medium-rare, about 25 minutes. The grilling time will vary depending on your grill and the heat.
- Move the lamb to a cutting board, loosely cover with foil, and let it rest briefly, something like 5 to 10 minutes or so.
- Cut the ribs into individual chops, pile them on a platter, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the remaining bowl of harissa sauce on the side along with some lemon wedges. (And yes, it’s okay to indelicately grab the lamb lollies with one’s fingers rather than struggle to use a knife and fork.) Originally published April 13, 2014.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This grilled lamb chops recipe will have you licking your fingers. I used a harissa paste I had on hand to make the marinade. The results were delicious. There was a wonderful charred coating, yet the meats were juicy. There was also a mild heat from the harissa, but the taste of each of the meats shone through.
My butcher frenched one 8-rib lamb rack, and I split it into 2 portions. I seasoned each generously with salt and pepper and bathed each of the split racks with 1/4 of the remaining marinade. I was unable to use our grill, so opted to use a cast iron grill pan to sear them and then I finished them off in a 375°F oven. We seared the lamb on all sides until there were distinct grill marks and the meat was developing a golden crust. This took about 10 minutes total.
I cooked the lamb for 10 minutes, fatty side down, and then flipped it over to finish for 10 more minutes to develop a deep color on the top. I allowed the racks to rest for 10 minutes before separating the ribs and piling them on a plate. I set out lemon wedges and divided the remaining marinade into 2 small bowls, to put with the lamb for dipping.
I am so glad I tried this grilled lamb chops recipe as it’s fantastic. While breaking down my chops into 4-rib portions, I realized that if I were to use this as a starter: 1. It wouldn’t feed more than 4; 2. The harissa would only get to a small portion of the middle sections; and 3. There wouldn’t be enough crispy “ends” to feed me, since that’s my favorite part.
So I cut them into 2-rib portions, which allowed me to add the harissa more evenly, cook them faster, and end up with lots of crispy bits. I seared and marked them on both sides over a very hot grill (it took about 1 minute per side) and then moved the chops to the cooler part of the grill for about 3 minutes per side. That brought the chops’ temperature up to 120°F. All the chops didn’t make it through the resting period, I lost one to tasting.
Once they rested for about 10 minutes, the temperature had risen to almost 130°F, but it was a nice, even pink all the way through, which I like better than the rare side of medium rare. I split the ribs into single chops and arranged them in a nice circle, alternating crispy side up with cut side up around a bowl of harissa. I didn’t have any harissa left over after the meal, as it had all been scooped up as people dipped their chops—and licked their fingers. We went through lots of napkins.
I’m loving the harissa. I cut each lamb chop separately for ease in cooking versus leaving them paired. I wasn’t sure how spicy they’d be after cooking. (I like to cry when I eat, so harissa is right up my alley.)
I put the sauce on the lamb chops and salted them about 4 hours before cooking. My grill was on medium-high in the back and medium-low in the front. I put the meat on the grill, peppered it, and turned on my timer for 10 minutes. I checked the chops after 6 minutes on the back of the grill and turned the meat to the front. I unloaded the grill at 10 minutes.
I couldn’t wait to try one, and didn’t let the grilled lamb chops rest at all. They were truly delicious. Actually, this is one of the best meat dishes I’ve made.
This is an easy grilled lamb chops recipe that yields a pile of “lamb lollipops” that are fun to pick up with your fingers and eat. It’s a fairly simple recipe, so the result is only going to be as good as the quality of the lamb that you buy.
After dividing the harissa mixture in half, I brushed half onto the chops to “marinate” them. We achieved medium-rare lamb after 25 minutes on the grill. However, I suggest going by temperature, not by timing alone. Our racks of lamb were quite meaty. That, and coals that were possibly not terribly hot, may well have been what took the meat so long to get to the medium-rare stage. However, they did develop a fabulous crust on the outside. If that’s what the longer cooking time does, I’m all for it.
I actually want to experiment, and cut the rack into 2-chop portions next time, to have even more of that caramelized outside crust. Piling the chops on a plate, sprinkling them with salt and pepper, and digging in with your fingers—and a napkin you won’t mind getting greasy—is the way to go. We did spoon some of the remaining sauce over the chops, but found that they didn’t need much. It took great restraint, but we did have save some chops for a special lunch the next day. The chops were wonderful, although the sauce had separated and had gotten quite oily. But the lamb was so delicious, this didn’t prove to be a problem.
Originally published April 14, 2014
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
When I saw this recipe, I knew it was going to be delicious. Grilled lamb chops with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and harissa, YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU! My family loved this dish, and they all gave it a 10 across the board!
The recipe is simple to assemble, even more so if you’ve already made the harissa ahead of time. If not, no worries, start marinating the lamb in the olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice, and then add the harissa when it’s ready.
We made the lamb chops as recommended—4 chops roasted together—although when I make this again, I’ll roast 2 lamb chops together at a time or maybe even single lamb chops so that there are more crispy end chops to enjoy.
We made these on a charcoal grill until they were medium (a temperature of 140°F), and they were done within 30 minutes. I served the lamb chops with pita bread warmed on the grill, salad, and hummus flavored with harissa. My teenager, who never eats hummus, tried the harissa version and liked it. WIN! I forgot to reserve some marinade for the sauce, so I made extra (just lemon juice, olive oil, and harissa) for passing and we used all of it. I love this recipe and will make it again.