Cooking,  Food Preparation,  Lamb

What Is Rack of Lamb And Why Is It So Expensive?

If you have been looking for recipes or meal ideas to impress guests at a dinner party, you may have seen the popular ‘Rack of Lamb’ option. Although it is an relatively easy dish to make that looks and tastes fantastic, it does come with a hefty price tag.

So what is a Rack of Lamb and what makes it so expensive? The Rack of Lamb is prepared from the lamb rib section, between the shoulder and loin of the animal. Each rack can consist of 6, 7 or 8 ribs, depending on how it has be cut. The work involved to french trim the lamb racks, as well as the amount of trim weight removed, needs to be recovered with high pricing of the final prepared product.

Which Cut Is The Rack of Lamb?

The rack of lamb is located between the loin and middle neck/shoulder of the animal. Before it is separated and trimmed into the ‘rack’ this cut of meat is referred to as the ‘best end of neck’.

Prior To Trimming It Is Known As The ‘Best End of Neck’

How Many Ribs On A Rack of Lamb

Depending on how the butcher prepares the lamb, the rack could consist of 6, 7 or 8 ribs. Some butchers prefer to cut a short shoulder, and so leaving a larger (7/8 rib) rack, whereas some prefer to cut a longer shoulder resulting in a shorter rack. The most common is 7/8 ribs.

A Rack of Lamb can be cut 6, 7 or 8 ribs long depending on the butchering method.

You may also find that in certain butcher or meat markets, as well as on restaurant menus, you will see ‘mini racks’ being offered.

These mini racks are basically a rack of lamb that has been cut into 3 or 4 rib sections to provide a single serving portion.

A 3 Rib Mini Rack of Lamb Single Serving

How Many People Does A Rack of Lamb Serve?

As mentioned earlier, a rack of lamb usually consists of 6-8 ribs per rack.

If you were serving the lamb as a starter or as part of a multi coursed meal, then 2 ribs would be an adequate serving.

If you are serving the lamb as a main meal, then 3 ribs would suffice for a smaller appetite, and 4 ribs would suit a larger appetite.

In a restaurant, a 3 or 4 rib mini rack would be classed as a main meal portion.

Serving Tip

If your lamb rack is only 7 ribs, don’t worry you can still get equal serving portions. The space between each rib widens along the rack. Cutting the rack close to the 4th rib will leave as much meat on the 3 rib section as there is on the 4 rib section.

Cutting A 7 Rib Rack Close To The 4th Rib With Give Equal Meat Portions

What Is A ‘French Trimmed’ Rack of Lamb?

When a rack of lamb has been french trimmed or ‘frenched’, as it is sometimes referred, it will have had some or all of the excess fat removed, and the individual rib bones exposed and cleaned, down to the eye of the meat.

There are different level of french trim, and which you require will be down to your own personal preference, as well as the dish you are preparing.

Minimal French Trimming

If you are not looking to add a crusty coating to your rack of lamb, and prefer to have the full flavor of the meat and fat, minimal frenching will be the best option for you.

With this method, the butcher will only remove the meat and fat from between the individaul ribs, and will score the remaining fat that covers the eye of the meat, rather than removing it.

Minimal French Trim Exposes The Rib Bones But Leaves The Fat Covering In Place

Medium French Trimming

This method of trimming will see the butcher go one step further than the minimal trimming, and will remove much of the fat that covers the eye of the meat. However, not all of the fat is removed to allow flavor and natural basting to occur.

Because the fat has been removed from the eye of the meat, it allows you to apply rubs or toppings to form a crust, adding flavor and protecting the meat during cooking.

Medium French Trimming Exposes The Eye of The Meat But Also Retains Some of The Fat Covering

Fully French Trimmed

When all of the visible excess fat is removed from the bones and eye of the meat, you are left with just a long strip of lean meat and the ribs attached.

This is a fully frenched rack and is perfect for people who are doing a recipe that calls for adding a crust coating to the meat.

When cooking a fully trimmed rack, extra careful cooking is required to prevent overcooking and drying out the meat. For this reason, it is better to have this cooked rare / medium rare.

A Fully Frenched Rack is Just The Eye of The Meat With All Visible Fat Removed

Why Is Rack of Lamb So Expensive?

When the butcher cuts the best end of neck into lamb cutlet chops, the bone and fat is all intact and so a cheaper price can be offered as the meat will obviously weigh more.

As you can see from the previous references to the ‘french trimming’, there is quite a bit of work involved for the butcher to prepare a fully trimmed rack of lamb.

Coupled with the extra work involved, there is a large portion of the bone, fat and meat removed during the trimming. This trim can then only be used in cheaper cuts such as burger or sausage, or disposed of.

The butcher will need to compensate for his time and the loss of profit by charging a premium price for the finished product.

Lamb Cutlets are cheaper than the rack due to less work involved, and being sold with the bone and fat still attached.

How To Cook A Rack of Lamb

There are many recipes for serving this delicious cut of meat, and so how you wish to prepare it will be down to the kind of meal you wish to serve.

In all instances however, whether you have your rack of lamb fully trimmed of all fat, or leave the fat covering intact, you will want to sear the lamb in a hot pan to seal in the juices.

Once seared, you can either continue to cook the lamb in the same pan, or transfer it to the oven for roasting.

This is a delicate piece of meat, and is best served rare – medium for best flavor and tenderness.

Pan Searing Your Rack of Lamb Is Vital To Seal In The Natural Juices & Flavor

For more tips on cooking a rack of lamb visit : Great British Chefs

Other Dishes Made Using Rack of Lamb

As well as the traditional rack of lamb or mini racks, there are a couple of other impressive dishes that can be created using this cut of lamb. If you want to create a real ‘WOW’ factor at your next dinner party, you might want to consider one of these options!

Lamb Guard of Honor

A Guard of Honor (Guard of Honour) is created by interlinking two racks of lamb together between the ribs.

With the ribs interlinked, it creates a visual effect of swords crossed in a guard of honor.

The guard of honor is used as a table centrpiece and then carved into the individual chops at the table to give your dinner celebration that little extra flair.

Interlinking The Ribs of 2 Racks of Lamb to Create A Guard of Honor

Crown of Lamb

To create a crown of lamb, 2 french trimmed racks of lamb are tied together at one end. The untied ends are then brought together with the ribs facing outwards to create a cirle (crown), and these are tied together.

Usually the centre of the crown is filled with a stuffing mixture to serve alonside the lamb.

As with the Guard of Honor, the Crown of Lamb is displayed as a table centrepiece before being carved into individual cutlets at the table and served.

This is yet another impressive dinner table masterpiece that will be sure to impress your guests.

A Stuffed Crown of Lamb Makes A Truly Impressive Table Centrpiece

Although your butcher will be happy to create both of the following cuts for you, it is easy to make at home yourself. The added bonus is that you can sear the meat before joining the racks together.

All you need to do is purchase the 2 french trimmed racks and combine them together in the way that you prefer.

For a cheaper option, the same meals can be made using loin of pork. Check out our article about Pork Loin Here!