You can’t beat smoked rack of lamb whether you are cooking for a holiday or just for the family.
It looks and tastes fancy but I’ll tell you a secret. You can prep this in about 45 minutes and everyone will think you spent all day!
In this recipe, I’ll show you how to prepare, season, and smoke an entire rack of lamb with a pistachio crust. This gives the lamb a nice crumbly crust with a lot of flavor and texture in every bite. Top it off with a drizzle of apricot and balsamic sauce which is only made with two ingredients!
Cooking a whole rack vs chops
Cooking a whole rack of lamb versus separating them into chops (or cutlets) is really a matter of preference and presentation. I chose to leave the rack whole so I smoke it for longer which gave the lamb a deeper, richer flavor.
Plus when you leave protein whole instead of cutting it into smaller portions, it really helps preserve the moisture resulting in a juicer, tastier bite.
If you are in a hurry, you could separate the rack into chops or ask your local butcher to do it for you. If you do go with that option, the cooking time is much faster as you are just grilling the chops for a couple of minutes on each side and then brushing on the glaze.
It’s a tasty option.
Can you get the gamey taste out of lamb?
Lamb gets a bad reputation because of the gamey aftertaste it can often have. Some people enjoy the taste but others can’t stand it.
I don’t mind it so much but when I cook for others I tend to let the lamb soak in buttermilk for 24 hours. The buttermilk helps neutralize the gamey flavor in the lamb and also tenderizes the meat. Make sure to rinse off your lamb if you are doing this step, pat dry and then move on to the next step.
I will say rack of lamb, especially from New Zealand or Australia does not seem to have the gamey taste.
I don’t want to offend any local producers though, so I’ll just say try and source whatever is local and from a high-quality producer.
What kind of wood is best for smoking lamb?
Lamb takes on smoke similar to fish or chicken. Avoid stronger woods such as hickory or mesquite which can easily overpower lamb. Fruit woods are great and even maple or alder wood is a good option.
For this recipe, I used cherry wood as I love the sweet smokey flavor it gives lamb and the color it produces on the meat.
As I always say, if you are finding that the smoke is overpowering the meat you are cooking, opt for wood chips instead or even try it on a pellet smoker to get a more subtle flavor of smoke.
How to make smoked rack of lamb
1. Make the lamb rub
To make this lamb dish we need to first prepare the homemade rub. It is really simple.
Into a dish combine 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder and 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika.
Mix the dry rub together and then sprinkle it onto the lamb until it is evenly coated on both sides. If you are having trouble with the rub sticking to the meat, you can coat the lamb in a little olive oil first to act as a binder.
2. Sear the lamb
Heat up a large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the cast iron pan starts smoking, you know it’s hot enough to sear.
Sear the lamb on the meat side down for a few minutes and once it has browned flip it over and sear the other side.
Doing this before applying the pistachio breading will give the lamb some extra flavor and you deserve that!
Remove the lamb off the heat and set aside while you make your pistachio and bread crumb mixture.
3. Make the pistachio and bread crumb mix
Combine ½ cup of shelled pistachios, ¼ cup of bread crumbs, two tablespoons of melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then blend together everything in a food processor.
Don’t blend the pistachios too finely. You want it to be more of a coarse blend as it will give you a nice thick crust.
If the mix is too dry add a little more olive oil. You don’t want it very wet though, just moistened enough with the olive oil and melted butter that everything blends together without separating.
Next, take some dijon mustard and rub it on the meat side of the lamb. This will act as a binder for the pistachio breading as well as give the lamb some more flavor.
Evenly coat the lamb with the breading mixture making sure to cover the entire front side and bottom. You do not need to coat the back of the lamb where the bones are. Because there is little meat on the back it will be hard to get anything to stick anyways.
4. Fire up the smoker to 275°F
You want to smoke with a mild wood. I used cherry as I love the sweet smokey flavor it gives the lamb.
I smoked this on my Large Big Green Egg but any smoker will do fine.
Once the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 130°F remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the apricot balsamic sauce.
5. Prepare the sauce
This sauce only has two ingredients! Apricot jam and balsamic vinegar. Just combine the two together in a saucepan, and warm up. It is a simple glaze but such a great compliment to the lamb.
6. Slice and serve
When you are ready to cut the lamb, I like to flip it over so I can see the back of the bones. That way I know where to cut with my knife and not run into a bone in the process. That will give you a more even slice.