Pan frying is the perfect way to cook tender cuts of lamb. It leaves the meat with a crisp, brown outside and a tender, juicy centre, and is every cook's dream of the quick answer to a gourmet dinner.
For pan frying choose young, tender lamb from small animals. Larger, older lambs are better for slower cooking methods. Ask the butcher to cut the chops thickly. Thin chops are inclined to shrivel in the heat of the frying-pan and may also become hard, however tender the meat was when you started. Choose small cutlets from the best end of neck, slightly larger ones from the loin, or chump chops from the top of the leg, which are the meatiest of lamb chops. Lamb steaks are also cut from the leg — they are boneless and very lean.
Preparing lamb for frying
If the lamb has been frozen, make sure it is completely thawed before cooking. Meat can be cooked from frozen if you choose a slow method, but for quick cooking it is best if it is completely thawed. Otherwise the meat is inclined to go hard.
When you take the meat out of the refrigerator, wipe it dry with absorbent paper. Trim chops well, but leave a thin layer of fat round the meat to keep it moist. Season the meat well with pepper, then leave it to come to room temperature. Just before cooking, season it with salt. Noisettes of lamb (noisette is French for nut) are little round steaks, the equivalent of beef tournedos.
Pan frying lamb
Butter gives the best flavour for pan frying lamb, but add a little olive oil with the butter to prevent the butter burning. Alternatively, if you prefer to use less fat, use a little lamb fat. After you have trimmed the fat from the chops, spike this on a long fork, and wipe round the hot pan.
When the butter is melted and sizzling, or if you are using lamb fat, when the pan is thoroughly hot but not smoking, put the meat in the pan. Make sure the surface of the meat is flat against the pan and cook over high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Turn the meat with tongs or two wooden spoons, being careful not to puncture the meat as this will toughen it.
When the meat is well seared and brown, lower the heat to moderate and continue to cook until done to your taste, turning the meat once more. Use the chart as a guide to cooking times. If the lamb was marinated before cooking, blot it well with absorbent paper before frying and allow about 1 minute longer cooking on each side.