Quick, elegant and springlike—pan seared lamb chops are topped with a bright, buttery sauce with capers, sage and lemon zest. Recipe below.
The mishmash of pots and pans in our kitchen reflects our eclectic approach to cooking. It’s a mix of old and new, cool and utilitarian, from our cherished and recently retinned French copper pots to our Staub enameled cast iron La Cocotte (also French, also cherished), a workhorse of a lidded sauté pan that sees almost daily use and a rotating supply of cheap nonstick skillets that we replace every couple of years as they wear out.
Until recently, though, it hadn’t included a stainless steel pan. I’m not talking about the cheap, paper thin sets bought as your first away-from-home cookware, designed specifically to scorch everything and dissuade even the hardiest soul from cooking ever again. I’m talking All-Clad.
Yeah, the gleaming stainless steel cookware with a satisfying heft that you see on cooking shows and ogle in department stores and specialty shops. It’s prized by professional chefs and serious home cooks alike for its exceptional heat conductivity, even cooking and durability. So when All-Clad asked if I’d like to try out a 10-inch stainless fry pan and write about it, I said, “You bet!”
All-Clad Metalcrafters didn’t start out making cookware. Born in 1960 in the heart of Pennsylvania steel country, the company specialized in formulating bonded metals for a variety of industries. Founder John Ulam had discovered that cladding dissimilar metals in the proper formulations delivered properties that no individual metal could achieve. In 1971, he started manufacturing professional-quality cookware that took advantage of this fact.
All-Clad’s stainless steel cookware is made of three layers of bonded metal—aluminum, known for its superior heat conductivity, sandwiched between a base of magnetic grade induction stainless steel and the cooking surface, 18/10 stainless, for resistance to staining and corrosion. And it’s still made in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, from steel produced in a mill on the factory grounds.
But how does it cook? I had read and heard glowing reports about cooking with stainless steel pans before, but I was wary. Suspected carcinogens be damned, I’m a huge fan of nonstick pans. Cooking with our various non-nonstick French cookware and assorted other pots and pans devoid of the reassuring slippery inner surface, I’ve gotten over it somewhat. But for day-to-day cooking, I’m still most likely to grab a nonstick pan.
The thing that nonstick doesn’t do well, though, is put a nice char on a piece of meat. Stainless is known for doing this beautifully. So the first thing I cooked was steaks. A boneless bison sirloin, to be exact, a little under a pound and cut into two servings before cooking.
But first, I read the helpful instruction booklet that came with the skillet (my male readers are hanging their heads at the shame I’ve brought on my gender, I know—I also ask for directions on road trips). Because their pans conduct heat so efficiently, All-Clad recommends using only medium or low heat, even when pan searing meat. And you only need enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan—less than a tablespoon for the 10-inch skillet. This is another thing stainless does beautifully, by the way. In nonstick pans, cooking oils tend to bead up rather than coating evenly.
I let the pan get good and hot before adding the oil, then cooked the seasoned steaks for about 4 minutes per side, undisturbed. The meat released easily—I think I even grabbed the steaks with tongs to flip them, not needing a spatula to loosen them. The steaks were beautifully charred on the outside and a juicy, tender medium rare inside. Perfect!
Clean-up was easy too, although when I wiped the cooled pan with a paper towel to get rid of the excess cooking oil and the browned bits didn’t budge, I didn’t think it would be. I ran a little soapy warm water in the pan and let it sit while I did other dishes. When it was the pan’s turn, it cleaned up easily with a dish cloth and a little scrubbing with a nylon scrubbing pad. If things get stubborn, All-Clad recommends using a nonabrasive, non-chlorine cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend.
But you’re here for the lamb chops. Spring always gets me thinking about cooking lamb. I mean more than summer, fall and winter do. Lamb chops lend themselves beautifully to quick cooking in general and pan searing in particular. To add to the springlike quality, I thought of the lemon caper butter sauce I often make to serve over fish. The brightness of the lemon and capers play beautifully against the richness of the butter and the lamb. To create a little more depth, I added fresh sage. I cooked this a few times, to get it just right (one big adjustment was learning to take All-Clad seriously about keeping the flame no higher than medium).
Oh, and one more thing. This recipe is actually my entry in an All-Clad contest. Voting is now opened! Please vote for me here, now through May 4. I promise, I’ll never ask you for another thing.
Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Lemon Caper Sage Butter
4 lamb loin chops, about 1-1/2-inch thick
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
1 generous tablespoon capers, drained but not rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 generous tablespoon chopped fresh sage
zest of 1/2 lemon
Half an hour before you’re ready to cook the lamb chops, remove from fridge and let them sit at room temperature. When ready to cook, pat chops dry with a paper towel. Brush them with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
Heat skillet. If using an All-Clad stainless skillet, heat over medium flame. For other skillets, use medium-high flame. When pan is hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add chops to pan and cook undisturbed until nicely browned on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn and cook undisturbed on other side, 3 to 4 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to plate and tent with foil.
Meanwhile, make sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add capers and cook until just heated through, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and sage.
Transfer chops to individual dinner plates, 2 per serving. Spoon lemon caper sage butter over chops, sprinkle with lemon zest and serve.