Cookware test drive: Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Lemon Caper Sage Butter

by Terry B on April 11, 2012

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
Serves 2

4 lamb loin chops, about 1-1/2-inch thick
olive oil
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.

randi April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I’m not here for the chops, I’m here for the pans! (don’t care for lamb)
I have one All-Clad skillet that my mom bought me for my birthday and I have to say it is my favourite pan. I prefer the non stick for eggs. I also have the Thermalon Rocks Green Pan which has a non stick surface yet I can’t cook eggs on it without a GENEROUS amount of fat in the pan.
My All-Clad is my go-to pan. Like you said the difference is really evident when cooking meat and an easy clean up. Caramelized vegetables always come out better in it.
I had the cheap stainless set when I first started out and scorching comes to mind when I think of them as well as visions of the pans sitting in the sink filled with warm soapy water waiting for scrubbing workout. Good riddance to them.
This cookware is a definite investment, well worth the money.

kitchenriffs April 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Nice zest on that picture. And nice recipe! You have a little bit of a piccata thing going, one of my favorite flavors.

I have a bunch of All-Clad, and they’re serious about not putting it on high heat — my big sauté pan has a permanently warped bottom (I managed to do this on a smooth top electric range, and the heat wasn’t even all that high). I like the frying pans a lot when I’m going to deglaze and make a sauce. But if I’m doing burgers or steak or something where I want char, I always use cast iron pans for that. Otherwise, I’m pretty fond of my nonstick stuff, although as you point out you do have to replace it. Oh, and do be sure to let us know when the contest opens so we can vote for you!

Terry B April 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Randi, thanks for the idea of caramelizing vegetables. So far I’ve only done meat (looking forward to seared scallops as well!).

And thank you, Kitchenriffs, for the tip on warping. Regarding cast iron, I’ve never had particular luck with them. And every time I think I should give them another try, I’m put off by the fact that they react to the acids in wine and tomatoes, two things I cook with a lot. I fear a cast iron pan would become one of those kitchen tools that sees little use and takes up too much space.

LaraChick April 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I’m here for the pans, too – I have a couple of All-Clad pans and didn’t know about not raising the heat under them! That’s probably why my pans are warped and stained. Grr – guess I should have read the instructions.

Let me warn you about something though – if you don’t use Bar Keepers Friend or Bon Ami, the finish on the pan will dull. It may damage the pan, I have no idea. But I never use soap on them – that stuff cleans amazingly well!

Terry B April 11, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for your tip too, LaraChick! We’re big fans of Bon Ami. With all the newfangled cleaning products out there, it’s getting harder to find. But it’s worth tracking down.

Normal Food April 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm

After reading this I really want some lamb! Sometimes it can seem so intimidating to cook – but after playing around with it for a little bit it is definitely worth some trial and error. I’m surprised that the pan helped it sear so easily on a medium flame. I’ll definitely be checking out their line.

Carol April 12, 2012 at 1:27 am

A few years ago my husband won a small contest, the prize money spent on a 14″ All Clad frying pan. Wow, what a difference, specially when sauteing veggies for a gang of six. My second favorite is a 10″ All Clad copper-bottomed frying pan which makes sublime fried eggs, oddly better than the regular All Clad.
Now, about the lamb: I broiled some great chops on Easter Sunday, the first time I’ve broiled since remodeling our kitchen without yet putting in the fume hood. Smokey. I never thought to FRY chops — ‘Can’t wait to try your lamb recipe!

Casey April 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Where is the link? I want to vote! And because I am from Chicago, I plan to vote several times…

Cynthia Fox-Giddens April 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Ah, your post is delicious :) I like the background on the cookware and remember my first set was the “away-from-home” type. This recipe is great and the photo shows the lamb chops well.

Terry B April 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I hope you do try some lamb, Normal Food! It’s really easy to cook, versatile and forgiving. And the flavor is both lighter and richer than beef. We cook lamb a lot at Blue Kitchen. Use the search function in the right sidebar and you’ll find loads of recipes.

Carol, All-Clad makes several styles of cookware, including their own nonstick line. Now that I’ve tried the 10-inch fry pan, I’m interested in a larger one for those bigger meals. And smoky kitchen or no, I’ll bet your chops were delicious!

Thanks, Casey! Vote early, vote often is the Chicago motto. As soon as I have a link, I’ll post it, here and on Twitter and Facebook. Might even take out a full-page ad somewhere.

Thanks, Cynthia! Regarding early cookware, I remember burning something so thoroughly into a cheap ceramic baking dish that nothing seemed able to clean it. Finally, I threw it out in despair. A few days later, my downstairs neighbor showed me the now clean dish, saying she’d found it in the trash. She said, “Can you believe someone would throw away a nice dish like this rather than clean it?” I pretended to be as shocked as she was.

altadenahiker April 16, 2012 at 3:27 am

I’ll vote in the great Chicago tradition. Will check back for the link.

lamb chops April 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

Looks delicious! If you live in England, you can order your lamb with Allens of Mayfair, online butcher, fresh meat direct to your door.

[email protected] April 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Love the dish and the pan. I got one too and after nearly ruining my 12 inch pan, I finally read the instructions when All Clad sent the 10 inch. My whole cooking life is revolutionized. High heat is out. I was able to sear a tuna on medium low heat. The lemon zest on top of the chops makes them look stunning.

dla seniora April 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

Looks good and delicious. Regards from Poland:)

Matt May 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I must say, I have always been partial to Lamb on a spit; this looks really tempting! Your photos are awesome, did the job! looks like I know what’s on the menu this weekend. Thanks!

lamb chop May 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Loved it! Great recipe

Jake Gittes May 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Forgot the non-stick. Worse than replacing them once in a while. You’re eating thst coating overt time. You should check out steel : like deBuyer pans. Not as heavy as cast iron. They become non-stick when seasoned and improve over time. Cheaper than quality stainless steel and do better at searing. The only downside is they require some minimal maintenance: namely, you can not leave them to soak when done cooking. You must clean and dry them. I prefer it to my all-clad and cast iron. Incidentally, my cast iron is well seasoned and years old and I don’t find it reacts to acidic food though I don’t use it to make tomato sauce ……

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