Lamb is a very flavorful red meat. It is slightly gamey with hints of fresh, sweet grass. When shopping for lamb, I recommend looking for grass-fed for the highest quality and cleanest tasting.
There are several cuts of lamb that you can prepare in an air fryer. Ribs from the rack are the most elegant, leanest, and also the costliest. Loin chops are basically the porterhouse cut with a meaty steak and a tiny tenderloin on either side of the T-bone. Lamb shoulder or blade chops are a little chewy and less lean than the other portions. I happen to like these chops a lot because of the marbling of fat that imparts a good amount of flavor.
Generally, shoulder chops are slow cooked in a braising liquid to tenderize them. However, I ordered a grilled shoulder chop at a restaurant recently and was impressed with the intense flavor that gets lost when braised. Though, I have to admit that the meat was a little tough.
I wanted to see if I could get that same great flavor with a better texture. What I found worked best was to marinate or brine the lamb before cooking it. This really helps to tenderize the meat and soften the marbled fat. I also discovered that grilling the chops dried them out. Flash cooking lamb shoulder chops in the air fryer worked best to retain some moisture and allow the excess fat to melt away.
What Makes a Good Marinade?
Marinades are wonderful vehicles for tenderizing and adding flavor to proteins, vegetables, and soy products. The base of a really good marinade includes a few components: acid, fat, and seasonings.
Acid helps break down the connective tissue in meat to tenderize the muscle. Acid also helps all the other flavors to penetrate deeper into foods, especially sturdy vegetables like cauliflower. The tanginess of acid helps to balance the fat and seasoning. Acids include citrus juice, vinegar, wine, mustard, buttermilk, and yogurt.
Fat is an important component in marinades because it helps to hold the other ingredients together. It also imparts moisture into things like lean meats and firm tofu. Fat balances out the acidic component. Examples of fat include extra virgin olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, coconut milk, and full fat dairy.
The ratio of fat to acid is purely subjective. I like an assertively acidic marinade. Sometimes I will temper that by adding a touch of maple syrup or honey. When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of 3:1 fat to acid. The marinade here is more acid forward than that ratio. Adjust to your liking.
Air Fryer Marinated Lamb Shoulder Chops (Paleo, Keto, Gluten-Free)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 TBS fresh thyme leaves (1-1/2 tsps dried)
- 1 TBS chopped fresh rosemary leaves (1-1/2 tsps dried)
- 1 TBS chopped fresh oregano or mint leaves (1-1/2 tsps dried)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 lamb shoulder chops (3/4” thick)
- 4 lemon wedges for serving
Total time:11 min – Prep time:5 min + marinating overnight – Cook time:6 min (2 chops at a time) – Serves:4 people
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the oil and wine. Stir in the thyme, rosemary, oregano or mint, and salt.
2. Place the lamb chops in a glass or ceramic baking dish or in a large sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade all over the chops. Cover the dish or seal the bag well. Place the lamb in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
3. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking.
4. Preheat the air fryer at 390°F for 5 minutes.
5. Drain the excess marinade from the lamb chops. Discard the marinade. Place 2 chops on the crisper plate or in the basket of the air fryer. Cook for 3 minutes. Flip the chops over and continue to cook for another 3 minutes until the internal temperature reads 130 – 140°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer.
6. Remove the cooked lamb chops to a platter and tent with foil. Repeat with the other 2 chops.
7. Serve the lamb with lemon wedges and a bitter greens salad.
Bitter Greens Salad Recipe (Paleo, Keto, Gluten-Free, and Vegan)
- 1/3 cup + 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1-1/2 TBS Dijon mustard
- 1 TBS red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 12 cups lightly chopped or torn bitter greens (mix of any of these: arugula, frisée, escarole, endive, dandelion, radicchio)
Total time: 10 minutes – Prep time: 10 minutes – Serves: 4 to 6 people
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper until emulsified.
2. Place the greens in a salad serving bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the greens and toss to coat evenly. Serve right away with the lamb.
In addition to a green salad, lamb chops are often accompanied by some classic side dishes and desserts. You may notice that lamb is often labeled “spring lamb” in the market. Young lambs that are born in spring are likely the best you will have access too. More mature lamb is usually labeled as mutton. Mutton is better suited for braising and stewing rather than air frying.
It makes sense that spring lamb is served with produce that is available in spring. Bitter greens are a logical choice. Lamb also pairs nicely with creamy mashes or grains. Here are some ideas for serving with your air-fried lamb chops.
- Grilled garlic and mint eggplant
- Creamy polenta
- Air fryer asparagus
- Mashed potatoes with feta cheese
- Grilled peaches
When it comes to beverages, light dry red wine is a perfect choice for serving with lamb. Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, and Zinfandel are very nice options that won’t compete with the flavor of the meat. If beer is your preferred drink, I recommend a creamy golden ale or IPA, or even an alcohol free beer.