Our client requested both a searing on-grill shot and an impressive plated shot of single rib portions. We started with a full rack of lamb and our food stylist, Janet Middleton, cut the rack into chops.
The concept was to create an outdoor shot, but keep the control afforded by our indoor studio. We rigged up a stationary grill top, and used a long lens (150mm) to come in close on the food. This accomplished a few key points: 1. We could capture the nicely charred look of the meat and juicy accents. 2. We didn’t need to use an actual grill in the studio; using a real grill limited our lighting freedom and perspective. 3. We would have had a large black rim surrounding the food and a very shallow bowl for the coals; we also didn’t want it to look like the grill grate was resting right on the coals.
In our set up, we had a huge bed of coals farther under the set, allowing us to use our lights to illuminate them, without affecting our food/set high above it. Creating the appearance of a grill also allowed us to have our light sources unimpeded by the black rim of most grills and we were free to light 360 degrees around the food. We had numerous lighting sources. Again, we wanted to create an outdoor feel, so we had to recreate the sun as well as the sky. We put a very large broad source above the set to emulate the sky and control our shadows and contrast. We then positioned a point source coming from the front right to represent our sun. A meat shot really benefits from specific highlights, so we brought in a “meat light.” This is a very small point source light, which we placed behind the meat, to highlight the juiciness and detail on top of the meat. Since our coals and fire were too low to cast any real light from the underside of the grate, we put a point light source under the food as well, to simulate the fire. We also focused a light on the coals, so they would be appropriately lit.
We wanted to show the chops at their tender peak of perfection, so Janet cooked the lamb quickly and achieved well-defined grill marks. We timed the shots beautifully and even caught detailed herb and seasoning particles intact on the surface of the perfectly grilled meat for the plated shot.
Grilled Lamb Chops
If you’re concerned about scorched bones, they’re easily prevented by covering them with foil during grilling. Other than that, a main challenge of grilling rib lamb chops is the purchase price per pound – so you’ll want to grill them with extra care, and use a meat thermometer – don’t risk overcooking.
A rack of at least 12 lamb rib chops, frenched and fat trimmed, individually cut, 4 – 6 ounces each
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon snipped parsley
1 Tablespoon melted butter
Mix the lemon juice, garlic, cumin and oil in a bowl that’s big enough to contain all the chops.
Allow the chops to marinate in the bowl at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Light your grill and brush the grates clean or preheat your grill pan.
When the grill is ready, take the chops out of the marinade and discard it.
Brush the lamb chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Grill them over high heat until they’re charred for about 6 minutes total, turning once.
For medium-rare chops (recommended) the meat thermometer will register 145 degrees.
Be sure to let the lamb chops rest for 5 minutes before transferring them to the serving platter.
Heat the parsley and butter mixture and drizzle over the chops before serving.
The art of grill marks explained: