Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 11

My love affair with lamb is well documented. It’s my favorite meat. Yes, even more than steak and baby back ribs. Maybe it’s because I don’t get to eat it all that often. And despite my love of lamb, I’ve never posted my favorite lamb recipe – Basil Pesto Lamb Racks. And with Easter coming up, I figured I would document my go-to lamb recipe.

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks Ingredients:

  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 racks of lamb
  • Salt and fresh black pepper

Combine everything but the last two items on the above list in a blender and pulse until mostly smooth with some small chunks still throughout:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 1
Once the pesto is done, the prep is minimal

You don’t have to make your own basil pesto. There are lots of store bought products that are fantastic. 99% of the time I use a jarred pesto.

Next up, hit the lamb on both sides with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Don’t sweat the ‘silver skin.’ This isn’t a beef tenderloin. That skin will melt during the cooking process.

Place the lamb racks in a resealable plastic bag and ladle in the basil pesto:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 2
Love the long pour shot, like that pesto is frozen in time and space.

Seal the bag and place in the fridge for 2-24 hours:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 3
Get the bag into the fridge so the basil pesto can work its magic on the lamb

Now prepare the grill for two zone grilling, also known as indirect grilling, with coals on one side and nothing on the other until you put the meat on. Target temp inside the grill is 300. Place the lamb on the side with no coals, toss some smoke wood on the fire (I used pecan), and close the lid:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 4
Coals on the left, lamb racks on the right

We’re going for the reverse sear method of grilling. That means we smoke first and sear second. Why? Because once we sear, the meat won’t take on much smoke flavor. This way we get the smoky deliciousness as well as that wonderful char. Best of both worlds.

It will not take long for the basil pesto lamb racks to get to my desired 120-125 degrees, which is when I want to sear them. In fact, these are in that range right now and they’ve only been on the grill maybe 30 minutes:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 5
It may look like it’s still raw, but it’s ready to sear.

They still look really red. I thought the same thing, and had I not checked, I probably would’ve left them on another 15 minutes before searing. I decided to check how far along they were. Thanks to my handy dandy Thermopen, I found out they were ready to sear:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 6
Time to get my sear on!

For years I cooked by feel and look. And for years I overcooked and undercooked countless cuts of meat. Then I got one of these instant read thermometers and it’s no longer a guessing game. In 2 seconds, I know exactly how done the meat is.

If the fire has died, add some more coals and get it really raging. Then place the lamb right over the heat:

Basil Pesto Lamb - Enlarged - 1
A kiss of fire won’t hurt these lamb racks. Just don’t leave them on too long or you will flame out!

All we’re looking for is a little char to take them to medium rare. If you want it more done than that, I’ll explain how at the end.

That little flare up in the middle caused my lamb racks to char on one end and not the other. So flip them around:

Basil Pesto Lamb - Enlarged - 2
Nothing like flame searing!

Once they care charred evenly, flip them over:

Basil Pesto Lamb - Enlarged - 3
Oh, how I love a good flame shot!

My basil pesto lamb racks are charred on both sides and have a glorious flavor crust. But do they need to go back over to the side with no coals and bake some more or can I plate them? Only one way to know for sure:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 10

Time to plate, slice and serve:

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks - 12
Oh my…

That is heaven on a cutting board right there! Basil Pesto Lamb Racks, reverse seared with pecan wood to a beautiful medium rare. If you use a store bought pesto, prep on this is all of 2 minutes and cooking time is less than 40. How would you like to knock out the entree for Easter dinner in less than 45 minutes?

***Pro Tip ~ If you want to ace the presentation and minimize the risk of people getting their nice clothes dirty on Easter, wrap the bones in aluminum foil to keep them from blackening. I don’t care if my hands get a little messy, but on Easter Sunday when folks are donning their finest, it might be a good idea to wrap the bones, after all, those bones are the handle to these succulent lamb lollipops***

Now some of you would rather go to medium or even medium well. Simple. There are two ways of doing this. Smoke until the meat is 10 degrees below your desired doneness and then sear, or sear at 120-125 like I did and after they are charred, put the lamb racks back over on the side with no coals and close the lid to bake.

If you want to feed a bigger crowd on Easter, why not try Leg of Lamb instead.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send them to me in an email.

Basil Pesto Lamb Racks
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: BBQ
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Lamb racks, marinated in basil pesto and reverse seared to a beautiful medium rare
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 racks of lamb
  • Salt and fresh black pepper
  1. Combine everything but the last two items in a blender
  2. Pulse until smooth with some small chunks
  3. Hit the lamb with salt and black pepper on both sides and then put it in a resealable plastic bag
  4. Spoon the pesto over the lamb racks, seal the bag and place in the fridge for 2-24 hours
  5. Prepare the grill for two zone grilling otherwise known as indirect grilling
  6. Put coals and smoke wood on one side and the lamb on the other
  7. Target temperature inside the grill is 300 degrees
  8. Close the lid and smoke until the lamb reaches 120-125 degrees (about 25-35 minutes) then sear on the side with the coals
  9. When searing is done, lamb should be at 135 or medium rare
  10. If you desire the lamb more done, simply move to the side with no coals, close the lid and bake until cooked to your desired doneness

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
What is prettier the pork or the @shuncutlery blade? Credit to @pitforbrains : Tbt to our … - 1 hour ago
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Excellent site. I searched for woods on my phone while I was deciding between mesquite and hickory. Thankfully, I found this site when I got home. I am smoking a leg of lamb for Easter. I use a gas grill and lots of wood chips. After reading your advice, I am going to use more chunks of wood.



I would have the chips on hand. The chunks may not smoke as well. Do a side by side and let me know which works better…


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