Absolutely Everything You Need To Know About Lamb
Looking to impress your guests? Or for an upgraded dinner-for-one? Look no further than lamb. It’s the perfect dinner staple for a springtime gathering (or anytime, really).
And know this: All lamb in our Meat department meets our farm animal and meat standards including no antibiotics, ever, no added growth hormones and no animal by-products in feed. Even better? Now, all of our lamb we sell in our Meat department is animal welfare rated.
First Things First: What Part of the Lamb Should I Choose?
Good question! Your butcher can help you pick the best cut, but here’s a quick guide to help get you started with your selection.
Leg of Lamb
- Tender and iconic, leg of lamb can be purchased in several iterations, from the full leg to the shank (or lower) end or the sirloin end.
- Bone-in leg of lamb will take longer to cook but won’t need to be tied with twine like a semi-boneless leg of lamb (which your butcher will do for you at our stores).
- A whole leg (usually about 6 – 8 pounds) should feed at least eight people.
- The lamb rib rack is an impressive cut that grills beautifully but can also be crusted with herbs and roasted.
- Frenching the rack (or removing the layer of fat and meat around the rib bones) ups the ante — ask your butcher for help.
- Tender rib chops are cut from the rack and the long rib bone, providing a delicate effect on the plate.
- Sirloin chops are tiny T-bone steaks with a generous ratio of meat-to-bone.
- Wallet-friendly shoulder chops have a toothsome texture that’s great for braising.
- Also called a square-cut shoulder, this cut is great for low and slow roasting, butterflying or for cubing into stew meat.
- This tender, flavorful cut is a larger piece from the leg.
- Use this cut for kabobs, thin steaks or a quick-cooking roast.
- Lamb shanks are stars of the braising world. Cook them low and slow to develop a velvety texture.
How to Cook Lamb
Important: Lamb roasts and steaks should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F, while ground lamb needs to reach at least 160°F.
Slow Cooking (leg, shank, shoulder roasts, stew meat)
- Tougher cuts of lamb render fork-tender stews and braises, but remember to sear meat before starting the slow cooking process to build flavor.
- A leg of lamb can be deboned, stuffed and rolled for a more nuanced roast.
- Slice roasted lamb for memorable next-day sandwiches and salads.
Quick Cooking (chops, rack, ground lamb)
- Lamb’s rich flavor marries well with the smokiness produced by cooking over an open fire.
- If grilling a whole lamb rack, cap the cleaned rib bones in aluminum foil to prevent them from burning.
- Smaller cuts like rib chops and sliced roast cuts can be fully cooked on the stovetop.
For a lamb-infused shortcut, swap ground lamb for all (or half) of the ground beef.
What Are Some Pro Tips for Finishing My Lamb Dish?
Take advantage of lamb’s versatility, and wake up your spring table with one of these suggestions:
- Yogurt-Marinated Lamb Kabobs. Tenderize 1-inch cubes of lamb with an overnight marinade of whole milk yogurt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and mint. Yogurt will keep the lamb juicy and ready for a smoky grill or a hot grill pan indoors — just remove excess marinade before skewering with scallion pieces and cubed zucchini — and serve with a squeeze of lemon, flaky salt and black pepper.
- Fragrant Garlic and Herb Chops. Fresh herbs — mint, thyme and basil — can work to flavor the lamb before cooking or join in later in a side dish. Turn these into a seasoning paste using garlic, lemon juice and paprika for lamb shoulder chops bound for the grill. Serve with a feta chopped salad and herb vinaigrette.
- Za’atar Rubbed Leg of Lamb. Use the tip of a sharp paring knife to make 1-inch deep slits all over a leg of lamb and stuff each with a piece of fresh rosemary and 1/2 clove of garlic. Rub with olive oil or melted butter and za’atar — a Mediterranean blend of sumac, thyme, sesame and salt — and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before roasting.