How To Buy Lamb
This quick tutorial and accompanying video Trimming Lamb walks you through how to buy, trim, and prepare lamb rib chops using a technique known as frenching. Then once you've got that mastered, grab our recipe for Grilled Lamb Chops with bistecca oil and put your new skills to work.
how to buy lamb
Picking out the best available piece of lamb meat is often a difficult choice. Because lamb is less common than other meats, many people do not know how to make an informed decision. There are several things to consider.
Buy during the right season. Contrary to popular opinion, spring lambs might not always be the`ideal choice. Lambs available during the spring were bred out of season, and are often raised in an artificial environment. Lamb sold during the summer is more likely to have been raised under the ideal conditions.
Insist on a quality source. As with any meat, lamb is the freshest and best for cooking when purchased from a local butcher. At the very least, check the package at the grocery store to make sure the meat has not been imported from another country.
Examine the meat's color. When choosing lamb, use the same guidelines you would use for beef. The meat should be a healthy red color; not pale, but also not dripping with blood. Look for marbling--the more marbling the meat has, the more tender and flavorful it will be.
Heed the USDA rating. The USDA grades lamb meat on the following scale: prime, choice, good, utility and cull. These are reliable ratings, and should give you a good idea of what to expect from the meat you choose.
The leg of lamb can be purchased in various sizes and on average, the whole leg weighs around 6 to 10 pounds, yielding enough meat to serve a large dinner of about 8 to 10 guests. When prepping a boneless leg of lamb, it will need to be tied with twine before cooking. A bone-in leg does not require tying, but it takes longer to cook.
The loin roast is among the most revered cuts of the lamb, as it is known to produce the tenderest pieces of meat. The loin can be broken down into smaller loin chops (the signature t-bone steaks) or a roast. Use a dry heat method, such as grilling or roasting, to develop the best flavor from this rich cut of meat. Woodsy herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage complement this cut well, as does a splash of fresh citrus.
The shoulder is probably the most affordable cut, but the meat needs a little extra TLC (and cook time) because it is relatively fatty and chewy. This is usually where the stew meat is cut from. If you have any favorite recipes that call for stew beef, lamb stew meat will be an excellent substitute for change of pace. The shoulder is also delicious when smoked in a smoker or grill.
Lamb is a flavorful and versatile meat that is enjoyed by people all around the globe, from India to North Africa to jolly old England. Americans, however, eat far less lamb than their counterparts in other parts of the world and, interestingly, less lamb than we used to just a few decades ago.
As a result, many of us are unfamiliar with the different cuts of lamb and how best to cook this healthy and delicious protein. In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about shopping for and cooking lamb, so that you can begin to feel more confident about adding lamb to your culinary repertoire.
One of the first things you may notice when you shop for lamb is that a lot of the lamb for sale at your grocery store is imported. Why is that, and what are the differences between imported and domestic lamb?
Bone-In Leg of Lamb: An elegant cut suitable for a holiday meal or feeding a crowd. A bone-in leg of lamb will often be less expensive per pound than a boneless leg of lamb and it will cook quicker because the bone acts as an insulator to help conduct heat. This is a perfect cut for oven-roasting or grilling. Leg of lamb can be sold with the shank attached, which is the whole leg, or without the shank, which is known as a short leg of lamb.
Boneless Leg of Lamb: Boneless leg of lamb is usually sold butterflied, which means that the butcher has removed the bone and split the leg open so that it lays (mostly) flat. This means that you can season both sides, which is great for adding flavor. But because the meat is uneven in thickness, you may need to roll it up and tie it prior to cooking for best results. Butterflied leg of lamb, once rolled and tied, is suitable for oven-roasting. Opened up flat, it is a great cut for grilling. Boneless leg of lamb is one of the leanest cuts available and is often cut up into stew meat or kebabs.
Lamb Chops: There are two kinds of lamb chops: lamb rib chops, which come from the rack, or lamb t-bone chops which come from the loin. Both kinds of lamb chops can be grilled, pan-seared, or broiled. Lamb chops are quick-cooking and versatile, making them ideal for easy weeknight dinners. Lamb rib chops are sometimes known as lamb lollipops because of the long bone which can be used as a handle to hold the chop while eating it off the bone.
Lamb shoulder: This is another cut that you may see at the butcher counter. It can be tough, so it is often priced more economically than some other, better-known cuts. Whole lamb shoulder is suitable for braising. The meat is also sometimes ground or cut into pieces for stewing. Sometimes lamb shoulder is cut into chops, such as blade or arm chops, which usually have the bone still in.
Ground Lamb: Ground lamb has an especially mild flavor, making it suitable for those new to eating lamb. Use it as you would ground beef, such as to make burgers, meatballs, or ground lamb kebabs, which are known as kofta kebabs. Ground lamb, like all ground meat, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for safety.
When cooking any meat, it is best practices to use an instant-read thermometer (like this one) and rely on the internal temperature to know for certain when your meat is cooked. This is especially true with lamb, when the range for properly cooked meat is narrow.
For medium-rare to medium lamb, aim for 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit on your meat thermometer. You always want to take the lamb off the heat about 5-10 degrees short of doneness because the meat will continue to cook while it rests. And yes, always let your meat rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving or carving. Carve larger cuts, like leg of lamb, against the grain of the meat for the best texture.
For tougher cuts of lamb, like lamb shanks or lamb stew, you want to cook them low and slow, in liquid, in the oven or on the stovetop until the meat is falling off the bone and can be shredded with a fork. If you own an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, these are terrific for cooking tough cuts of lamb and making them come out fork-tender in less time than it would take otherwise.
There you have it! Everything you need to know to shop for and cook lamb. What will be the first lamb dish you make? A fancy rack of lamb? A hearty lamb stew? Quick-cooking lamb chops? There are so many delicious possibilities.
Your budget and pasture/facility availability will dictate that answer. About four to five ewes per acre is recommended here in the Midwest with a minimum of 25 square feet of indoor space for each animal. Buy at least two animals since one will not do well due to their flocking instinct. Start with a small number of sound ewes as you begin learning the basics of raising sheep, and increase slowly as you gain experience. In the future, it is a good idea to select replacement ewes from the lambs born on your farm. Not only will those lambs tend to have built-in resistance to any diseases on your property, but it is the cheapest way to expand your flock. Select your replacements from among the earlier born twin lambs who lambed and nursed on their own.
Do you have good fencing which will stop roaming dogs and coyotes? Electric fence is an excellent predator deterrent and there are a number of plans available. A sheep guard dog can also be added security. You should divide your pastures so that the animals can be rotated every three or four weeks to help control internal parasites. Ewes should be wormed about three or four times annually and lambs at least every other rotation. Administering worming medication as prescribed is indispensable in good sheep management. Alternate the brand of worming medication to avoid a parasitic resistance build-up.
Depending upon the amount of grass you have and the severity of your winters, you will need to have adequate hay and grain available when the bad weather comes. In the Midwest, about 15 bales of hay will feed one ewe and her lambs from around December 1st until April 15th. Incidentally, one of the most pleasant sounds to the shepherd is listening to your flock munch contentedly on hay as the cold winter winds swirl outside the barn. Depending on the quality and availability, hay in our area purchased out of the field will run about $7 a bale. Expect to pay more if you buy during the winter.
Start your own cult in a land of false prophets, venturing out into diverse and mysterious regions to build a loyal community of woodland worshippers and spread your Word to become the one true cult.BUILD YOUR FLOCKCollect and use resources to build new structures, perform dark rituals to appease the gods, and give sermons to reinforce the faith of your flock.DESTROY THE NON-BELIEVERSExplore a sprawling, randomly generated world, fight off hordes of enemies and defeat rival cult leaders in order to absorb their power and assert your cult's dominance.SPREAD YOUR WORDTrain your flock and embark on a quest to explore and discover the secrets of five mysterious regions. Cleanse the non-believers, spread enlightenment and perform mystical rituals on the journey to become the mighty lamb god.
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