Lamb 101

We love a good steak, but when it comes to delicious flavor from a lean and tender cut of meat, lamb is pretty hard to beat. There’s a reason why lamb has been a staple of so many Mediterranean cuisines for the past few thousand years. It has a distinctive taste all its own, is firmer and richer than chicken, but much more tender than pork or beef.

Lamb is also among the most nutritious meats. It is rich with high quality proteins, heart-healthy fats, and vitamins that improve everything from nerve health and memory (B12) to immune systems (zinc). Unlike larger livestock, sheep are a net positive for the land they occupy. Sheep improve pastures and fields by cycling vital nutrients back through the soil, minimizing erosion and encouraging native plant growth.

Like many meats, the flavor of the lamb will largely depend on how it was raised. Pasture-raised, grass fed lamb is leaner and more flavorful than commercially-produced animals. Most domestic lamb is finished on grain, which bulks up the animal to maximize the yield, but also increases the “bad” fats and diminishes its distinctive flavor. New Zealand lamb is generally considered to be superior because the lambs are grass fed and pasture-raised for their entire lives… just like our lambs at Branch Honey Farm.

What’s the best way to cook lamb? That all depends on the cut. Here’s a rough breakdown of the different lamb cuts, and how to get the most out of each one:

  • Lamb chop/rack. These are the ribs of the lamb, and generally considered the finest cut. They can be grilled individually, or served together as a rack of lamb. Grilled lamb chops are perfect to throw on the outdoor grill or a skillet for casual entertaining or for a relaxed dinner at home. And if you’re looking to throw a fancy dinner party, the roast rack of lamb always brings down the house.
  • Lamb loin chops. These are mini T-bone steaks, and in our opinion, the most overlooked cut of meat out there. They’re cooked bone in and absolutely burst with flavor. Try grilling them with country French flavors or supplement them with a mint or mustard sauce. But like a good T-bone, they also do just fine all on their own.
  • Leg of lamb. This is usually served roasted to maximize tenderness, and can be cooked bone-in or boneless. It’s perfect for a big dinner party, and is of course an Easter staple. And whatever doesn’t get eaten by the guests can be sliced thin for sandwiches all week long!
  • Lamb shoulder or shank.These parts of the animal work hard, so they’re best slow-cooked in a lamb stew or in a “low and slow” roast. They’re incredibly flavorful meals that are perfect for casual winter entertaining.
  • Ground lamb. We’ll just go ahead and say it. Lamb burgers blow beef burgers away. They’re leaner, healthier, and taste a hundred times better. So if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to hamburgers, you can forget about that ridiculous turkey burger and serve ground lamb every chance you get. It also works deliciously in meatballs, chili, and as Uncle Ted will tell you, if you throw in some garlic, dill and tzatziki, your guests will love you forever.

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