DO YOU KNOW YOUR LAMB?

Lamb sold today has a delicious, slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with a variety of seasonings. It’s leaner, too, because of selective breeding practices and because the meat is trimmed of more excess fat before packaging. Lamb is available to meet a range of preferences-from natural or organic lamb to lamb that has been exclusively grass-fed or grain finished.

Buying, preparing, and cooking lamb is really easy. With just a few simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to a nutrient and flavor rich meal. There are five major cuts of lamb available: shoulder, rack, shank, loin and leg. Most lamb is sold in supermarkets with fat trimmed to 1/4 or 1/8 inch. You can trim this thin layer of remaining fat before or after cooking.

NECK

Meat from the neck section, rich in flavor but tough is most commonly sold as ground lamb for lamb burgers or casseroles.

SHOULDER

This large cut contains firm, flavorful meat streaked with a moderate amount of fat. It yields shoulder chops for grilling or broiling; cubes of stewing meat for braising and kabob meat for grilling; ground lamb; and convenient rolled boned roasts for roasting or braising.

RIB

With its tender, rich meat, the rib section is one of the better sections of the lamb. It yields rib chops for sauteing, broiling or grilling, as well as the whole roast composed of the chops left intact, known as rack of lamb or, when formed into a circle, a crown roast. For the best flavor, use high heat to roast, broil, or grill racks of lamb just until they are done medium-rare or medium.

LOIN & FLANK

Little-used muscles in the loin make for some of the most tender cuts of lamb. The loin is the source of compact tenderloin and loin chops, best broiled, grilled or sauteed, as well as whole loin roasts, often boned and tied. Tough but flavorful flank meat is most often sold ground

SADDLE

The lamb’s saddle portion contains the tender, well-marbled sirloin, which may be roasted whole or cut into sirloin chops and steaks for grilling, broiling or sauteing. For grilled kabobs, chunks of boneless sirloin are ideal.

LEG

The firm, flavorful leg meat may be roasted whole or cut into cubes for kabobs or stew. If buying a bone-in leg, look for a French-style of three-quarter leg of lamb, with its upper pelvic bones removed, allowing for easier carving. Boned, butterflied and marinated, a small leg is succulent when grilled or broiled.

SHANKS

This is the lower section of the leg. Hearty, economical and full flavored, the tough shank meat requires long, gentle braiding. A few hours of gentle simmering will result in rich, moist, spoon-tender meat. The small, lean foreshank is usually braised as an individual-serving cut. The hind shank may be cut into think, crosswise slices, or it may be boned and cut into stew meat for slow braising.

BREAST

This thin cut runs along the belly. The fatty, flavorful meat, with its many tiny rib bones, may be boned and cooked whole by braising, which results in tender meat, or it may be cut up and braised or grilled as lamb riblets. The breast is also sold ground for making grilled lamb burgers.