Buying and Cooking Lamb
Lamb is one of our most traditional meats. In fact, we eat more lamb per capita than any other nation except for New Zealand and Australia (well, let’s face it, there are more sheep in New Zealand!) Here’s some interesting facts about lamb……
1. 40% of the lamb we eat is home grown. The rest comes from Australia and New Zealand.
By law, the butcher has to label the country of origin of any meat.
2. Lamb is particularly rich in iron and vitamin B complex. Essential for good nutrition.
3. Optimum lamb production in the UK is from early spring until October. The other months of the year are usually supplied with imported meat.
4. The lambs in the UK are usually between 3 and 12 months old, mutton is usually between 18 months to 2 years.
5. If a piece of meat looks pale pink, chances are it has come from a relatively young animal, but if it is a little more red in colour, it will probably have come from an older animal.
6. Fat should be a creamy white rather than yellow. A yellow colour of fat denotes a sign of age in the animal.
7. Lamb is quite fatty but a little dusting of seasoned flour over the top will absorb the fat and help to crisp up the skin.
8. Allow 300g/12oz per person of meat on the bone and 150-225g/6-8oz per person off the bone.
9. Best for grilling: Cutlets, Chops and Noisettes
10.Best for Stewing: Breast, Scrag end or shoulder
11. Best for Roasting: Shoulder, Leg, Loin
12. Very impressive roasts are a crown roast or a guard of honour that uses the best end of neck. The butcher will prepare these roasts with a few days notice!
Here are some fabulous recipes to try out:
Best End of Neck
This is a versatile cut and comes from between the middle neck and loin (see the diagram). It’s great for braising or roasting on the bone. Two famous roasts come from the best end of neck: the crown roast and the guard of honour. Give the butcher a few days notice and he’ll prepare these very extravagant and impressive roasts for you.
The best end of neck also gives you lamb cutlets – the long thin boned chop with a slight layer of fat. It has a very sweet small piece of lean meat. They are quite small, so allow a couple per person.
This is usually sold off the bone where is it stuffed and rolled. It is an economical cut that can be roasted or braised. Just be aware though that it is quite a fatty joint of meat.
Lamb chops are very popular in the UK and come from the loin area or the leg. They’re best grilled, fried or braised. Try out our Masala Lamb Chops recipe or our Aniseed Spiced Lamb Chops
These come from either the loin or the leg area and have a central bone, unlike normal chops. They are expensive due to the fact that each leg of lamb can only yield 2 chops each.
As the name goes, these come from the loin. They have a T shaped bone in them and are fairly lean cuts.
This cut comes from the upper part of the leg and is usually roasted whole on the bone. What about our Oriental Lamb recipe.
This is the most popular roasting joint, often weighing 2-3kg. It is very versatile and can be boned, stuffed and rolled or roasted on the bone. It can also be divided into the knuckle and the fillet and lends itself to all methods of cooking: roasting, braising or stewing.
Steaks can be cut from the boned leg.
This is the prime joint of the lamb. It weighs about 2kg and can either be boned and stuffed or roasted whole on the bone.
This cut comes from between the best end of neck and the scrag end. It is really only suitable for braising because of it’s fat content.
These are thick round slices from the loin region of the best end of neck. They are usually prepared at the butchers, where they are boned, trimmed of any fat and shaped into fillets about 150g/6oz each. They are usually grilled or fried.
Just give the butcher a few days notice.
This is the complete rib section of the lamb that is then cut into the best end of neck, middle neck and scrag end.
Wow! This is a very expensive, enormous roast that is best prepared by the butcher. Both the loins are left on as well as the tail. The tail is split and then wrapped around the kidneys to keep them in place. The average weight of the saddle is 3.6kg – enough to feed between 15 and 20 people! Just check it’ll go in the oven!
Scrag End of Neck
This cut comes from the nearest the head. It is only sold already chopped for casseroling and braising. As it contains a lot of bone and gristle, it is a relatively cheap cut and needs very slow cooking for a very long time to make it tender.
This is the least expensive of all the joints as it is contains more fat than the leg but in its favour, it has sweeter meat. It is very often boned and rolled but can be diced and used in casseroles.
Quick roasting on the bone requires 20 minutes per 450g/1lb + 20 minutes extra at an oven temperature of 220C/425F/Gas7.
Quick roasting off the bone requires 25 minutes per 450g/1lb + 25 minutes extra at an oven temperature of 220C/425F/Gas7.
Slow roasting on the bone requires 25 minutes per 450g/1lb + 25 minutes extra at an oven temperature of 180C/350F/Gas4.
Slow roasting off the bone requires 35 minutes per 450g/1lb + 35 minutes extra at an oven temperature of 180C/350F/Gas4.
For stuffed joints, you should allow 7-10 minutes per 450g/1lb extra time.
For grilling and frying:
Cutlets: 7-10 minutes
Chops: 12-15 minutes