Lamb is a great protein to add to your weekly dinner plan. These lamb recipes are tasty and include simple grilled recipes that take very little time, stews that simmer for a couple hours and cutting-edge air fryer and Instant Pot recipes.
Lamb is a great protein to add to your weekly dinner plan. These lamb recipes are tasty and include simple grilled recipes that take very little time, stews that simmer for a couple hours and cutting-edge air fryer and Instant Pot recipes.
Lamb Kofta is a meatball made from seasoned ground lamb. It is a popular dish all over the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Kofta can be grilled, cooked on the stove, or roasted in the oven, but I like to cook them in the air fryer for a quick weeknight dinner that the whole family loves.
Serve these lamb kofta with an easy-to-make tahini sauce and store-bought pita bread for an effortless yet authentic Middle Eastern meal at home.
Kofta is the Arabic word for meatball. All over the Middle East, Greece, and Turkey, people enjoy kofta made from ground beef, lamb, or veal – or a combination of meats. The meat is often flavored with onion, garlic, fresh herbs, and earthy or sweet spices like cumin, allspice, and cinnamon. Kofta can be shaped into balls, flat patties, or even long skinny torpedos.
Ground lamb is one of the most commonly used meats for kofta because lamb is a favorite meat in this part of the world. Around the Mediterranean, beef is very expensive and many people do not eat pork for religious reasons, hence lamb is the preferred protein.
It has a very mild flavor and is easy to find at the grocery store. So, this is a perfect recipe to try if you are new to cooking lamb or you don’t love lamb that has a strong gamey flavor. I promise that these lamb kofta will win over any lamb skeptics in your house!
All over the world, when cooks make meatballs, they often add additional ingredients to bind the meat together and help keep the meatballs tender. This is also a way, in leaner times, to stretch a small amount of meat to feed the whole family. For example, you may be used to adding bread crumbs to your Italian-style meatballs.
In this instance, we are adding bulgur wheat to our lamb kofta as a binder. Used frequently in Middle Eastern and Turkish cuisine, bulgur is simply cracked whole-grain wheat groats that come in different grinds, from coarse to extra-fine. You may be familiar with bulgur because it is the grain used in tabbouleh.
When shopping, look for finely ground bulgur wheat, which you should be able to find in most grocery stores with a good selection of international products or online (here), and soak it in hot water to soften it before adding it to your kofta.
If you cannot find bulgur or prefer to make your kofta gluten-free, you can substitute a 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa for the bulgur. You can use any extra bulgur in place of the farro in this Tabbouleh on our sister site COOKtheSTORY.
To make lamb kofta, simply combine ground lamb with the softened bulgur, minced onion, salt, and a selection of Middle Eastern spices. Knead the ingredients together with a fork or clean hands and form into patties.
It is best to form the kofta patties in advance and chill them until firm, which will help them stay together during cooking. You can form the patties as little as 30 minutes in advance or up to one day before you want to cook the kofta. Place the formed patties on a clean plate, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
The air fryer is the perfect appliance for cooking these lamb kofta in record time! (If you don’t have one yet, everyone on TheCookful team loves this one.) Thread the kofta patties onto metal or bamboo skewers that fit into your air fryer. (If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.)
Place half of the patties in the air fryer basket and cook at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, turning the patties once halfway through cooking. Repeat with the remaining patties. That’s just 20 minutes of total cooking time!
Kofta are often served with a sauce for drizzling over the meat. In this case, I suggest a quick tahini sauce that you can whip up in the blender or food processor while the lamb is cooking. This recipe makes a lot of tahini sauce, so you will have plenty leftover for other uses, like drizzling over roasted vegetables or whisking into a salad dressing.
If you don’t care for tahini, or have a sesame allergy in your family, a yogurt-based sauce like Tzatziki would also be delicious with these lamb kofta.
To round out your meal, serve the lamb kofta with plenty of pita bread and some crunchy, fresh vegetables, like cucumber and tomato. One idea is to make an Israeli salad of finely diced tomato, red onion, and cucumber in a lemon juice and olive oil dressing. Pass lemon slices for spritzing over everything and enjoy!Print
*For a gluten-free version of this recipe, substitute 1/2 cup cooked quinoa for the bulgur.
**Sauce may be prepared up to 2 weeks in advance.
Lamb Rogan Josh is a fragrant lamb curry, known for its red hue. It originally hails from northern India, specifically the region of Kashmir. In America, lamb rogan josh has become one of the most popular dishes at Indian restaurants. But there is no need to wait for your next night out to enjoy this iconic lamb stew – it is quite easy to prepare at home.
Making lamb rogan josh at home requires several steps, but the work can be broken up and done over the course of a day (or two!), so it is not stressful. Indeed, this is a great recipe to prepare in advance and reheat just before serving. Like most stews, lamb rogan josh may even taste better the next day.
And yes, you will notice that the list of ingredients in the recipe appears quite long. Do not panic! Most of the ingredients are spices, and I promise, most of the spices are ones that you likely already have in your pantry.
First, a little bit of background. There have long been conflicting stories about the origins of lamb rogan josh, but my friend Chef Jasmine Sheth, an expert on regional Indian cuisines, says that most people believe that this dish came to Kashmir from Persia hundreds of years ago.
The signature red color of lamb rogan josh comes from Kashmiri chiles. If you are able to source Kashmiri chile powder – online here or from an Indian grocery store near you – by all means, do so. It will add a wonderful authentic flavor to your stew. However, there is no need to make a special purchase, my recipe uses a combination of smoked paprika and a hint of cayenne pepper to approximate the taste and spice level of Kashmiri chile powder.
The first step is to marinate the lamb in a mixture of yogurt, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. The marinade both flavors and tenderizes the meat. I highly recommend that you plan ahead and marinate the lamb either the night before you plan to cook the stew, or in the morning if you plan to cook the lamb that evening.
When it is time to start cooking, begin by sautéing some onion. For this step, you can either use a neutral vegetable oil or ghee, which is Indian clarified butter. Ghee has gotten a lot of attention recently because it is both paleo and Keto-friendly. It also has a wonderful, nutty taste.
Unlike butter, ghee is shelf-stable and is suitable for frying and high-heat cooking. Many grocery stores carry it these days, so you may want to add a jar to your pantry.
Once the onions are soft, they are then seasoned with a heady mix of spices. This spice mix is responsible for many of the ingredients you see listed below. As promised, most of the spices needed for this stew are pantry staples, like cumin, coriander, and cloves. Together, they add deep, rich flavors to the luscious sauce in which we braise the meat.
The only spice that may be unfamiliar to you in this long list is garam masala, which we do not add until the very end of cooking. Garam masala is actually a spice mix that contains earthy, warm, and sweet spices, such as cumin, coriander, fennel, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg.
Today, most spice brands sell a version of garam masala and it is worth picking up a jar. Add it to your Indian and South Asian dishes – always at the end of cooking – for unbeatable flavor.
Don’t believe me? Taste this sauce before you add the garam masala and again afterwards. I promise you will notice the difference. Of course, you can also try making your own garam masala, personalized to your taste, and there are many good recipes available for this spice mix.
One last note about this lamb rogan josh recipe. You will notice that my recipe includes tomatoes. Every lamb rogan josh that I have ever eaten, all of which were in restaurants, had tomatoes in it, but apparently it is not traditionally part of the dish.
Chef Jasmine notes that growing up in India, she never saw lamb rogan josh with tomatoes in it, but that here in America, tomatoes are almost always included. Personally, I think the tomatoes add brightness and acidity. So I say, let’s add them!Print
*Lamb may be prepared up to one day in advance. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed. Reheat on the stove, adding water if the stew is too thick.
These Lamb Meatballs are pan-fried and served with a sweet and tangy pomegranate glaze that elevates them above ordinary weeknight fare.
Lamb meatballs go beautifully with rice or couscous when serving them as a main course. But they also make a delightful party appetizer. Just pass the glazed meatballs on a platter with toothpicks or miniature wooden forks and watch them disappear.
If you are new to cooking lamb, ground lamb is the perfect place to begin. Lamb can have a strong flavor, but ground lamb is quite mild. It is also very affordable and easy to find at most grocery stores. You can learn more about it in our article on How To Shop For And Cook Lamb.
In this recipe, we mix ground lamb with some minced onion, lots of warm, earthy spices, chopped pine nuts (for texture), and an egg, which acts as a binder. We then form the mixture into sixteen meatballs.
Pro tip: to prevent sticking, wet your hands slightly before forming the meatballs.
The meatballs come together in a matter of minutes, but you can also prepare the mixture and form the meatballs in advance. Simply keep them covered in the refrigerator for several hours and up to overnight if that is more convenient.
These lamb meatballs would be juicy and flavorful on their own, but I like to lacquer them with a tangy, piquant pomegranate glaze that is the perfect complement to their earthy flavor.
To make the glaze, you simply boil pomegranate juice, honey, and Balsamic vinegar until reduced and syrupy. You can also do this part in advance if you like.
The glaze is added to the meatballs at the end of cooking so it will coat them and give them a beautiful sheen. For an even more impressive presentation, garnish the meatballs with some fresh pomegranate seeds. Feel free to buy the packaged pomegranate seeds in the refrigerated case of the produce section to save time.
Typically, there are so many ways to cook meatballs – roasting in the oven, grilling, even air frying. For these meatballs, however, because we are adding a glaze, we need to cook them in a skillet on the stove.
The meatballs’ small size means that they are done in under 15 minutes. If you have a big enough skillet, you can cook all the meatballs at once. If not, cook them in two batches to avoid crowding the skillet.
As I mentioned, this recipe makes sixteen meatballs which is the perfect number for four people if you are serving the meatballs as a main course. If you want to serve them as a party appetizer alongside other hors d’oeuvres, then this recipe can easily serve eight. Or double it for a larger group. No one can resist a beautifully lacquered meatball. Pass the cocktail napkins!Print
*Glaze may be made up to one day in advance. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
**Meatballs may be made up to one day in advance. Transfer the meatballs to a plate, cover, and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Lamb Shish Kebabs are perfect for summer grilling. Before grilling them, we marinate them in a flavorful and easy garlicky lemon marinade!
These Mediterranean-inspired lamb shish kebabs are one of the tastiest things you can grill this summer. A garlicky, lemon marinade tenderizes the meat and infuses it with big, punchy flavors. Place the skewers directly on a screaming hot grill and they will be cooked to medium-rare perfection in under 15 minutes.
All over the world, people love to grill lamb. From Greece to India to the Middle East, you will find cooks grilling up Lamb Burgers, Lamb Chops, and, of course, lamb shish kebabs. After all, who doesn’t love grilled meat on a stick?
Shish kebab is a catch-all term for marinated meat and vegetables on a skewer. You can make shish kebabs with any meat, including chicken or beef, but today we are focusing on lamb. Shish kebabs originally come from the Mediterranean, specifically Turkey. And people in the Mediterranean eat a lot of lamb, so lamb shish kebabs are quite traditional.
The first step to a perfect lamb kebab is picking the right cut of meat. I recommend boneless leg of lamb because it is readily available and makes a tender and flavorful kebab, especially after marinating. If your grocery store meat counter sells lamb stew meat, that could be another option. Ask the butcher what cut the stew meat is from and whether he or she recommends it for grilling.
Note that these lamb shish kebabs are not the same as lamb kofta kebabs which are made with ground lamb. Lamb kofta is delicious and definitely another favorite for the grill, oven, or air fryer. But that recipe is quite different as lamb kofta is made from seasoned ground lamb that is formed into a patty while these shish kebabs are made from whole pieces of lamb.
Because the kebabs cook quickly, marinating them prior to cooking helps keep the meat tender. Marinate the lamb in the morning, or even the night before, if you are planning to grill the kebabs for dinner. We are going with Mediterranean flavors for these lamb shish kebabs, so the marinade is a mix of lemon juice, garlic, warm, earthy spices like cumin and coriander, and, of course, olive oil.
Once the lamb has marinated for several hours, it is ready to be threaded onto skewers for grilling. Both wooden or metal skewers work well here. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from burning on the grill.
You can, of course, grill skewers of meat by itself, but I like to add vegetables to my kebabs because that way, you almost have a complete meal. Just add some rice pilaf or warm pita bread. Again, these kebabs are inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean, so I like to stick with classic Mediterranean vegetables, like peppers, onion, and zucchini. Plus, the bright colors of these vegetables look so beautiful on the skewers.
Cook the kebabs over direct heat on a very hot grill. Turn frequently to ensure even cooking. They should be ready in under 15 minutes. We are aiming for medium-rare, so pull the lamb off the grill when it is just under medium-rare because it will continue to cook for a few additional minutes – what is known as carryover cooking. The internal temperature of the meat should be around 130 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant read thermometer (like this) or, if going by the feel test, the meat should feel like the tip of your nose when you press it.
These lamb and vegetables kebabs are delicious all on their own because they have a ton of flavor from the marinade. However, I do like to take it a step further and serve them with a Creamy Tzatziki Sauce on the side because the tangy yogurt complements the rich flavor of the meat so well. Plus, tzatziki, being Greek, is in keeping with our Mediterranean theme.Print
*If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes to prevent scorching.
Lamb Stew is a simple yet hearty and filling dish that’s best cooked nice and slow so the meat becomes tender and the flavors fully develop. Perfect for the weekend.
Lamb is a perfect meat for stewing, which explains why so many cuisines have a version of lamb stew. In India, they eat spicy Lamb Rogan Josh. Lamb tagine is a favorite in Morocco. And in France, you might see elegant Navarin of Lamb on the menu. This version of lamb stew hails from Ireland – where they eat a lot of lamb – and features spring vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and peas. A perfect dish for St. Patrick’s Day…or any day!
You might be able to find lamb stew meat already trimmed and ready for cooking at your butcher, in which case you are all set to go. If you cannot find lamb stew meat, I suggest purchasing boneless leg of lamb and cutting that into pieces yourself.
First, this cut is readily available and is reasonably priced, especially when it is on sale. Second, because it is boneless, you will use almost all of it and you do not have to cut around the bones. You can also use lamb shoulder for stew, but it will take longer for it to become tender and it is not always available at the grocery store.
To prepare boneless leg of lamb for stewing, simply remove the mesh netting around the meat and unroll it. Trim off the cap of fat and begin cutting the meat into 2-inch pieces. Continue to remove excess fat as you go and do not worry if some of the pieces of meat end up being smaller than 2 inches. You don’t want to waste any of the meat and it will all taste delicious in the end!
The problem with stews is that they can sometimes be bland. Hearty and filling, yes, but not very flavorful. The way to counteract that is to build flavor as you go and to include ingredients with lots of umami. For our lamb stew, the ingredient that brings the umami is tomato paste. You won’t taste the tomato, but adding this highly concentrated ingredient will make the stew taste especially savory and meaty.
For this dish, you start by dredging the lamb in seasoned flour and then browning it in a saucepan or Dutch oven. The flour will thicken the stew later on and browning the lamb adds flavor because of those little browned bits that form on the bottom of the pot.
Once you add the liquid, you’ll want to scrape up those browned bits and stir them into the stew. This step is often called deglazing the pan. The browning step can be time-consuming – especially because you will need to work in batches to avoid crowding the pan – but it is so worth it for the flavor it adds.
For our stewing liquid, we use a combination of broth and a dark Irish stout, such as Guinness. We are definitely keeping it authentically Irish here! Stout has a reputation for being bitter, but the bitterness will cook out – as will the alcohol – and the final result will be a stew with incredible deep, rich flavor.
Like most such dishes, this stew can be made a day in advance and reheated on the stove prior to serving. In fact, I sometimes think stews taste better when I make them in advance. So, if you are planning to serve this for guests, consider making it the day before your party.
If you do make the stew in advance, do not add the peas until right before serving. You may also need to add some additional liquid when reheating if the stew has thickened in the refrigerator, which is normal.
For a really fun variation on this recipe, turn the stew into a meat pie. Simply prepare the stew as instructed. Once the stew is ready, let it cool and then transfer it to a deep pie plate.
Drape thawed frozen puff pastry over the stew. Press the edges of the pastry against the rim of the pie plate to seal it closed and make several cuts for venting. Brush the pastry with beaten egg for a nice glossy finish and bake the pie in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven until the pastry is browned and crisp and the filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving. Lamb stew pie is true Irish pub fare.
Lamb stew may not be a quick weeknight dinner. But on those days – perhaps a Sunday or a snowy afternoon – when you have time to let a stew simmer away on the stove for an hour or so, this is exactly the kind of dish you should make. And believe me: the whole house will smell amazing while this stew is bubbling away.Print
*Can use 3 lbs. boneless leg of lamb trimmed of excess fat and cut into 2-inch pieces instead of stew meat.
**May be done up to a day in advance. Transfer stew to a covered container and refrigerate until needed.
Rack of lamb is an elegant main course that is worthy of a special occasion or even a holiday dinner. While rack of lamb can be expensive, it is easy to cook to perfection and never fails to impress.
Looking for a centerpiece for a festive meal? This stunning oven-roasted rack of lamb with a delectable garlic-herb crust is just the thing.
Rack of lamb is the equivalent of a prime rib in beef, but it’s much smaller because (obviously) lambs are smaller than cows. Essentially, a rack of lamb is seven or eight rib chops that come all in one piece.
When a rack of lamb is cut into individual chops, those chops are sometimes known as Lamb Lollipops because you can pick them up with your hands and eat then right off the bone.
Gordon Ramsey calls rack of lamb “the Rolls-Royce” of lamb. That’s because the meat from this cut of lamb is incredibly tender and full of flavor. Rack of lamb also looks impressive – especially when the racks are “Frenched,” which simply means that the meat and fat is trimmed off the ends of the ribs.
A rack of lamb typically contains eight individual chops. You should allow for two to three chops per person, so one rack of lamb will serve two to three people and two racks of lamb will serve five to six people.
Rack of lamb is not inexpensive. You can expect to pay $20 a pound for imported rack of lamb and closer to $30 a pound for domestic rack of lamb. See this post on How to Shop for and Cook Lamb to understand why imported lamb is cheaper than American lamb. So, yes, rack of lamb is likely more for a special occasion than for a weeknight dinner, but for that special occasion, rack of lamb is well worth the price tag.
If you are going to spend $20 or even $30 a pound for rack of lamb, you definitely want to feel confident cooking it. Luckily, rack of lamb is a forgiving cut of meat that is easy to cook. The key is not to overcook it. You want beautifully pink, medium-rare lamb chops that are tender and juicy.
To take the anxiety out of cooking rack of lamb, I highly recommend investing in an instant-read meat thermometer (like this one), if you don’t already own one. You want to cook the meat until the internal temperature is between 125 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare. The meat will continue to cook from the residual heat once it is removed from the oven and resting, so you end up with perfect medium-rare lamb.
You can cook rack of lamb in the oven, on the stovetop, or even on the grill.
Oven-roasting is by far the most hands-off method and is practically fool-proof. Twenty to twenty-five minutes in a hot, 450-degree Fahrenheit oven is all you need for a tender, juicy rack of lamb. For extra flavor, prior to roasting, you can season the rack of lamb with herbs or spices, or even coat it with a crust of herbs and bread crumbs, as I do here.
Because rack of lamb is relatively small, you can also pan-sear it on the stove like you would a steak. This technique works for one or at most two racks of lamb because you do not want to crowd the skillet. To cook rack of lamb on the stovetop, heat a few tablespoons of a neutral oil with a high smoking point, such as canola or sunflower, in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
Place the rack of lamb fat-side down in the hot skillet and sear until nicely browned. Turn the racks over and brown the underside. Keep cooking the lamb, adjusting the heat and turning the racks occasionally until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lastly, if the weather permits, you can also grill rack of lamb. For this technique, cover the tips of the bones with foil so that they do not char. Heat the grill over high heat and grill the racks of lamb fat side down for 7 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
However you cook your rack of lamb, allow it to rest for five to ten minutes prior to carving. You may want to bring the racks of lamb to the table whole because they look so impressive. You deserve all the oohs and ahs you will get! Once you have wowed your guests, it is very easy, with a sharp carving knife, to carve the racks into single or double chops for serving.Print
*May be prepared up to one day in advance.
Instant Pot Lamb Shanks take a fraction of the time to cook as making them on the stove. The result is juicy fall-off-the-bone lamb without watching the stove.
Lamb shanks have become a trendy restaurant dish as of late, but there is no need to leave the house to enjoy this flavorful, inexpensive cut of meat. Lamb shanks are easy to cook at home and the presentation of the meat on the bone looks really fancy.
It used to take hours of long, slow cooking to turn tough lamb shanks into juicy, succulent meat that practically falls off the bone, but the Instant Pot gets the job done in a fraction of the time it would take on the stovetop. This is exactly the kind of recipe that the Instant Pot was made for. If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet, no worries, we’ve got you covered with how to make them the traditional way too.
The lamb shank is the lower part of the animal’s leg. You may be familiar with leg of lamb – on the bone or boneless – which is a pricey and especially tender cut of meat. Leg of lamb comes from the upper part of the lamb’s back legs. Be sure to check out my recipes for both Boneless Leg of Lamb and Bone-In Leg of Lamb.
The shank, by contrast, is the lower part of the leg and can come from either the front or the hind legs. Lamb shanks are much less expensive than leg of lamb and can be tough unless you know how to cook them properly.
Economical, tough cuts of meat, such as lamb shanks, benefit from long-slow cooking in liquid – a technique known as braising. When cooked this way, the flavorful meat will become tender, and it will contribute a rich, meaty flavor and luscious texture to the cooking liquid, which you can turn into a sauce to accompany the meat.
Traditionally, to cook lamb shanks, you begin by browning the meat on all sides in a wide, deep pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Then you remove the meat and sauté some aromatics, like onion, carrot and celery. After sautéing the aromatics, you add a cooking liquid, such as red wine or beef broth, and return the meat to the pot.
The lamb shanks would then be braised, in the covered pot, on the stovetop or in the oven for two to three hours. While this traditional method is very hands-off, it still takes several hours for the meat to become falling-off-the-bone tender.
The Instant Pot speeds up this process considerably, making lamb shanks accessible for even a busy weeknight dinner. The Instant Pot method is very similar to the traditional stovetop approach. (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, we recommend this one.)
Begin by browning the meat on all sides – don’t skip this step because it adds a lot of flavor. Then you sauté the aromatics, add the cooking liquid, and return the lamb shanks to the Instant Pot. Cook at high pressure for a mere 40 minutes and voilà! Lamb shanks in half the time.
The key to making this braise lick-the-spoon delicious, whether you are cooking the lamb shanks on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot, is to remove the grease from the cooking liquid so that you can turn it into a rich flavorful sauce for the meat. I suggest a few different ways to do this in the recipe, but a fat separator makes it especially easy. (This is the one we love.)
To remove the fat from the sauce with a fat separator, simply transfer the cooking liquid to the separator. The fat will naturally rise to the top. Pour the liquid from the bottom of the fat separator, leaving the grease behind.
This liquid can then be reduced and thickened into a sauce to accompany your lamb shanks. Be sure to serve some couscous, rice, or the Best Mashed Potatoes on the side for soaking up all that delicious sauce.
Yes! Like many stews and braises, lamb shanks can be prepared a day in advance, which is helpful if making them for a special occasion. If preparing these the day before you plan to serve them, follow the recipe through step 6. After removing the lamb shanks from the Instant Pot and straining the sauce, transfer the meat and sauce into separate containers and refrigerate both. The fat in the sauce will congeal as it chills and you can then easily remove and discard it.
To reheat prior to serving, place the sauce and the lamb shanks in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and add the dried fruit. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the meat is heated through. Then remove the cover and simmer the sauce until slightly reduced and thickened. You should not need the corn starch slurry if reheating the lamb shanks on the stove.
These North African-inspired lamb shanks with dried fruit are an impressive dish suitable for company or even a holiday celebration, but the Instant Pot makes them easy enough to prepare any night of the week.Print
*Fat naturally rises to the top and sits above the liquid so you can skim it off with a spoon or use a fat separator (we love this one).
Mongolian Lamb Stir-Fry is a delicious main course that tastes like it came from your favorite Chinese restaurant.
In Australia, where they eat a lot of lamb, one of the most popular dishes at the local Chinese restaurants is Mongolian Lamb Stir-Fry. Most of us will never get to eat at an Australian Chinese restaurant, but luckily, this dish is easy to recreate at home. When you taste the tender, succulent lamb, you will understand why this dish is so popular.
To make Mongolian lamb stir-fry, you first rub small cubes or thin slices of lamb with earthy cumin and piquant chile flakes. Cutting the lamb into small pieces will ensure that your lamb cooks quickly and stays tender.
Then you stir-fry the seasoned lamb with lots of aromatics, like onion, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Although we add a little bit of soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine (more on that below) at the end, this is what is known as a dry stir-fry, meaning it is not bathed in a thick sauce.
I have kept this stir-fry very simple with onion and scallion, but you could add sliced bell peppers or pea pods if you enjoy lots of vegetables in your stir-fry.
No! Besides being made with beef and not lamb, Mongolian beef has a different sauce and is much sweeter than this dish. Mongolian beef is also not made with cumin. Here we use cumin because it is such a natural pairing with lamb.
You can use almost any boneless cut of lamb, including some more economical cuts. Because you are cutting the lamb into small pieces and cooking it quickly, no matter what cut you use, it will be tender.
Boneless leg of lamb will make an exceptionally tasty stir-fry, but it can be pricey. Boneless lamb stew or kabob meat from the leg or shoulder is another good option – just cut it into smaller pieces once you get the meat home.
Lastly, you can also buy a bone-in cut, such as a shoulder chop, and trim the meat off the bone yourself. If you choose this option, buy at least 1.5 to 2 pounds of bone-in lamb to end up with a pound of meat and trim off any pieces of fat or tendon as well as remove the bones.
Shaoxing wine is a Chinese cooking wine that is used to add depth and complexity to dishes. It is a common ingredient in many Chinese recipes, including stir fries and noodle dishes. You can find Shaoxing wine at a grocery store with a good selection of international products, an Asian market – if you have one nearby – or online here.
It typically retails for around $10 and most recipes only call for a few tablespoons, so one bottle will last you quite a long time. Store Shaoxing wine in your pantry even after opening the bottle and do not try drinking it – it’s very salty!
A good substitute for Shaoxing wine is dry sherry or Japanese rice wine, which is also known as mirin. But if you enjoy cooking Chinese dishes at home, I recommend picking up a bottle of Shaoxing wine. You will find many uses for it.
Like most stir-fries, Mongolian lamb cooks very quickly, so make sure that you have all of the ingredients ready to go before you start cooking!Print
*You may substitute with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Lamb Lollipops make a great hors d’oeuvre for a party or family dinner entree. Best of all, they’re easy to prepare and delicious pan-seared or grilled.
Have you ever been to a party where lamb lollipops were among the hors d’oeuvres? People cannot get enough of these tender, flavorful lamb chops that you eat right off the bone!
But lamb lollipops aren’t just for parties – they can also be a quick yet elegant family dinner. This version of pan-seared lamb lollipops has a soy-singer glaze and is downright irresistible.
Lamb lollipops are simply individual chops cut from a rack of lamb. They are called lamb lollipops because you can hold them in your hand and eat the meat right off the bone with no utensils needed. That’s why these are such a popular party hors d’oeuvre. But even without a party, lamb lollipops are just plain fun to eat.
When shopping for lamb lollipops, look for a “Frenched” rack of lamb, which means that some of the meat and fat have been trimmed away from the rib bones for a more elegant presentation.
This bone is the “stick” of the lollipop, so you want it to be long enough to easily hold. Racks of lamb are often sold already Frenched, but if you come across one that has not been Frenched, you can ask the butcher to do it for you.
A rack of lamb typically comes with eight chops. You can cut them into individual chops yourself, which is fairly straightforward, but you can also ask the butcher to do it for you.
You want to ask them to cut down the rack of lamb into single chops for lamb lollipops. (For other preparations, you may want to cut the rack of lamb into double chops.) Once you get the lamb lollipops home, trim off all but a thin layer of fat from the chops.
You can grill or pan-sear lamb lollipops. Because they are so thin, they cook very quickly – just a few minutes per side.
Prior to cooking, you can marinate lamb lollipops for extra flavor. Try to marinate them for at least one hour and up to overnight. There is no need to let the lamb lollipops come to room temperature prior to cooking because they are thin and cook so quickly. Take them right from the refrigerator to a smoking hot pan.
To cook the lamb lollipops on the stove, heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the lamb chops for 2-3 minutes per side. This may get a bit smoky, so turn on the exhaust fan.
With a pricey and tender cut of meat such as lamb chops, you really want to aim for a beautifully pink, medium-rare degree of doneness. Look for an internal temperature of 125 to 135° Fahrenheit on your instant-read thermometer (like this one). Let the meat rest for a few minutes, during which the temperature will continue to rise a few degrees, and then grab a bone and dig in.
As I mentioned, lamb lollipops are a favorite finger food at parties. If you are serving these lamb chops as an hors d’oeuvre, you can simply pass them on a platter with a small plate or cocktail napkin where your guests can place the bone when they are finished eating. One to two chops per person is enough, especially if you are serving other hors d’oeuvres as well.
To serve lamb lollipops as a main course, you should purchase 3 to 4 chops per person. Two racks of lamb, which is 16 chops, will generously feed a group of four. Serve the lamb chops with a starchy side dish, such as mashed potatoes, Italian polenta or rice, and a favorite green vegetable for an elegant dinner worthy of a special occasion.Print
*Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as an hors d’oeuvre.
Boneless leg of lamb is a flavorful and easy-to-prepare cut that makes a stunning centerpiece for a holiday dinner or other special occasion. One of my favorite things about preparing boneless leg of lamb is that you naturally end up with meat of different degrees of doneness – perfect when feeding a crowd!
Here is everything you need to know about how to prepare boneless leg of lamb, plus a great recipe for a roasted boneless leg of lamb with a Greek-inspired garlic-herb rub.
Boneless leg of lamb is also sometimes referred to as a butterflied leg of lamb. What this means is that the bone has been removed from the leg and the meat has been cut in half so that it opens up more or less flat. I say more or less flat because some parts are still thicker than others. More on that below.
Grocery stores and butchers typically sell boneless (or butterflied) leg of lamb rolled up, tied, and held closed with a mesh netting. Also, you can purchase either a whole boneless leg of lamb, which weighs around 5 pounds, or a “short” boneless leg of lamb which will weigh between 3 and 4 pounds. If we follow the usual guidelines of allowing for 1/2 pound of meat per person, you can see that even the “short” leg of lamb feeds between 6 and 8 people.
Both oven-roasting and grilling are good methods for cooking a boneless leg of lamb. Whichever method you choose, consider seasoning or marinating the lamb in advance for maximum flavor.
Here’s a fun fact! It will typically take longer to roast a boneless leg of lamb than a leg of lamb with the bone still in, even though the bone-in leg weighs more.
Why? It’s because the bone acts as a conductor to help spread the heat through the meat. Put another way, meat that is touching bone cooks quicker than meat that is touching just meat. Who knew?
To roast boneless leg of lamb in the oven, you first need to remove the mesh netting. At this point, you have two choices. One, simply leave the boneless leg of lamb tied up and season the outside before roasting. This is the easiest method and perfect for when you are in a rush.
But, if you are willing to do a little more work, you can also untie the roast, open it up, and season both sides before rolling it back up and tying it closed for cooking. This second method is my preference because it’s very easy to roll and tie the meat yourself and you can add so much flavor by seasoning both sides of the meat with herbs and spices.
If you are going to the trouble of untying and opening up the roast, I highly recommend seasoning the lamb in advance with a rub or marinade and letting it rest in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight. This will give your roast so much flavor and the meat will come out especially tender and juicy.
The recipe below includes a garlic and herb rub that incorporates classic Greek flavors like parsley, lemon, and oregano – all of which pair exceptionally well with lamb.
To roast the boneless leg of lamb, start with a screaming hot oven to give the meat a nicely browned crust on the outside. Then, after about 30 minutes or so, turn the heat down and let the inside of the roast cook more slowly until done.
You want to take the roast out when the center reaches 130 to 135° Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer (like this one). The meat will continue to cook as it rests, so taking it out when the center is around 130° will ensure nice, pink, medium-rare meat in the center of the roast.
For those folks who prefer their meat medium, the outer slices will be more cooked than the inside, so there will be something for everyone. As always, carve the roast by slicing against the grain.
For grilling, it is best to untie the lamb and grill it flat. As I mentioned above, when it is opened up flat, there are thinner and thicker parts of the butterflied leg of lamb.
If you know that you are serving some people who like their meat more well done and others who like it rarer, you can go ahead and grill the lamb as-is and aim for medium-rare for the thickest part of the lamb. That way, the thinner parts will end up well done and everyone can have the part they like.
Alternatively, if you want to cook the butterflied leg of lamb more evenly, you can cut into the thickest part of the meat from the center, but don’t cut it all the way through. Then you should be able to open up that thicker piece like a book and the whole leg will lay flat and be more even in thickness.
As with roasting, marinating the boneless leg of lamb before grilling is a great way to add flavor. Many different ingredients work well with lamb, including yogurt, soy sauce, citrus, pesto or other herb pastes, and olive tapenade. Grilled lamb is a dish found in cuisines from Greece to India to the Middle East, so be creative!
Grill butterflied leg of lamb over direct, medium-high heat. Start the meat by placing it fat-side down on a preheated oiled grill. Grill until the internal temperature reads 130 to 135° Fahrenheit in the thickest part, about 10 to 15 minutes per side.
If the lamb is starting to char, turn the heat down to medium or move the lamb to a cooler part of the grill. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes prior to carving.
Whether you grill it flat or roast it rolled up and tied, boneless leg of lamb is an exceptionally versatile, flavorful, and crowd-pleasing cut of meat. Be sure to give it a try for your next holiday meal, dinner party, or backyard cookout.Print
Lamb Burgers are juicy and flavorful and tend to be less gamey than other cuts of lamb. So the next time you throw some burgers on the grill (or stove), be sure to give these lamb burgers with smoky harrisa mayo a try. Delish!
Burger night is a favorite in many households, but it can become a little, shall we say, boring after a while. The next time you think about making burgers – for grilling or on the stove – consider making lamb burgers instead of your usual burgers made with beef.
Ground lamb makes an especially juicy burger and has almost none of that gamey lamb flavor that some people find objectionable. Even people who claim not to like lamb will happily devour a lamb burger!
Ground lamb is a perfect entry point for those new to cooking – and eating – lamb. It is readily available at most grocery stores at a price comparable to that of ground beef.
In addition, ground lamb has a mild flavor, especially as compared to other cuts of lamb, such as the leg or the shank. But while ground lamb is milder than other cuts of lamb, it still has a deliciously rich, earthy flavor that pairs well with other strong flavors, like cumin and garlic.
Ground lamb is also extremely versatile. Anything you can do with ground beef, you can do with ground lamb. Try lamb meatballs, lamb tacos, shepherd’s pie, or stuffed peppers with lamb. Because it is rich, a little bit of ground lamb goes a long way, making it a perfect topping for grain bowls or pasta dishes.
Ground lamb is also a healthy choice. Lamb is an excellent source of protein and key nutrients, like iron, vitamin B12, and zinc.
It has around the same number of calories as ground beef, ounce per ounce, but because lamb is grass-fed, it actually has more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than beef. So, it really is a good idea to incorporate ground lamb into your weekly or monthly menu planning.
Now that I have convinced you to pick up some ground lamb on your next trip to the store, you may be wondering what the secret is to a good lamb burger. Making a delicious lamb burger is a lot like making a delicious hamburger: the trick is to season the meat well and not to handle it too much.
Lamb has great flavor, as I explain above, so you do not need to add a lot to your lamb burgers. In this recipe, for example, I give the lamb burgers a North African flavor by seasoning them with a hint of warm spices like cumin and coriander, and add little bit of onion and garlic for extra moisture. That’s it! Nice and simple.
Whenever you are working with ground meat, you want to handle the meat as little as possible. Overworked meat becomes tough. So, to that end, mix any seasonings into the meat gently – your hands are the best tool for this.
Keep the patties as loosely formed as possible while still making sure that they will hold together in the pan. One trick that can help ensure that your burgers will stay together is to form the patties in advance and chill them prior to cooking.
However, even if you make your lamb burger patties in advance, do not season your lamb burgers with salt until right before cooking. If you salt the patties too early, the salt will break down the proteins in the meat which results in tougher, denser patties.
You can cook lamb burgers a few different ways, just as with hamburgers. Lamb burgers are terrific grilled, as you might imagine. But many of us live in places where it is not possible to grill all year long.
So, in this recipe, I explain how to cook lamb burgers in a skillet on the stove, which is a convenient, year-round option. And the results are delicious — burgers that are seared on the outside and tender on the inside with crispy, browned edges.
Remember how I said that I season these lamb burgers with North African flavors, like cumin and coriander? Well, I like to double down on the North African influence by skipping the ketchup and slathering my lamb burgers with a piquant, creamy harissa mayonnaise.
What’s harissa, you ask? Harissa is a spicy (but not too spicy), fruity chile paste popular in North Africa and the Middle East. It is usually made with sweet and hot peppers, garlic, olive oil, and those same warm, earthy spices I mentioned earlier. (There’s a lot of cumin in North African cuisine.)
You can find harissa at grocery stores with a large selection of international products or online here. Once you try it, you may find yourself adding harissa to lots of different dishes. (Swirl some into hummus, for example. Or spoon it on your eggs instead of your usually hot sauce.)
Here, the harissa adds just a hint of heat and a subtle smokiness to the creamy tang of mayonnaise. It’s the perfect complement to the richness of the lamb burgers and ties together those North African flavors. Harissa mayo also makes a great dipping sauce for Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries, which happens to be a great side dish for these lamb burgers.
So the next time you are craving a burger, make it a lamb burger!Print
*May be made up to several days in advance. Store the harissa mayo in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed.
**May be done up to several hours in advance. Cover the patties and refrigerate them until needed.
Lamb chops are a tender, flavorful cut of meat that cook up quickly on the stove or the grill, making them perfect weeknight fare. In this recipe, we serve grilled lamb chops with a fresh, herbaceous herb pesto that comes together in just minutes in the food processor.
There are two different kinds of lamb chops, which can be a little confusing. Lamb loin chops, which are sometimes known as t-bone chops, are the ones we are talking about today. Cut from the saddle or loin of the lamb, these bone-in chops look like a miniature t-bone steak and are made up of two small muscles, the short loin and the tenderloin.
The other kind of lamb chops, lamb rib chops, come from the rack and have a long, thin bone on one side. Sometimes these are known as lamb lollipops because you can hold the bone like a stick and eat the chop right off the bone.
Lamb loin chops are definitely best eaten with a fork and knife. But that doesn’t mean that they are any less delicious. In fact, lamb loin chops are among the most prized cuts of lamb and often thought of as pricey restaurant fare. But, in fact, they are very easy to cook at home, which is a lot more convenient and economical.
When shopping for lamb chops, allow for 2 to 3 chops per person depending on the size. (Typically, butchers recommend a half-pound of meat per person.) Overcooked lamb is tough and tasteless, so you do not want to buy lamb chops that are too thin and may cook too quickly. Look for chops that are at least 1-inch thick.
Prior to cooking, I like to dry-brine lamb chops by salting them and allowing them to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. This will ensure better browning and a nice sear on the outside of the chops.
You can pan-sear lamb chops in a heavy skillet, such as a cast iron skillet, on the stove, which is convenient, and you can even use the drippings from the meat to whip up a quick pan sauce at the end. Just cook the chops in a lightly oiled, screaming hot skillet for 3 to 4 minutes, until there is a nice char on the bottom. Turn the chops over and repeat on the second side.
To add a pan sauce, reduce the heat to low, add some butter, aromatics, like chopped shallot or garlic, and herbs. Once the butter melts, use it to baste the chops and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the lamb reaches 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the chops to rest for 5 minutes or so and then serve with the pan sauce drizzled over the meat.
As good as pan-seared lamb chops sound, my favorite way to cook lamb loin chops is on the grill because lamb tastes amazing with a bit of char on it. The technique for grilling lamb chops is similar to cooking a thick steak. You want to grill the chops on a very hot grill over direct heat. Turn the chops frequently and do not overcook them. Lamb chops are best at medium-rare so aim for an internal temperature of around 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take approximately 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops and the heat of the grill.
The only drawback with the grill is that you cannot use the drippings from the meat to create a pan sauce. So, instead, I serve these grilled lamb chops with a fresh, green herb pesto that I prepare in advance.
The classic herb to pair with lamb is rosemary, but rosemary has a very strong, piney flavor. In other words, a little bit of rosemary goes a long way. Thus, I add peppery arugula to the pesto to mellow out the rosemary flavor. A little garlic, a little lemon juice to fix the bright green color, and a generous pour of extra-virgin olive oil round out the rest of the ingredients. I prefer not to add cheese to this pesto to let the bright herbs shine through. The whole thing comes together in just minutes in your food processor.
So, now that it is grilling season, be sure to add lamb loin chops to your outdoor cooking repertoire. I guarantee that these tender, juicy chops will become a staple in your house as they are in mine.Print
*The temperature will continue to rise as the chops rest.
A whole, roasted, bone-in leg of lamb is one of those dishes that never fails to impress. Follow my easy, reverse-sear method for roasting a leg of lamb, and I guarantee juicy, tender, rosy-pink slices of meat every time!
For some families, leg of lamb is the traditional roast for special occasions, be it Easter or just Sunday lunch. But for those who did not grow up with this tradition, a whole, bone-in leg of lamb can be intimidating both to cook and to serve. But not to worry, I will explain exactly how to shop for, cook and carve leg of lamb so you will feel confident making it for your next special occasion.
You might be wondering why you should even bother with a bone-in leg of lamb, which admittedly is a bit tricky to carve, when boneless legs of lamb are so readily available. Well, there are a few reasons why you might want to choose a bone-in roast.
First, bone-in leg of lamb is often less expensive per pound than boneless. Indeed, even accounting for the weight of the bone, you will be able to feed more people for less money with a bone-in leg of lamb.
Moreover, a bone-in leg of lamb is actually easier to cook to pink, juicy perfection without the danger of overcooking and ending up with dry, tough meat. This is because of the way the bone acts an an insulator and helps conduct the heat.
Lastly, a whole leg of lamb looks especially impressive when served, which is exactly what you want for those special occasion meals. Every cook dreams of that moment when you bring the gorgeously browned leg of lamb to the table, start to carve, and reveal the perfectly pink meat within. Everyone will ooh and aah!
Now that I have convinced you to make leg of lamb for your next special occasion, here is what to expect when you head to the butcher counter. A bone-in leg of lamb typically weighs anywhere from 5 to 7 pounds. In other words, it is perfect for feeding a crowd.
There are actually two parts to a leg of lamb: the shank end and the sirloin end. The shank end – which is what most of us think of as leg of lamb – is the lower half of the leg, from the ankle to halfway up the calf bone. The sirloin end, naturally, is the upper half of the leg, from the hip to the knee. Either cut is good; the sirloin end is a bit easier to carve, but the shank end is more readily available and has better flavor.
You will notice that the shank end of a leg of lamb is tapered with a wide end and a narrow end. Moreover, the bone is not in the center of the roast but rather runs along one side. This shape can make carving a challenge, but I will explain exactly how to carve this roast below.
When shopping, ask the butcher to remove most of the exterior fat, which can make the lamb taste gamey. Sometimes a leg of lamb will come Frenched, meaning a bit of the meat has been trimmed off the bone at the narrow end, making for a more elegant presentation. You can always ask the butcher to do this for you, if the leg of lamb is not already Frenched.
When it is time to cook, you have to make a decision: do you want to cook your roast on high or low heat? You can cook leg of lamb in a very hot oven – say 425 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit – and it will only take an hour or so to be done. The downside is that the meat will cook less evenly, resulting in well-done meat on the outside and medium-rare meat on the inside. If you are in a hurry, this is the way to go and the results will still be tasty.
But there is another approach. Bone-in leg of lamb takes especially well to slow roasting and what is known as the reverse sear. This method takes longer but the result is evenly cooked meat throughout.
For the reverse-sear, roast the leg of lamb in a low oven until the center has reached around 130 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer (like this one). Then remove the lamb from the oven and let it rest. At the same time, raise the oven temperature to 475 or 500 degrees Fahrenheit – as hot as you can go! When the oven is nice and hot, put the lamb back in for a short time – just until the outside is beautifully burnished and the exterior fat nice and crispy.
However you cook your leg of lamb, you will have to carve it, so make sure your carving knife is nice and sharp. Begin by holding the lamb steady with a fork or tongs. Then, carve thin slices perpendicular to the bone. The first few slices will likely fall off the bone, but the rest will likely stay attached. Not to worry! Keep slicing and then, when you have sliced all the way down to the narrow end of the roast, cut across the top of the bone and down the side, and the slices should fall right off.
(Later, you may want to go back and cut more of the meat off the bone, although it won’t come off in pretty slices. These bits and pieces of meat are delicious for snacking, or you can save them for a lamb hash later in the week.)
It is traditional to serve mint sauce with roast lamb and this combination is a classic for a reason. The sweet, fresh taste of mint is the perfect complement to rich, meaty roast lamb.
However, I like to add a global twist to the classic lamb-mint combination and serve my leg of lamb with a mint chimichurri.
Chimichurri is a loose, spoonable South American sauce that is often served with roasted and grilled meats. It typically contains parsley, garlic, chili peppers, vinegar for a bit of zing, and oil. My mint chimichurri has all the traditional ingredients plus a generous amount of mint. In my opinion, the brightness and acidity of the chimichurri really cuts through the richness of the lamb and adds a welcome bit of heat. But you can always stick with a classic mint sauce if that is more your thing.
There you have it! Everything you need to know to shop for, cook, carve, and serve a whole leg of lamb. Now, you just need an occasion to serve this perfect holiday centerpiece.Print
Leg of Lamb:
Make the mint chimichurri:
Prepare the lamb:
Want to incorporate more lamb into your family’s diet, but not sure where to begin? We have everything you need to know about how to shop for lamb, the differences between domestic and imported lamb, all the different cuts available and the best methods for cooking each one.
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?
Half of the lamb consumed in America is imported and most of that lamb comes from the other side of the world, namely Australia and New Zealand. This may seem counterintuitive, but imported lamb is usually less expensive than domestic lamb. The reason for that is simple: volume. The American lamb industry is small – consisting mainly of family farms and ranches – while Australia and New Zealand have bigger lamb industries and raise far more lamb than we do.
North American-raised lamb tends to be larger, fattier, and less gamey in flavor than imported. This is mainly because of differences in the animals’ diet. American lamb ranchers start their herds on a diet of grass but then the animals are fed a grain-based diet for the last 30 days of their lives. This means that the meat has more marbling and a mild, sweet flavor that is similar to beef. A leg of lamb from an American animal can weigh up to 15 pounds, which could easily feed a dozen people.
Imported lamb from Australia and New Zealand tends to be smaller – with a leg of lamb weighing closer to 5 or 6 pounds. Lamb raised in these countries eat only grass, which can make the meat leaner and the flavor a bit gamier. There are also some health benefits from eating grass-fed animals including higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
In short, if you want to try American-raised lamb, you will need to be willing to seek it out – perhaps at a specialty butcher – and pay more. The majority of the lamb available at a typical grocery store comes from Australia and New Zealand.
Wherever your lamb comes from, it should be rosy red or pink in color with white fat. Lamb that is not fresh will have a sour, mineral smell and will feel tacky to the touch. You should avoid any lamb that smells or looks “off” in this way.
Store lamb in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or below. Use or freeze ground lamb or stew meat within 48 hours of purchase. Use or freeze chops and roasts within 72 hours of purchase.
Well-wrapped, lamb may be frozen for up to 6 months. Thaw lamb in the refrigerator or by using the defrost feature of your microwave. Once thawed, lamb should not be re-frozen.
As with beef, there are many different cuts of lamb, including roasts, chops, and more. Let’s examine the different cuts of lamb that you are likely to see in the store and what method is best for cooking each one.
Lamb Shank: The shank is the lower half of the leg – from the lamb’s ankle to the middle of the calf bone. The meat of the shank is very flavorful, but it can be tough because this is a working muscle. The best method for cooking the shank is braising, that is, long, slow cooking in liquid until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. For this reason, this cut is very well-suited to cooking in the Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker.
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.
Rack of Lamb: Similar to prime rib, and just as delicious, a typical rack of lamb has 8 chops and weighs about 2 pounds. “Frenched” rack of lamb means that the butcher has stripped the meat off the ends of the rib bones for an elegant look. A crown roast is a slightly old-fashioned presentation of two frenched racks of lamb tied together. Rack of lamb can be pricey, so you may want to save it for a special occasion. It is suitable for roasting, grilling, or even pan-searing on the stove.
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.
As discussed above, you can cook lamb any number of ways depending on the cut. Some of the most popular methods are oven-roasting, grilling, pan-searing, and braising.
When cooking lamb roasts and chops, there is a more narrow range of degrees of doneness than there is for beef. Rare lamb can be tough and not especially flavorful, but at the same time, well-done lamb is dry and unappealing. For the best flavor, you want medium-rare, or at most medium, lamb – especially when working with imported lamb, which is leaner than domestic lamb.
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.
As mentioned earlier, when cooking ground lamb, such as lamb burgers or meatballs, the FDA recommends an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid any possibility of food borne illness.
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.
Lamb is a versatile protein with health benefits, so why don’t we eat more lamb? Here are some reasons as well as why we believe lamb belongs on your menu.
Having spent a lot of time in France and around the Mediterranean, I have learned to love the rich flavor and versatility of lamb. Lamb burgers, lamb shish kebabs, and grilled lamb chops are all part of my regular culinary repertoire.
However, I know from talking to my friends, blog readers, and culinary students that many people eat lamb very infrequently, if at all. I think that is a shame because those people are missing out on a healthy, delicious, and easy-to-prepare source of protein. So, in this post, I am going to explain exactly why we should all be eating more lamb.
Humans began raising sheep as a food source around 10,000 years ago, making sheep one of the very first domesticated animals. Indeed, throughout human history, people have relied on sheep for meat, milk and wool.
As humans progressed from simple hunters and gatherers to forming permanent settlements supported by agriculture, sheep-herding became one of the first specialized professions. (Think of all the stories of shepherds in ancient mythology and, of course, in the Bible.) Today, people still raise sheep all over the world and lamb is a traditional meat for many global cuisines, including Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern and Chinese.
Despite this long history, lamb has fallen out of favor with American cooks and diners. Americans eat only .8 pounds of lamb per person per year, as compared to 100 pounds of chicken per person every year. By contrast, worldwide lamb consumption is around 4 pounds per person per year.
Moreover, Americans’ consumption of lamb has decreased since its peak in the 1970s when it was nearly 3 pounds of lamb per person per year. While lamb remains a popular protein in many American immigrant communities, especially Greek, Indian, and Muslim communities, nearly half of Americans don’t eat any lamb at all.
Why don’t Americans eat more lamb? Many people claim not to like lamb, citing its strong, somewhat gamey flavor as the reason. However, these people may be basing their dislike of lamb on an outdated premise.
The bias against lamb started during WWII when American soldiers stationed in the U.K. and Europe were fed mutton, which is meat from an older sheep, not a lamb. Mutton does have quite a strong taste – much more so than lamb – and that taste can be somewhat off-putting. As a result, these soldiers came home and told their wives never to serve them lamb!
Over the past few generations, many Americans have not grown up eating lamb. As a result, many of us are unfamiliar with the different cuts of lamb and how to cook them. This lack of experience with lamb can make us wary. No one wants to spend a good portion of their grocery budget on a piece of meat that they feel anxious about cooking correctly and are not sure their families will enjoy.
But there is really no need to be afraid of lamb. Today, the lamb available at grocery stores and butcher counters comes exclusively from young animals under one year of age and has a mild but rich and meaty taste. That strong, gamey flavor which comes from older animals is a thing of the past. Certain cuts of lamb are especially mild, such as ground lamb. That is the perfect place to start if you are new to eating lamb.
And there are many helpful resources available to take the mystery out of shopping for and cooking lamb. In addition to the posts in this series, the American Lamb Board’s website explains all the different cuts of lamb and the best ways to cook each cut and provides some mouth-watering recipes.
By not including lamb in our culinary repertoires, we are really missing out on one of the world’s most beloved meats. And that is a shame. Because not only does lamb taste delicious, it is a healthy source of protein, especially when compared to other red meats.
An average 3-ounce serving of lamb has 160 calories and 23 grams of protein – almost 50% of the recommended daily allowance of protein. Moreover, lamb is also a good source of other important vitamins and minerals, including vitamins B-6 and 12, niacin, zinc, and iron. Many cuts of lamb are also quite lean, including the leg, and contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Beef, of course, also provides protein and iron, but there is one area in which lamb has a notable advantage over beef: lambs almost exclusively eat grass and, as a result, their meat is particularly rich in important omega-3 fatty acids. Indeed, that 3-ounce serving of lamb, has almost five times as much omega-3 fatty acids as the same size piece of beef. That’s a pretty compelling reason to check out this other red meat.
So, we know that lamb is both delicious and healthy. If that is not enough to convince you to eat more lamb, consider how versatile lamb is. Depending on the cut, lamb works equally well for your fanciest dinner party as it does for a harried, weeknight cooking.
Are you looking for an elegant holiday centerpiece? Rack of lamb is among the most tender, flavorful meats you can buy and it never fails to impress guests. Rack of lamb can also be cut into individual rib chops, which are sometimes called lamb lollipops because you can hold the chop with your hand and eat the meat right off the bone. These lamb lollipops are a favorite party hors d’oeuvre.
Rack of lamb may be as fancy as it gets, but there are plenty of cuts of lamb that are economical and quick-cooking – just what you need for a busy weeknight. A Chinese-inspired lamb stir-fry will cook up in just minutes. Lamb loin chops, which are readily available, can be pan-seared on the stove in under 15 minutes.
Do you love to use your kitchen appliances? Lamb shanks have tons of flavor and when cooked in the Instant Pot come out fork-tender with a rich sauce that begs to be spooned over mashed potatoes or polenta. Don’t have all day? The air fryer cooks lamb meatballs in a flash.
Moreover, lamb works with so many different cuisines and flavors. Globally, lamb is the second most consumed meat in the world after goat. (Yes, that’s right: goat is the most consumed meat in the world.) Whether you are a fan of Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, or Chinese food – or all of the above! – you can find a lamb dish that has the flavors you are looking for.
There you have it! So many reasons to eat lamb. The rest of the world knows that lamb is a delicious, healthy and versatile protein. Now, it is time for Americans to realize the many benefits of eating lamb as well.
Christine is the founder of TheCookful and also of her blog COOKtheSTORY. Her passion is explaining the WHY behind cooking – Why should you cook things a certain way; Will they turn out if you do it differently; What are the pros and cons of the method? Learn more about Christine, her cookbooks, and her podcast.
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