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Guide to Meat: Understanding the Different Cuts of Lamb



When we buy lamb at the wholesale market, the first thing we look for is youth. The younger the lamb, the more tender it is. We look for a well-rounded form with light pink meat, white fat and red-streaked bones. Young lamb has such a delicate flavor and is so easily digested that doctors often recommend it to convalescing patients.

We buy a complete lamb and hang it in our coolers for no more than a week. Since we only buy young animals, their delicacy and tenderness will not withstand longer aging. When a carcass has hung for the satisfactory amount of time, we split it lengthwise, and then separate the hind saddle from the foresaddle. We then cut the lamb into individual—roasts, steaks and chops.


Spring Lamb
Spring lamb is also known as young lamb, and is available 12 months a year. Along with the increase in availability, breeding and feeding methods have improved. As a result, today´s lamb has less fat, more protein and fewer calories.

Hothouse Lamb
Hothouse lamb is only one or two weeks old and has been fed entirely on mother´s milk. It weighs a mere 10-12 pounds. When it is cooked, you can practically cut the meat with a fork. Hothouse lamb can be cooked whole, or cut in halves or quarters.

Baby Lamb
Baby lamb is four to six weeks old and is almost as tender as hothouse. It is most succulent when it weighs 15-20 pounds. After the first two weeks of mother´s milk, it is carefully fed until slaughtering time.

Regular Lamb
To be labeled "lamb," the animal must be slaughtered before it is a year old. Most lambs are sent to market when they are eight months old or younger.

Cuts of Lamb

1. Neck Slice

2. Shoulder

3. Rib

4. Loin Chop

5. Loin

6. Leg

7. Hind Shank

8. Riblets

9. Breast

10. Fore Shank

Loin Lamb Chops

These are the tenderest chops of all. Loin lamb chops have a small T-bone that separates the tenderloin from the eye. They can also have the kidney inserted, which fits neatly below the tenderloin. The tail is then curved around it and secured with a skewer. When loin lamb chops are boned, trimmed and rolled (sometimes with bacon), they are called noisettes.

Best cooking method: Grill, broil, pan grill.

Rib Lamb Chops

These have no tenderloin, but are delicious. Rib lamb chops can be cut into single, double or triple chops and are the same chops that comprise a rack roast.

Best cooking method: Grill, broil, pan grill.

English Lamb Chops

These are considered quite a delicacy — perfect for a special dinner. The saddle is simply cut into individual double chops, and then the tails are tucked around to form a circle of meat that involves two T-bones, two tenderloins and two eyes.

Best cooking method: Grill, broil, pan grill.

French Rib Lamb Chops

Dainty and delectable little chops. The fat is well trimmed, and the end of the bone is left bare. This leaves a little circle of meat attached to a spare bone. For company meals, the bone can be dressed up with frilly paper ´´panties`` so that it can be held in the fingers for eating.

Best cooking method: Grill, broil, pan grill.

Blade Lamb Chops

These come from the beginning of the shoulder, right after the rack.

Best cooking method: Broil, grill or braise.

Arm Lamb Chops

These chops are cut from the lower part of the shoulder, near the shank and have a small, round bone.

Best cooking method: Broil, grill or braise.

Rack of Lamb

This section is at the beginning of the foresaddle, right next to the loin. The rack of lamb has no tenderloin, but the eye is delicious and tender, both for roasts and chops.

Best cooking method: Roast.

Crown Roast of Lamb

The crown roast is a circle of rib chops that have been Frenched. The butcher cracks the bones slightly so that the chops can be curved into the classic crown shape. Before roasting, the center is usually filled with a stuffing. Carving and service is easy. The crown roast of lamb is a handsome entrée for a party dinner.

Best cooking method: Roast.

Leg of Lamb

The leg of lamb is the last half of the hindsaddle. The hindmost section is called the shank and the front section, the sirloin. The whole leg of lamb includes both the shank and the sirloin. The leg is an excellent roast. If it´s larger than a customer´s immediate needs, the butcher will cut off a few steaks from the sirloin end to be used for another meal.

Best cooking method: Roast, grill.

Shank Half of Lamb

This small attractive roast is popular with small families.

Best cooking method: Braise or stew.

Sirloin Half of Leg

A very tender roast that is excellent for a small group. The tip end of the shank is cut off, and the leg is completely boned. The roast can then be rolled and tied, or it can be left open and flattened, creating a ´´butterfly`` leg of lamb. The sirloin half of leg can also be cut into chops, sometimes called sirloin lamb steaks.

Best cooking method: Butterfly — grill or broil; steaks — broil, grill or pan grill.

Loin of Lamb

This section lies at the front part of the hindsaddle or leg. The saddle is very tender, and wonderful for roasts and chops.

Best cooking method: Roasting.

Rolled Double Roast

An easy to slice roast that is a party favorite. All bones are removed, and the saddle is rolled and tied. Sometimes the lamb kidneys are inserted before the roast is rolled and tied.

Best cooking method: Roast.

Lamb Shoulder

The front leg of a lamb is always called the shoulder. This section is less tender than some of the other lamb sections. Some supermarkets use the lamb shoulder for roasts, either with the bone left in, or boned and tied. We use the shoulder for two types of chops . blade and arm.

Best cooking method: Braise, stew or pot.

Lamb Shank and Breast

These are cut away from beneath the shoulder and rack in one section and are later divided into smaller cuts.

Best cooking method: Braise, stew or pot.

Leg of Lamb Steaks

These steaks or chops are usually quite large and are cut one and one-quarter inches thick.

Best cooking method: Broil, grill and pan grill.

Lamb Kebabs

Little cubes of lamb that can be marinated and strung on a skewer with vegetables. The most delicious kebabs are cut from the leg, but they must be dressed first to remove all the hard membranes.

Best cooking method: Grill or broil.

Cuts of Lamb for Pot Roast, Stewing and Braising
Foreshank

This portion resembles a tiny roast, it is not tender enough, however, for roasting.

Best cooking method: The foreshank makes an excellent stew. When the bone is removed, it can be ground for lamb burgers.

Riblets

The entire breast cage is a series of ribs. We either cut them into individual riblets or into sections like spareribs.

Best cooking method: Barbecue.

Lamb Neck

There is a long line of bones at the bottom of the neck. This section is very sweet. Lamb neck is usually used for stew. It can also be boned and then ground. We usually combine lamb neck with the foreshank before grinding.

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