All About Lamb

Lamb exemplifies fine dining. It’s tender, mild, and decadent! Top restaurants serve it with a flourish, but lamb is actually easy to prepare on the grill or smoker at home! You don’t have to wait for a special night out to enjoy this delicious treat.

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The meat of a sheep is categorized by the animal’s age. Lamb is a young sheep that is less than one year old. Hogget is a young sheep that is still an adolescent, and mutton is from a mature sheep. Lamb is by far the most tender, and it has a milder, more delicate flavor.

Like beef, lamb is graded by the USDA. Prime grade lamb contains the highest amount of fat streaking in the flank, making it tender and flavorful. Choice grade has less fat streaking. Good and Utility grades have little to no fat streaking, so they can be tough and lack flavor.

Lamb in Depth

Which Cuts of Lamb Work Best for Grilling

Several cuts of lamb work well on the grill or smoker. Here are some of our favorites:

Rack of Lamb
This is one of our favorite top picks! The rack comes from the rib section and has 8 long bones. For an elegant presentation, the bones can be Frenched; the small pieces of meat and fat are removed from the end of the bones. Rack of lamb is the same cut as a prime rib roast of beef. It’s expensive, but it’s delicious and worth the splurge! For an over-the-top presentation, two racks can be tied together to form a crown rib roast. To prepare rack of lamb, grill the rack whole, or cut it into rib chops.

Rib Chops
Rib chops have a tender center with a rim of fat surrounding the meat. Rib chops come from a rack which has been cut into chops between the rib bones. This cut cooks quickly, so we like cutting the rack into double chops so that each one has two bones and is about 1½ - 2 inches thick. The thickness ensures that the chop will brown nicely on the outside and still be rare to medium rare on the inside. Rib chops are a true delicacy!

Loin Chops
This T-bone cut is very lean and tender, and it is absolutely delectable! The loin is located behind the rib section on the lamb, and the flavor is unbeatable. Because loin chops are relatively small, they should be cut at least 1 inch thick. This will allow the outside to brown up nicely while the interior remains rare to medium rare. If you can’t find thick loin chops in the meat case, ask your butcher to cut some for you. It’s worth the extra effort, because we think this is the tastiest cut of all!

Lamb Shoulder
The shoulder is from the front part of the lamb. It can be prepared whole or cut into arm (or blade) chops. Shoulder meat is made up of several muscle groups, and it can be tough. Cooking the whole shoulder low and slow is our favorite method for this cut.

Leg of Lamb
Leg of lamb comes from the back legs of the animal. This cut is often roasted whole and served for holiday gathering. It can be purchased bone-in or deboned. For grilling, there are several options. The deboned leg is often butterflied, marinated, and laid flat on the grill grates. Deboned legs, also known as BRT, are sometimes tied together to form a roast. This is one of the leanest cuts and it’s extremely versatile. Another option is to grill the whole bone-in leg; because of the differences in thickness from end to to end, some of the meat will be more rare and some will be well done.

Ground Lamb
Ground lamb makes fantastic burgers! It’s also used to make kefta, a spicy Moroccan meat dish that’s often formed on skewers and grilled. For a change of pace, ground lamb can be substituted for ground beef in many recipes.

Lamb in Depth

Succulent Grilled Loin Chops

These chops will make you a superstar at your grill, and no one has to know how easy they are to prepare. While you’re at the grill, why not throw on some fresh asparagus and cherry tomatoes to complete the meal.

What You’ll Need
6 lamb loin chops -- 1¼ inches thick, all visible fat trimmed away
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves -- chopped to release the oils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Juice of one fresh lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Let’s Do It!
Mix the rosemary, thyme, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper together. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, so the flavors can meld. Place the chops in a baking dish and cover them with the marinade. Turn the chops and make sure both sides are completely coated. Let them sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high. Remove the chops from the marinade and discard it. Place the chops over direct high heat. Leave the lid open and grill for approximately 6 to 8 minutes, flipping the chops every 1 to 2 minutes. For medium rare, remove the chops from the grill when they reach 130℉ on an instant read thermometer. Let them rest 3 or 4 minutes before serving.

Lamb in Depth

Grilled Rack of Lamb with Mustard and Shallots

When grilling a whole rack of lamb, you’ll need two zone heat. This helps with flare ups while you’re browning the meat, and once it’s browned, the lamb can roast over indirect heat so the inside is properly cooked.

What You’ll Need
2 racks of lamb, fat trimmed, bones frenched, and silver skin removed
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed between your fingers to release oils
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ cup olive oil

Let’s Do It!
Mix the shallot, mustard, vinegar, rosemary, thyme and olive oil together. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Put ⅓ of the marinade in a small bowl to use while grilling. Place each rack of lamb in a large resealable plastic bag and cover each with some of the remaining mustard marinade. Refrigerator for at 2 hours. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and let it sit in the plastic bags at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the grill for two zone cooking and preheat it to medium. Remove the lamb from the bags and discard the marinade. Salt and pepper the lamb. Place it over direct medium heat with the meat side down first. Let it brown for 8 minutes, turning the racks frequently to ensure they are browned all over. Move the lamb to the indirect heat, bone side down. Spread the reserved marinade over the racks and close the lid. Cook for approximately 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the internal temperature reaches 130℉ on an instant read thermometer. Remove the racks and let them rest for 5 minutes. To serve, cut the lamb into chops by slicing it between the bones.

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