Food Tips

Butcher's block: Cuts of lamb

Butcher's block: Cuts of lamb

Author: Canadian Living

Food Tips

Butcher's block: Cuts of lamb

For centuries, lamb has played a starring role in celebrations around the world. Lamb is gaining popularity in Canada as a whole new generation of chefs and home cooks discover that, from coast to coast, we produce some of the best lamb in the world.

Canadian lamb - did you know?

Most Canadian lamb (meat from sheep less than a year old) is fresh and produced and processed locally. The term "spring lamb" refers to meat from an animal less than three months old, which is usually at its peak availability between July and October.

Young lamb
should be pink, firm and finely textured. Older lamb is lean and light red.

refers to sheep more than two years old.

Pré salé Canadian lamb refers to lamb fed on salty marsh grass. Ile-Verte, Que., at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, is the source of this specialty item, although lamb from British Columbia's Saltspring Island is similar.

Hover your mouse over the lamb below to see the different cuts of meat:

Cuts of lamb - prime cuts
Rib: rib chop; rack; rib roast; crown roast
Loin: loin chop; double loin chop; top loin chop; loin roast
  • The rib area of lamb is tender and flavourful. It has an outer layer of fat that melts and bastes the meat during cooking (though it is sometimes trimmed off). The rib area is either cut into little rib chops or left as a whole rack of seven or eight ribs. French racks have the bones scraped clean. Two racks curved, bone side out, and tied into a circle form a crown roast. When stuffed and presented whole, it makes a spectacular entrée. Watch the Canadian Living Test Kitchen prepare a Rack of Lamb >>
  • The loin is usually cut into loin chops or separated into top loin chops and the small, super-tender tenderloin. When the entire loin section is left whole (bone-in), it is called a loin roast. A double loin roast with backbone intact is called a saddle.
  • Prime rib and loin cuts (the most expensive) are best cooked by dry heat (grilling, broiling, roasting, pan-frying) until no more than medium-rare (145°F/63°C). The lean, ultra-tender tenderloin is too small to risk roasting without overcooking, so it’s better suited to quick cooking methods, such as grilling, pan-frying or sautéing.
Prime cut lamb recipes:
Lamb Loin Chops with Pimiento Olive Butter
Mustard-Breaded Lamb Racks with Braised White Beans

Page 1 of 3Hover your mouse over the lamb below to see the different cuts of meat:

Cuts of lamb - versatile cuts

Leg (bone-in): whole leg; short cut leg; centre leg roast; leg steaks (or chops); shank
Leg (boneless): butterflied leg roast; sirloin roast
  • In butchering, only hind legs are called lamb leg (front legs are foreshanks). Leg is sold either whole or cut into small top (short cut, centre cut and leg steaks) and bottom (shank) portions. Though grilled short cut leg of lamb makes an impressive summer entrée, many people like the ease of carving a boneless roast, particularly one that has been butterflied to lie flat and cook quickly on the grill. Boneless leg meat is also the best choice for tender, flavourful kabobs.
  • Leg cuts should be cooked using dry heat, such as grilling and roasting; steaks can also be pan-fried.
Lamb leg recipes
Roast Leg of Lamb with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Spanish-Style Lamb Kabobs with Red Onion Salsa
Lamb Shanks Braised in Balsamic Tomato Sauce
Garlic and Bacon Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Rosemary (image featured on page 1)

Page 2 of 3Hover your mouse over the lamb below to see the different cuts of meat:

Cuts of lamb - economical cuts
Shoulder: boneless or bone-in roasts; chops; neck; stewing cubes
Foreshank: foreshank; rolled roast; spareribs; riblets
Breast:  ground; sausages
  • Shoulder cuts are tougher and more flavourful (due to more connective tissue, veins and bones) than other cuts. They are tender enough to dry-roast but are even better braised, due to their ample fat content. Even shoulder chops are less chewy when quickly braised on the stove top than when grilled.
  • Both hind shank and foreshank are excellent for braising and have rustic appeal. Shank is sometimes sliced into small lamb “osso buco” pieces.
  • The neck and breast yield small amounts; neck meat makes flavourful stocks, soups and stews, while breast meat is commonly ground for burgers and sausages.
Economical lamb recipes:
Lamb Korma
Scotch Broth
Lamb Stock

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Butcher's block: Cuts of lamb