Lamb Cuts

By:

Meathead

If you say you don’t like lamb, you probably really mean you don’t like the preparation of lamb you were served. Either that or you were served mutton, which is an older sheep, not a young lamb. If you have never savored the rich, tender, beefy (never gamey) flavor of a lamb loin chop or rack of lamb, served medium rare, no mint jelly allowed, you are missing what I consider to be one of the best nuggets of red meat in the world. Period. Really. No cow poop.

Lambs are much smaller and leaner than pork and beef, so there are fewer cuts of interest to the backyard cook. Most lambs are graded as either USDA Choice or USDA Prime. Because lamb is small and young when slaughtered, the meat is almost always tender and tasty. While beef grades are based on marbling, the thin strands of fat woven throughout the muscles, lamb is graded on the basis of the fat cap, which we usually trim off! I don’t get it.

As with beef, the best cuts are from the back of the animal.

Rack of lamb

This is a section of eight ribs with the loin meat attached, the same cut as bone-in prime rib of beef or pork crown roast. Only lamb loins are much narrower in diameter. But the meat is heavenly.

Rack of lamb

Rib chops

Cut between the ribs for lollipop like chops. I think the best prep is to cut every second rib making double wide chops (below). Marbled, tender, juicy, grilled to medium rare, they are simply spectacular. Click here for my recipe for Herbed Rack Of Lamb Lollipops.

Rib chops

Saddles

You can order a lamb hind saddle, which is both legs connected to the spine and running all the way up through the sirloin. You can also order a rib saddle, which is a rib cage from the spine half way down the side, including the ribeye. Next best thing to cooking a whole lamb.

Ribs

Some butchers actually sell the front seven ribs in a slab with the loin muscle removed. Not exactly a he-man meal, there is not much meat on them and a lot of fat. I don’t recommend them.

Loins and loin chops

From just behind the rib section comes the loin, home of the most amazing porterhouse and T-bone type cuts. They are best when cut thick, have a bit of fat to be trimmed, and an adult serving is a minimum of three chops because they are so small, but they possess some of the most tender and flavorful meat I know on any animal. Photo below. Click her for my recipe for Lamb Loin Chops In Sheep Dip.

Lamb loin chops

Legs. Cone shaped, lamb hind legs are a twisted mass of muscles, sinew, and fat, but the whole leg can be roasted, with or without smoke, and you get a whole range of doneness from well done at the tapered end by the shank, to rare at the hip end, if you wish. Or you can take the leg apart, remove the bone, and cut it into chunks that make great grilling. The leg can be cut crosswise into steaks, but they can be tough. You can also bone a lamb leg and get a huge flat slab of meat, but it will be uneven in thickness, and in the process hunks start falling off. You can buy boneless legs like the one below held together in something sort of tube shaped by netting or string. Click here for my recipe for Grill Roasted Leg Of Lamb With A Lick Of Smoke.

Roasted leg of lamb

Shoulder

Another group of complex muscles that can be cut into arm chops and blade chops, but is better roasted whole or chunked for grilling. Some butchers sell boneless shoulders wrapped in mesh. Below is a whole shoulder I cooked in the same fashion as a pork shoulder, smoked low and slow for hours. Click here for my recipe for Kentucky Smoked Lamb or Mutton with Sunlite Black Sauce.

Cooked lamb shoulder

Stew and kebab meat

If you don’t want to cook a whole lamb or shoulder, take the whole jugsaw puzzle apart, trim off the excess fat and sinew, and then cut the muscles into large chunks about 2″ square. Grill them like kebabs (kabobs, kebobs), but without the metal skewer. If you cut the chunks too small it is impossible to get a dark exterior and all the rich flavors that come with it without overcooking the interior. Click here for my recipe for Binghamton Spiedies or Lamb Mechoui.

Lamb stew meat or kabob meat

Shank

About the same size as turkey drumsticks, they are usually braised in a flavorful liquid.

Ground lamb

If you like hamburger, you’ll love lamburger. Click here for Mary’s Little Lamburgers.

Ground lamb burger
Poster of retail lamb cuts

Related articles

Published On: 12/1/2015 Last Modified: 5/8/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


Grilla Pellet Smoker proves good things come in small packages

We always liked Grilla. The small 31.5″ x 29.5″ footprint makes it ideal for use where BBQ space is limited, as on a condo patio.
Click here for our review on this unique smoker


GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater


Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review



Surely you know somebody who loves outdoor cooking who deserves a gift for the holidays, birthday, anniversary, or just for being wonderful. There he is, right in the mirror! Here are our selections of best ideas, all Platinum or Gold Medalists, listed by price.

Click here to see our list of Gold Medal Gifts


Fireboard: The Ultimate Top Of The Line BBQ Thermometer

Fireboard Labs Product Photo Shoot. Kansas City Commercial Portrait and Wedding Photographers ©Kevin Ashley Photography

With the ability to monitor up to six temperatures simultaneously with either Bluetooth or Wifi on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer, Fireboard is the best digital thermometer we’ve tested.
Click here to read our detailed review


If you have a Weber Kettle, you need the Slow ‘N’ Sear


The Slow ‘N’ Sear turns your grill into a first class smoker and also creates an extremely hot sear zone you can use to create steakhouse steaks.
Click here for our article on this breakthrough tool