From tender lamb chops to delicately flavored full rack of lamb, this animal’s cuts are well sought after by restaurants and home cooks alike. If you understand the different parts of lamb and have the right tools, you can break it down yourself to get your desired cuts. Follow this guide to lamb cuts to enjoy fresh, ready-to-cook meats to spice up your evening meals.
How Lamb Is Broken Down into Different Cuts
The four primal cuts of a lamb are the front, leg, loin, and flank. The parts that make up the loin portion are the rib and loin. It is recommended that you use a sharp boning knife when breaking down the meat and separating the cuts, so be sure this handy tool is included in your kitchen knife set. The boning knife is great for peeling off layers of fat, trimming thin sections of meat off the bone, slicing through thick tissue, and cutting in between ribs. You can also use a saw to cut through the thicker bones like the central spine.
How to Break Down the Lamb Front
Credit: @Malcom Reed
The lamb front is the foremost portion of the animal from the neck down to the front legs. Butchers break down the front into four sub-primals, which are the lab shoulder, neck, foreshank, and breast. To start, you’ll remove the front legs, referred to as the lab shoulder, and set those aside for further breakdown. You can remove the neck with a saw and cut it into bone-in slices. These cuts are flavorful and silky, making them ideal for slow-cooked dishes like stews.
The foreshank is the bottom meaty portion of the leg featuring a lot of connective tissue. When cooked for longer periods of time, these cuts become extremely tender and are packed with intense flavor. They are best used in braises and slow roasts. With the breast sub-primal, use a sharp boning knife to separate six ribs. You can cut through the spine using a saw. Take the bone out of the triangular-shaped breast to make a delicious braise or roast. The collective ribs make up a rack of lamb and taste best when roasted.
How to Break Down the Lamb Leg
Credit: @Phil Martin
The lamb leg is the hind portion of the animal and does not include the front legs. This portion can be broken down into smaller sub-primals, which include the shank, leg, butt portion, and sirloin. Due to the large size of the leg, you will often see this cut during holiday feasts. If you’re not planning a meal that big, you can split the leg into the shank and butt portion. Using your sharp boning knife, you can butterfly the leg for a marinated roast or grilled lamb. Boneless lamb sirloin is another popular dish that comes from the lamb leg, and it goes great with mint sauces
How to Break Down the Lamb Loin
Credit: @James In Hot Water
The final portion of the lamb is the loin, which consists of the middle part of the animal below the ribs. If you follow this guide to lamb cuts, you’ll want to first remove the thick layers of fat covering the loin. These fatty pieces can later be used as cooking oils to add flavor and nutrients to your dishes. Due to the lean quality and tenderness of loin cuts, these portions will sell at higher prices than other parts of the lamb. You can make lamb chops from the loin for a crispy exterior and moist, pink center. Other popular dishes made from the loin include T-bone steaks and rack of lamb.
Whether you’re a professional butcher looking to break down a whole lamb or a home cook who wants to make the most out of a larger portion bought at the store, these tips will help you get ideal cuts of meat. From flavorful stews to juicy chops, lamb provides delicious meat that can be enjoyed with a variety of spices, sauces, and cooking techniques. If you’d like to try it the Greek way, then be sure to stock your kitchen with some of these essential greek ingredients and these cooking tools and check out this recipe by Cafe Delites!