The pleasure of cooking lamb is in its distinct flavour and soft texture. With the different cuts showing off lamb’s versatility, there are multiple ways to play around with this meat for various occasions. Here are the most common lamb cuts and the best ways to cook them.
Leg of lamb
This is a well-known Sunday roast classic. The strong flavour comes from the cut’s dark meat. It is best to slow-roast the leg whole. Another popular way is to debone it, marinate the meat and cook it on the braai or in a kettle braai. A fancy version would be this braai leg of lamb with chimichurri sauce, cauliflower puree and pomegranate jewels, which is a Food24 favourite. For an Eastern-flavoured alternative with a streetwise twist, this Durban lamb curry bunny chow is a must-try.
Lamb loin chops
Considered the tastiest and most tender of lamb chops, the loin is the small T-bone steak cut from the waist of the lamb. It’s the thick layer of fat that becomes crispy as it cooks that makes all the difference. Lamb loin chops are best when grilled, pan fried or roasted. You can’t go wrong with lemon, rosemary, balsamic vinegar or Worcester sauce and olive oil in your lamb chop marinade. Get inspired with this Greek lamb chops one-dish wonder or this fynbos honey and balsamic loin chops recipe.
The shank is packed with collagen from the bone that runs through it and makes the meat tender. This is excellent for slow cooking. Although lamb and rosemary go well together, here you can go wild with flavour. Red wine lamb shanks are the most common way to go, whether dunked in flour before browning them in olive oil or marinated beforehand. The other common alternative is to go for Moroccan influences with this North African lamb tagine recipe.
Lamb chops / rack
These are the more expensive lamb cuts known to be exceptionally tender and tasty. Taken from the ribs of the lamb, they can be bought as a whole rack of lamb or individually as lamb chops. They are best when grilled or sautéed and cooked rare to medium-rare. Lazy Makoti’s pineapple and ginger lamb chops is a hit.
For an impressive presentation, chops and racks can be French-trimmed, which is when the meat is scraped from the ends of the rib bone.
Shoulder of lamb
This cut is juicy and flavoursome due to the streaks of fat on the lean meat. You can have it whole on the bone or deboned and rolled. It is ideal for slow roasting. This slow-roasted lamb and mint dressing recipe is a winner if you want to impress. Alternatively, shoulder chops are delicious on the braai and in stews or curries.