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Everything you need to know about cooking lamb

Peter Bouchier
Peter Bouchier
July 26, 2021
minute read

How to get the most out of glorious Australian lamb

Australian lamb is among the finest meats in the world, renowned across the globe for its delicate texture and buttery flavour. And despite our reputation for 'throwing a shrimp on the barbie' (something Australians seldom do and almost never say), we all know that cooking lamb is the one, true Australian meal.

There are many ways to cook lamb, and each is more delicious than the last. The flavoursome meat can be further accentuated by pairing it with the right side dishes and drinks.

With decades of experience, our team at Peter Bouchier are butchers of distinction. We know a thing or two about lamb, and how to best prepare and present it for your guests. Read on to find out all there is to know about lamb.

[content_aside]At Peter Bouchier, we've spent years sourcing and selling the best lamb in Australia. Check out our incredible range of lamb.[/content_aside]

What is lamb?

For as many as 10,000 years, man has lived with and cultivated sheep for food and clothing. These animals have a great historical importance in Australia, with a prominent role in our economic, cultural, and culinary heritage.

Lamb is the meat of a young sheep. In Australia, lamb is the term used for meat from a sheep that is under a year old, with hogget and mutton referring to meat from older sheep. Lamb is comparably tender meat, with a lighter colour than mutton and a much milder flavour profile.

Lamb is high in protein, and has little fat compared to other sheep meat. Lam is also a rich source of many different nutrients, such as:

  • Zinc
  • Niacin
  • Phosphorus
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B12

What are the different cuts of lamb?

fresh rack of lamb
  • Neck: Lambs are up to their necks in delicious meat. Neck meat can be used as a chop or a roast, and is very flavoursome when slow-cooked.
  • Fore Quarter: The forequarter encompasses the neck, breast, shoulder and shank. Forequarter rack can be prepared from the shoulder and is an inexpensive option to use instead of a loin rack.
  • Rack: A rack of lamb is one of the most desirable cuts of meat. Perfect when roasted, a cutlet of lamb cut off the rack is also great for grilling and frying in the pan.
  • Ribs: Lamb ribs are full and flavoursome with a rich, fatty flavour. They can become more tender if cooked slow and low.
  • Short Loin: Perfect for roasting or grilling on high heat, the short loin is a tender cut of meat that tends to have a hearty external layer of fat (perfect for a juicy roast).
  • Tenderloin: The tenderloin is, as the name suggests, an exceptionally tender piece of meat. It has almost no connective tissue or fat, and is best served with as much of the juiciness retained as possible.
  • Chump: Lean and plump, the chump is a large cut of meat and equivalent to a beef rump.
  • Leg: Roasting a leg of lamb is one of the most popular, beloved, and delicious meals on the market.
  • Shank: Lamb shanks are one of the most popular winter cuts and can be mouth-wateringly tender, falling off the bone, when slow-cooked.

There are many other parts of a lamb that are good to eat. They tend to be less conventional in contemporary western diets, but are delicious nonetheless. Quality lamb offal can include kidneys, stomach, brains, liver, heart, and lungs.

What is the best way to cook lamb?

Lamb is an astoundingly versatile meat, and can be served up as a delicious meal after being cooked in a variety of different ways. Here are just a few of our favourites.

  • Roast lamb: A classic, and a favourite with families all over the world. Nothing says wholesome like a roast lamb.
  • Lamb meatballs: In meatball form, lamb is tremendously versatile. Serve it up in a pasta sauce, in a meatball sub, or in pita bread with tzatziki.
  • Slow cooking lamb: Certain portions of a lamb are best slow-cooked at low temperatures. When done correctly, the meat will fall right off of the bone and into enraptured mouths.
  • Fried or grilled lamb chops: Popping lamb chops on the grill is one of life's two greatest pleasures. Taking those lamb chops off the grill and eating them? Well, that's the other one.
  • Lamb kebab: There's no meat so perfect that it can't be improved by cutting it into cubes and pushing a piece of wood through it. This stuff will have you going 'sheesh, that's good kebab!'

How long should I cook lamb?

Lamb that is too raw can be dangerous, and lamb that has been overcooked can lose the tenderness, flavour and juiciness that make it such a special piece of meat. The exact time and temperature will vary depending on the cut of meat, the cooking method,  and the desired outcome. To make life much easier in the kitchen, we recommend investing in a scale and a meat thermometer.

What's the desired internal temperature of lamb?

lamb roast leg

Raw meat can contain bacteria that is harmful to human beings. Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli are just a few of the unpleasant causes of food poisoning that can come about if meat is not cooked properly.

To be done medium-well, it is recommended that lamb meat gets to an internal temperature of 63°C (145°F). The only cut of lamb that is an exception is ground lamb, which should reach a temperature of 71°C (145°F).

Are there any tips or tricks for cooking lamb?

There certainly are! And forget the Silence of the Lambs — we're all about a full-throated Shouting Loudly of the Lambs, and haring those tips and tricks for cooking lamb with all and sundry.

Forego a thermometer and go with your gut

It can be tempting to just eyeball your meat when it comes to doneness, but that is a fool's game. The eyes can be misleading, and it's easy to make mistakes. With a meat thermometer, you'll have a more objective way of measuring when your lamb is perfectly cooked.

Before cooking, bring that lamb up to room temperature

Never start cooking lamb straight from the fridge (or, perish the thought, the freezer). Always let the lamb come to room temperature before you put it in the oven. This will reduce cook times and help you cook the meat more evenly.

Rest the meat before you slice

It can be tempting to dive right in and start eating your lamb right away, but stay strong. Let the meat rest after you take it out of the oven. This will give the juices an opportunity to permeate through the meat, rather than merely having them pool on the plate.

What are the most popular lamb dishes?

Lamb is popular in all the continents of the world, in Australia and Africa, across the Americas, and all over Europe and in Africa, too. Those dozen scientists or so who live in Antarctica? We're not 100% sure, but if we were to take a guess, we'd say that they probably like lamb there —whenever they can get it.

What food and drink pairs well with lamb?

Lamb is unique tasting meat, and demands unique accompaniments. Eggplants, potatoes and carrots are an excellent beginning, but what about wines? And what about the mint sauce? Read on to find out about lamb pairing, and take your culinary adventures to bold new places.

What are good side dishes to serve up with lamb?

lamb roast leg with side dishes

Lamb has a slightly gamey taste, and certain side dishes pair better with this meat than with, say, chicken or beef. Some of our favourite side dishes to serve up with lamb include:

  • Asparagus
  • Bitter vegetables
  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Feta style salads
  • Mint

What's the deal with lamb and mint?

Lamb and mint are an iconic pairing, dating back in cuisine to pre-Roman times. Mint sauce, and more recently mint jelly, is the perfect match for lamb. The bitterness and cooling menthol taste of mint work especially well with the unique volatile aroma compounds in lamb.

What wine pairs well with lamb?

The most exemplary wines to pair with lamb are red wines. A French Bordeaux, with dark fruits, plush texture and round tannins, is a sophisticated pairing for an elevated lamb dish. A Victorian Cabernet such as our Jackson Brooke Cabernet from Henty, will be an ideal partner with its savoury texture and peppery spice.

White wine lovers have a slightly more difficult time when finding a wine to pair with lamb. One relaible option is a zesty slightly off-dry Riesling, such as The Story ‘ Whitlands’ Riesling, especially one with a richly textured palate that will complement both the sweetness of lamb meat and the fragrance from the herbs and spices.

Where can you get the best lamb?

The best lamb comes from the best lamb suppliers. The people who raise your lamb should be committed to excellence, animal welfare, and sustainability. At Peter Bouchier, we only work with the top lamb suppliers in New South Wales and Victoria, because we believe that our clients deserve the very best.

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