As warmer sunny days start to replace winter dreariness, many of us get excited about going outside, eating fresh spring vegetables, and gathering around for a the first barbeque of the season, or juicy roast lamb for a special occasion like Easter. Lamb is so versatile; it pairs well with citrus, garlic, fresh herbs, a light salad, and a glass of red wine, but requires little more than seasoning to be melt-in-your mouth delicious. Plus, Paula has recipes with a variety of cuts and fun preparations—from grilled chops to meatballs—showcasing the great overall value of lamb for satisfying a large group of carnivores with little time, effort, or other ingredients.
Where is should it come from and what should I look for?
Lamb’s quality is very much market-driven, so you will notice different characteristics depending on its sources and consumers. American lamb mostly comes from western states such as Texas, California, and Colorado, though supermarket lamb is largely imported. As with many domesticated animals, lamb is usually finished on (corn-heavy) grains in a feedlot during its final month, resulting in more fat throughout its flesh (“marbling”), juiciness, and a slightly sweeter, milder flavor than exclusively grass-fed meat. Many experts will say that the animals prefer to eat this feed rather than grass (like a human might choose a coconut cream pie over steamed broccoli), and that grass results in a tougher texture when cooked. Lamb that is entirely grass-fed will be labeled as such, taste grassier, and is probably imported.
As a general rule, you should look for meat that is fine-textured and tender with reddish-pink meat, slight marbling, and a minimal outer layer of white fat.
But isn’t it fattening and expensive?
The short answer is yes—for American lamb. Because demand is much higher in countries like Australia or New Zealand, which tend to slaughter sheep younger, your supermarket may offer better prices for more tender imported lamb than for domestic products, but if you are comfortable with a little more fat and it’s available, try a more local source.
While lamb may cost more than beef here, and some cuts may be fattier, you can always trim off as much fat as possible and/or opt for leaner cuts such as shank, leg, and loin (rather than blade or ground, which is cheaper but fattier and more perishable). Lamb also has relatively low amounts of saturated fat and high amounts of protein, anti-oxidants, omega-3’s, and vitamins such as B-12.
How do I cook it?
First, visit our Lamb Chart for a diagram of edible cuts linked to recipes from our test kitchen.
A quick glance at our list of super simple recipes using very few ingredients will give you many options depending on your priorities. Most offer various user-friendly cooking method perks like make-ahead marinades, leave it alone to roast while you do other things, have the butcher do the work (you don’t have to French your rack of lamb!), grill it up in minutes, or serve with a no-fuss salad.
What can I do with any meat that doesn’t get eaten (if there’s leftovers or I just don’t get to making it)?
The great news about lamb is that it freezes well, 6-9 months for most cuts of uncooked lamb if vacuum-packed or wrapped in plastic and then foil (3-4 months for ground meat which spoils faster). Make sure to thaw it the refrigerator or cold water for sanitary purposes, and allow for a 30-50 % increase in slow cooking methods such as for large roasts. For more information on freezing times, expirations, and cooking methods and temperatures, visit the USDA’s website indicated above.
Some final tips to keep in mind:
-Lamb will usually have a use-by date indicated on the package, and ground meat will spoil faster.
-Lamb loves marinades, even for a few days (the meat will be even more tender!), providing you leeway if your plans changes.
-Stews are usually better when made a day ahead so that the flavors intensify (you can even freeze them a week ahead without the usual warmed-over flavor from reheating).
* “Milk-fed” lamb, usually sold as spring or suckling lamb, only lives through its nursing stage of about a month, so it is extremely tender and considered a delicacy in many cultures. In the US, spring lamb is a USDA label meaning it was slaughtered between March and October, though purchasing spring or Easter lamb here is no longer seasonally restricted. As with most wine, cheese, and meat, aging results in richer meat, so many prefer the flavor of dry-aged lamb and other red meats. For instance, French lamb is typically aged at least 1 week after slaughter, though generally this aging period occurs incidentally in the US due to shipping and packaging time.Read More From Kitchen Basics.
My Recipe Box | Log in to view
Join Paula, Bobby and Jamie for a book signing at the Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah from 2 to 4 pm. Only 350 tickets will be given out starting 1 hour before the book signing. No cameras permitted; a professional photographer will be on site to take your photo.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea to the Eastern Caribbean (San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten - roundtrip from Miami) aboard the Celebrity Reflection presented by Alice Travel. Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel. We are running out of space, so book as soon as possible!
Paula Deen is coming to Buffalo, NY to perform a live cooking show and let VIP ticket holders enjoy a delicious Southern feast with a menu created by Paula herself! Both events will be held at Samuel’s Grand Manner in Williamsville, NY which offers a refined elegance in a classically modern setting. The VIP lunch will be held at 12:00pm on February 8th and will go until approximately 2:00pm (doors will open at 11:30am). The lunch will include a hearty helping of Southern style cuisine which is personally selected by Paula, a Southern Cooking Bible cookbook, a photo op with Paula where she will also be signing autographs, a gift package, and preferred seating at that evenings cooking show! The cooking show will begin at 3:00pm on February 8th and run about 60 minutes long (doors will open at 2:15pm). Paula will be cooking up some of her favorite meals live for you at Samuel’s Grand Manor! Seating is unreserved and is “first come, first served”.
Click here for tickets.
Join Paula and family for a Party at Sea aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas to Labadee, Jamaica, and Cozumel (roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale) presented by Alice Travel. We will be having special, separate events for kids on this one with Jack Deen hosting the kids program! Click here for more information, and please note that the Paula Deen cruise is only available by booking directly with Alice Travel Book now before the prices start going up on the cruise and air!