Finding locally raised lamb isn't as easy as it once was. Independent butcher shops or directly from farms or ranches at farmers markets are your best bets for tracking it down. Still, lamb is a great choice for people who eat meat but are concerned about how the animals they eat are raised and brought to market: all lamb is pastured and there are no lamb feedlots.
If you're buying lamb—especially if you're going beyond classic rack of lamb or leg of lamb—you may come across cuts that are unfamiliar to you.
See what else lamb has to offer with this guide to cuts of lamb, or see a visual representation here.
- Arm Shoulder Chops are an inexpensive cut that is nicely marbled. They are recognizable by the round arm bone in the middle of each chop. They're tasty marinated and then pan-fried or broiled or braised in red wine or ale. They can also be grilled to medium rare.
- Blade Chops have a long, thin cross-sections of the shoulder blade running through them and have a bit more fat than arm shoudler chops. They are good grilled, broiled, or sauteed, although they can also stand up to longer slower cooking if that's your preference.
- Breast of Lamb is meat and rib bones and inexpensive. When trimmed it becomes spareribs. A boneless breast can be stuffed and rolled and roasted.
- Fore Shanks need long and slow cooking like braising to get the meat beautifully tender and to pull out all their rich flavor. They are smaller than hind shanks but still offer a solid serving of meat per shank.
- Hind Shanks, like fore shanks, are best when braised. These shanks from the back legs are meatier than the smaller fore shanks and offer several servings per shank.
- Leg of Lamb is a classic roast. The whole leg - the narrow shank and the fat sirloin - can be roasted bone-in. Or, have it de-boned and butterflied and you can spread in flat on a grill, broil it, or stuff it and roll it before you roast or grill it.
- Loin Chops are like tiny T-bones. Like the more familiar rib chops, ion chops are great when cooked quickly on the grill or under the broiler.
- Neck Slices are usually sold bone-in, are really inexpensive, and have tons of flavor. They do need a lot of cooking to coax out their best, though, so use them in stews or argues.
- Rack of Lamb is popular and expensive. A whole rack of lamb - the 8 ribs from the center of the lamb - makes a great roast when salted and cooked in a hot oven. Ask your butcher to "French" the rack (scrape the meat from the ends of the rib bones) for a classic presentation.
- Rib Chops are the rack of lamb broken down into individual chops. Tender and delicious, they respond well to the quick cooking of grilling or broiling.
- Ribs or Riblets are sometimes labeled "Denver-style lamb ribs." They are great grilled. Quickly. Serve with your favorite chutney or other intensely flavored condiment. They are also tasty when marinated and slow roasted.
- Saddle is simple a whole loin. A saddle of lamb is delicious roasted to medium rare and sliced.
- Sirloin Chops are an inexpensive cut from the leg and hip. They are tender and meaty enough to broil or grill. Mint sauce or a zesty chutney are nice accompaniments.
- Square-Cut Shoulder is nicely marbled and responds well to long slow cooking like braising. It's also great meat to grind and use for lamb burgers, moussaka, or kibosh.
- Stew Meat is, as its name implies, perfect for the long slow cooking of stews. Lamb stew meat usually comes from the shoulder, but may consist of leg meat as well.
- Top Round is from the meaty part of the leg. It has a lot of flavor, but is tender enough to be grilled, if you want.