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The farmers’ guide to lamb cuts

Spring is here, and it’s no secret: Australians LOVE their spring lamb. But do you really understand the different cuts available? AustralianFarmers is here to help.

No matter what your recipe - from barbecued lamb kebabs, to spiced meatballs, butterflied lamb shoulder, lamb roasts - lamb is a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Not all lamb is the same. It can vary depending on what the animal was fed, and expecially which cut is chosen.

What constitutes ‘lamb’ is actually a technical industry definition based on the animal’s teeth, but put simply they’re young (usually under 10 months) male or female sheep.

Here at AustralianFarmers, we think it’s important to understand the produce you’re cooking, and how to cook it correctly.

So read on to learn more about common cuts of lamb, and the best ways to serve them up!

Shank (Hindshank and Foreshank)

The shank is the section of meat and bone that sits above the knee joint and below the leg. Shanks are prepared from a forequarter and from a leg by a cut through the joint that connects it to either the shoulder bone or the leg bone.

Cooking suggestion: These guys love to be slow cooked. Cooking lamb shanks for a long time ensures that they become succulent and very tender.

Leg

The legs of a lamb are lean and work hard, which means that this cut has a good, strong flavour and is highly versatile. Although a lamb has four legs, only the two hind legs produce the cut referred to as "leg of lamb".  It can be used whole or divided into smaller cuts, which can be prepared in many different ways and are usually cooked using dry heat

Cooking suggestion:  Can’t really go past the roast leg of lamb. Just remember, it’s a fairly lean muscle, so be careful not to overcook the meat.

Roast leg of lamb

Sirloin

Sirloin is the muscle that connects the loin to the hind leg. The sirloin is meatier and more tender than the shank.

Cooking suggestion: Once again, lamb sirloin roast is a bit of a favourite but lamb sirloin chops are worth considering as they are boneless.

Loin and Flank

The loin primal cut is the section along the lamb's back from the 13th rib to the hip. It also includes the flank, or belly section, which is much tougher than the loin section. The loin contains the most expensive, highly prized, and tender meat. Care must be taken in preparing loin meat, so that it doesn't dry out during cooking. Therefore, it is recommended that cuts from this area be served medium rare or medium, and never well done.

Cooking suggestion: Grilled lamb loin chops (with garlic and rosemary), roasted, or pan seared... there too many choices. The one golden rule: don’t overcook it!

Ribs

Self-explanatory really. The rib is the section of the lamb carcass on either side of the backbone between the shoulder and the loin and includes ribs 6 through 12. Rib meat is mild flavoured and tender. The rib cut has an outer layer of fat which can be trimmed off but, if left on during cooking, melts and bastes the meat.

Cooking suggestion: Honey and Wine Marinated Lamb Ribs

Breast

The breast is the lower part of the front half of the lamb's carcass. It tends to be quite fat, but full of flavour.

Cooking suggestion: Braised stuffed lamb breast

Shoulder and Neck

The shoulder is the primal cut that includes the upper front leg, the shoulder blade, ribs 1 through 5, and the neck. Because these muscles get a lot of exercise, the meat is tougher and has more flavour than the loin or hind leg. It also has more connective tissue, veins of fat, and many bones. Shoulder cuts are usually cooked using moist heat

Cooking suggestions: Sambossa, BBQ shoulder of lamb blade chops, slow roasted shoulder of lamb, Moroccan lamb, Irish stew.

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