The only lamb cuts guide you’ll ever need: how to choose and cook your cuts

With Easter Sunday fast approaching, it’s time to think about the big roast, the spring equivalent to Christmas lunch. But instead of sticking to the same old fail-safe lamb joint as last year, why not explore the world of nose-to-tail cooking and discover your new favourite cut.

This simple guide will help you understand more about the different cuts of lamb available and which cooking method best suits each cut.

When it comes to choosing the perfect cut, price doesn’t necessarily mean the best. In fact, cuts that include a large amount of bone can be the most flavoursome and tender, where the collagen and marrow from the bone are released when cooking, tenderising and flavouring the meat. Unfortunately, nose-to-tail cooking has fallen out of fashion, with many of us opting for the same old lamb leg joint for our Sunday roast. So let us break it down for you, so you can find the perfect cut of meat for every occasion (you might even save a buck or two too).

Shank

Lamb Shank from Story Organic

Best for: Slow cooking

The shank is a meaty cut from the lower end of the lamb leg. Excellent for slow cooking, it’s great value and the bone running through the centre provides a lot of the flavour, releasing collagen as the joint cooks and tenderising the flesh.

How to cook

Shanks need low and slow cooking to achieve meltingly tender meat that falls off the bone. The rich meat can handle a good amount of flavour, so be bold.

For delicious red wine braised shanks, dust the shanks in flour then brown in a hot pan before roasting in a low oven with carrots, celery, onions, herbs and plenty of red wine.

For a bold take on a Moroccan tagine, marinade the shanks in a ground spice rub of cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika, before stewing in plenty of passata, preserved lemons, apricots and saffron. Serve with flaked almonds, fresh coriander and fluffy couscous.

How much to get

1 lamb shank will serve 1–2 people.

Leg

Native Breed Leg of Lamb from Park Farm

Best for: roasting

Everyone’s favourite Easter Sunday roasting joint, lamb leg is popular due to it’s dark, melt-in-the-mouth meat and meat-to-bone ratio, making this one easy to carve at the dinner table.

How to cook

Try it whole

You can keep things simple by slowly roasting the leg whole, studded with garlic and rosemary, for dark, tender meat.

For a centerpiece with a difference, try a sweet, nutty stuffing and drizzle over homemade Romesco sauce as in our super simple recipe that’ll show you how to easily stuff your lamb leg to perfection.

Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Romesco Sauce

Steak it up

If you’re stuck for time and looking for a quicker supper, lamb leg steaks are a wonderful lean cut, each with a portion of bone in to keep the meat wonderfully juicy when cooked. Griddle or pan fry for 3–5 minutes on each side for medium-rare meat, or longer if you like it well done.

How much to get

1kg leg of lamb will serve 4–6 people

Allow 1 x 225g lamb leg steak per person

Rump

Lamb Rump from Story Organic

Best for: quick roast

Also referred to as chump, rump comes from the back side of the lamb where the top of the leg meets the loin. It’s a plump yet lean cut, with a generous layer of fat to keep the meat juicy. Unlike beef rump, lamb rump isn’t quite as popular, but it definitely should be.

How to cook

Boneless rump/chump steak

Herb crusting is a great way to retain moisture in a leaner cut of meat and works a dream with lamb rump/chump steak. Blitz woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme with garlic and homemade breadcrumbs until course. Brown the steaks in a hot pan then brush with mustard and roll in your herb crust. Roast in the oven until slightly pink in the middle (about 15–20 minutes) and rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Bone-in chump chops

Unlike the boneless steaks, chump chops contain bone so need slightly longer cooking. Rub with oil and fresh chopped herbs like mint and parsley then oven bake until crisp and golden brown for about 30–45 minutes, depending on the size of your chops.

Both kinds of lamb chops and steaks are ideal for barbecuing and need no more than a drizzle of oil and seasoning before hitting the coals for perfect, smokey meat.

How much to get

1 x 250g lamb rump/chump steak per person

1 x 350g lamb chump chop (with bone) per person

Loin

Lamb Loin Chops from Story Organic

Loin best for: roasting, chops best for: quick frying or grilling

Taken from the top of the back, the loin is a prized cut of lamb due to the super tender meat. It’s an ideal cut for roasting, however, as it doesn’t have a layer of fat for protection, care must be taken not to overcook. The loin comes in different cuts -

  • Loin chops (chunky and boneless)
  • Barnsley chops (effectively two loin chops in one or a double-sided chop cut across the whole loin with the bone)
  • Noisettes (smaller medallions of lamb loin wrapped in a thin layer of fat with no bone)

How to cook

Lamb loin

A rolled lamb loin makes for a great family roast. You can stuff your own or get your hands on a ready stuffed joint like ours from Park Farm. It’s filled with a lemon and herb stuffing, which soaks up the roasting juices from the lamb whilst cooking. Put seasoned lamb on a rack in a roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 30 to 40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 50°C for medium-rare/ 55°C for medium. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Loin chop and Barnsley chop

As with rump, lamb loin chops are wonderful cooked on the bbq, smothered in a herby, garlic marinade. The Barnsley chop (named as it’s believed to have originated in a hotel in Barnsley) needs slightly longer cooking than a regular chop, so try roasting in the oven with a bottom layer of onions, celery and carrot for 10–15 minutes before finishing off on the BBQ for that smokey flavour.

Noisettes

Noisettes make a elegant dinner party option. Wrap each noisette in parma ham, then fry in a pan to crisp up and finish in the oven for 15–20 minutes. Serve with gratin Dauphinoise and wilted seasonal greens.

How much to get

1 x 220g loin chop or 1 x 250g barnsley chop per hungry person

1–2 noisettes per person

Rack

Rack of Lamb from Story Organic

Best for: quick roasting or grilling

Taken from the lamb ribs, the rack is very popular as a great, impressive all rounder, that’s super quick to cook and easy to achieve perfectly crisp skin and tender, melt-in-the-mouth flesh. The cutlets are individual rib steaks taken from the rack and look beautiful on the plate.

How to cook

Rack of lamb

Unlike some fattier cuts, the rack is light and delicate, so needs a light dressing to avoid overpowering the flavours of the meat. Lightly score the fat then sear on each side in a hot pan until golden brown before finishing in the oven. Serve drizzled with mint sauce or atop a lightly dressed Spring salad. You can also crust the rack with a herby mixture as with the rump (see above)

Lamb cutlets

Cutlets are a perfect, quick cook cut and benefit from light cooking such as on the BBQ, grill or griddle. Dress with lemon and olive oil and eat like lollipops.

How much to get

1 rack of lamb containing 4 cutlets (around 560g) will serve 2 people

1–2 individual cutlets per person

Breast

Lamb Breast from Story Organic

Best for: slow roasting

Lamb breast is a value cut that is often underused as it has quite a lot of fat and can be tough if cooked incorrectly. Treat as you would pork belly and you’re away to go — the layer of fat brings oodles of flavour and helps to tenderise the meat as it cooks.

How to cook

Rolled lamb breast

Rolled lamb breast, roasted shallots & wild garlic oil

For perfect rolled lamb breast, brown on each side in a hot pan then roast low and slow on a bed of shallots. This cut can handle a good dose of flavour, so whip up your own wild garlic and lemon oil and drizzle over juicy rings of lamb breast.

How much to get

700g lamb breast will serve 4 people

Shoulder

Whole Lamb Shoulder from Park Farm

Best for: slow roasting

This large cut from the top front leg of the lamb has lots of lean juicy meat, the bone and generous marbling keep the meat juicy and the flavour intense.

How to cook

Create your own pulled lamb by marinating a whole shoulder of lamb with garlic, chilli, paprika and cumin. Wrap in foil and cook slowly until the meat pulls away from the bone with a fork and serve stuffed into bread buns, flatbreads or use as a stuffing for filo pastry pasties.

How much to get

2kg shoulder will serve 6–8 people

Neck

Lamb Neck Fillet from Story Organic

Best for: slow cooking

The neck fillet is often underrated and inexpensive as it takes a little longer cooking than other popular cuts — but it’s the marbling through the cut that gives all the flavour.

How to cook

Lamb neck can be cooked whole, long and slow to ensure tender meat.

You can also chop the neck into chunks and brown off for use in stews and curries. Marinade the cubes of neck in a rub of ground coriander, cumin, sumac and chilli before pushing onto skewers and flaming over the BBQ for wonderful homemade kebab. Serve with hummus and warm wood fired pita bread.

How much to get

1 neck fillet (350–400g) will serve 2 people

What to look out for when buying lamb

The most important thing to watch out for is the quality of the animal — always buy outdoor reared, grass fed meat from a reputable farm for the best meat. The bones should be slightly pink in colour and the fat quite dry and crumbly. As a rule of thumb, the darker the colour of meat, the older the animal — young lamb will be pale pink and older lamb pinkish-red.

Cooking tips for lamb

Always bring meat to room temperature before cooking to allow perfectly cooked meat throughout. You can serve lamb a little bit pink and when cooked the meat should always look moist and juicy, and a little rare if you like but never bloody.

What’s your favourite lamb cut? And what will you be cooking up for Easter lunch? Post a picture and let us know on Instagram and Twitter.

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