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lamb for Easter that isn't gamey and isn't chops.

Need a change from ham and thinking of making lamb for Easter.

I've only made grilled chops, but don't want those this time. Thinking of some type of roast, but don't know what type of cut. Husband thinks some are too gamey, but neither of us know if that depends on the cut or other factors.. Are some cuts more gamey than others? What would you recommend to avoid that? Thanks!

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  1. Butterflied leg of lamb done with rosemary, garlic and olive oil is wonderful--on the grill stupendous. I did not grow up eating lamb and do find it gamey at times, but I have found that our organic/natural foods market carries amazingly good American lamb. It is more expensive but the flavor is amazing.

    3 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      marinate it for two days in olive oil garlic lemon juice and the rosemary , or oregano. Any "gaminess "will disappear.

      1. re: escondido123

        +1 on Escondido's butterflied leg; do this every Easter for brunch. I marinade in red wine, rosemary, a cut orange (squeezed into liquid, and rinds added too), garlic, and dijon mustard in a gallon ziplock overnight. Grilled to MR - perfection. We need 2-3 of them for our brunch crowd.

        Served with made-ahead spanikopita, grilled asperagus in lemon viniagrette, and eggs baked in cream done for a crowd too, in a 13x9 pyrex x3, with each having a pint of cream, 1/2 stick of butter and a dozen eggs in them. Cook till just set, but yolks still soft.

        So good with some fresh fruit, pastries and mimosas - Happy Easter little lamb!

        1. re: escondido123

          This was my suggestion. I prefer this to the lamb chop racks in the oven. The grilled flavor is lovely and Easter is a great holiday to get to make a large item outside.

        2. I find gaminess depends of from where the lamb originated and how it was handled when butchered. I certainly agree with escondido123 regarding the spice combination. I too would butterfly a leg of lamb, but I'd use a combination similar to what escondido123 suggested in a marinade using a light oil (olive or vegetable) combined with the juice of a lemon, 4 - 6 cloves of garlic (chopped) one medium onion (chopped) a tablespoon of oregano and a teaspoon of rosemary (use more if you like). Marinating the butterflied lamb for 8 - 12 hours before putting it into the oven (on a rack of course) should help cut down on any gaminess. Gaminess can be reduced by eliminating as much of the fat as possible from the leg of lamb before it enters the marinade.
          Those who don't like the hint of gaminess (if any remains at serving time) can always slather on a layer of mint jelly (ugh) to reduce the impact.

          6 Replies
          1. re: todao

            I agree - in my opinion American lamb tends to be much less gamey than Australian or New Zealand lamb. Costco carries boneless leg of lamb for about $5/lb that I find to be quite serviceable - my husband dislikes that "gamey" flavor, but will eat the Costco lamb, and although I would prefer MORE of the gaminess I enjoy the Costco lamb well enough. Anyway, using a strongly flavored marinade and/or sauce will also help mask the flavor should you still find it too strong. I like to grill it simply and serve it with mint pesto.

            1. re: biondanonima

              I grew up on lamb and have had it served many ways. It was one of my mother's favorite meals. That being said, the absolute best lamb I've ever had, I bought at Costco.....it was butterflied and stuffed with spinach and feta cheese....melted in your mouth and had no gaminess whatsoever. Just roasted in the oven with a little olive oil. Sorry MOM, love and miss you!

            2. re: todao

              Butterflied leg it is easy to remove any fat from the meat also, and marinating grilling adds enough smokiness that any remaining 'gamey' taste is pretty much gone.

              A nice alternative to mint jelly (ugh, too), is a cup of good balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup white balsamic, 2 Tblsp. sugar or honey, reduced down by half. Then add 1/2 cup of slivered mint leaves, let steep for 15 minutes or more, then serve. A modern mint sauce:)

              1. re: gingershelley

                I like to make a tzatziki sauce to go with my lamb. Greek yogurt, grated cucumber (no seeds!), macerated garlic and a little hint of horseradish! Yum! Kinda like the tzatziki sauce you get with a gyro.

                1. re: sheilal

                  This is excellent with lamb, and if I had a different menu to go with it for Easter, Pita and tzatziki would be on the table as well!

              2. re: todao

                I agree that removing the fat elimates the gaminess..

              3. Rack of lamb is chops uncut, but you can cook it like a roast and it's a beautiful piece of meat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: visciole

                  I was going to suggest this as well - it's a lot more expensive than leg but SO delicious, tender and rich. The flavor tends to be milder than leg as well, in my experience.

                2. I love to take a butterflied leg of lamb and then give it 12 hours in a jerk rub (I use Walkerswood) - at that point you can either par-smoke it or grill it. No reason it couldn't go in the oven.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrgreenbeenz

                    I am a big fan of barbecued lamb and find it surprising how uncommon it is to find in restaurants.

                  2. I don't know if you've had the chance to catch Jamie Oliver's At Home, but his lamb episode where he roasted a lamb shoulder was fantastic. We did the same thing and not only was it the most idiot-proof and simple lamb recipe I'd ever made, but it tasted fantastic. not gamey, great flavor and super-moist.


                    1. i just want to emphasize that in my opinion you are most likely to have gamieness in a cheap piece of lamb and I would not depend on seasoning to make that "disappear."

                      1. I continue to be always surprised when I read that Americans think lamb is "gamey". To me, game is gamey; lamb is a mild sweet meat that needs care and gentle treatment.

                        Flavours will, of course, differ between breeds of sheep, the type of country in which it was raised, the age at which it was slaughtered and the how long if was left to hang.

                        Leg will make a good roast but shoulder will be better, as it is a fattier cut. Cook them both on the bone . Don't overcook it. But don't undercook it either. Cooked to pink is perfect in my mind.

                        16 Replies
                        1. re: Harters

                          I agree, and, in fact, modern American lamb is now much less gamey than ever before. It has become quite difficult to find cuts of mutton, as well as lamb shoulder.

                          As to the OP, perhaps it might be worth considering a braise?

                          1. re: MGZ

                            If you have a butcher in town you go to, it's all of a day or two for them to get in just about any cut you want. If you need lamb cuts the same day, visit your local Hal'al meat shop. More lamb cuts than you can shake a stick at...you don't have to be confined to the mega mart chops, racks stew meat and legs by any means. Heck, one of our mega-marts has started carrying a lot of Hal'al in general, so we can pick up quite a few more lamb cuts than we used to...just as the need to sell to the growing latino population means that looking for trotters, neck bones and ears at the mega-mart is no longer an exercise in futility either.

                            1. re: Stephmo

                              Forty or so years ago, Jacqueline Kennedy published her recipe for Leg of Lamb. Her way using honey had removed the gamey taste,

                              When purchasing any meat please remember to see if it arrives in the store in a refrigerated truck or in the back of a dirty truck. I saw it here in my area and screamed when the truck open with a few legs and then it stopped and threw to the floor for the storekeeper to pick up.

                              I do not enjoy organic chicken but organic lamb is unreal but pricey!

                              1. re: laura10952

                                good grief. where on earth do you live?

                                i love lamb. my favorite method is a long, low, slow roast for "spoon lamb". 7-8 hours and it is meltingly tender. when i make it for parties there is never any left over!

                                am also a fan of braised shanks.

                            2. re: MGZ

                              Where I am in the world, mutton is starting to gain popularlity again.

                              I can't find it in mainstream supermarkets but some butchers do stock it and, of course, it's available from online suppliers. What I can't find is hogget (sheep 1 - 2 years old). I suspect it's because farmers know the premium price the stronger flavoured mutton will command and grow their sheep on to past the 2 years for that. I think hogget would be a winner for many folk here who want something stronger tasting than young lamb.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I've always that the French were the ones who were partial to mutton.

                                1. re: Karl S

                                  I assume they are. Most nations that are partial to lamb are likely to have mutton in their repetoire as well. Used to be very common in the UK but it went out of fashion. Good to see it coming back. Place I buy from sells three year meat - absolutely packed full of flavour (which, I suspect, wouldnt suit the Americans who find young lamb to be "gamey").

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Well, the US is odd (I know you know this already, but many American consumers don't). We don't find (in our supermarkets) genuine spring lamb of the kind that is common in Europe - ours is slaughtered between the genuine spring lamb vs mutton stage. But a lot of US-sourced lamb that is sold in supermarkets is more grain- than grass-fed. The calculus appears to be: if you slaughter the lamb when it's larger, there's less "waste" (in the sense of lost yield) so you can moderate the price a tad, and the more you rely on grain rather than grass, the more you can moderate the intensification of flavor that comes from letting the lamb grow older (that is, less of a risk of mutton-y flavor notes). What you end up with is something that is neither here nor there, thus hitting the bullseye of American supermarket consumer exigencies - the inoffensive-but-acceptable pricey-but-not-too-pricey product.

                                    1. re: Karl S

                                      I hadnt appreciated that American lamb might be grain fed. Sounds ilike madness to me. Sheep are the ultimate free range animal - it's the only meat we buy where we dont insist on an organic or free-range guarantee on it. It's pretty much inherent. The stuff I buy spends its life running up and down the hills and mountains in north west England, eating what grass and other plants it finds. To my mind, that gives it even more taste than the lowland raised animals which eat lush pasture.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        I agree it's insane.

                                        I don't know about goat in the US; I would hope it's all fed lots of stuff, not grain. Goats are browsers more than grazers, anyway.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          The lamb we buy frolic in pastures and eat grass. The meat is tender and utterly delicious.

                                  2. re: Harters

                                    In the several years I've been living in France, I have only very, very rarely seen mutton on offer -- and even then usually only a piece or two at a specialty store. I don't think I've ever seen mutton in a "general public" store.

                                    I read several years ago that the US *used* to classify lamb and mutton differently than the rest of the world --- and that the reason a lot of people think lamb is 'gamey' is because what the US still called lamb, the rest of the world had already tagged as mutton - -so it WAS stronger-flavored. (sure wish I could remember where I saw that so I could link it-- but I can't, so I can't)

                                    Seems the US has now changed their definitions to jibe with the rest of the world, so as people are trying lamb again, they're pleasantly surprised to find it mild and tender and tasty.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Nope: In the US, "lamb" is still not age-restricted in federal regulations:

                                      7 CFR 1280.111 - LAMB. "Lamb means ovine animals of any age, including ewes and rams."

                                      But perhaps California has regulated it more precisely?

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        No idea -- never lived in CA.

                                        But that explains why Americans sometimes aren't all that keen on lamb -- what they've had wasn't really lamb...my conjecture (as that's all it was) was based only on the fact that lamb seems to be at least somewhat mroe accessible, and at least marginally cheaper -- and it must taste better, as more people are seeking it out....

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          The age of the lamb may have been part of it, but I think the standard preparation of overcooking the meat was primarily responsible for turning off a couple generations. The cooking times in old cookbooks are ridiculous. My grandmother, for example, would roast the meat, "'til the smoke rose to heaven." To this day, none of her children will even try it. Hell, it wasn't until the 80s that I even saw a slice of lamb that wasn't grey.

                              2. I don't think anyone has mentioned my favorite way of fixin' it: Lamb Curry. Costco's boneless leg chunked up stew size and simmered in a hot (or mild) curry sauce is superb when served over noodles or rice. The addition of vegetables, such as onion, carrot or potato, is optional.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                  I would assume that while curry is delicious that thy may not see it as an Easter meal.

                                  1. re: melpy

                                    Being Jewish, and in view of the fact that other posters suggest many different recipes, I had no idea that the lamb had to be cooked a certain way to qualify as an Easter meal.

                                    1. re: mucho gordo

                                      Well, you're both right; let's just say that expectations among Americans will typically not be from the Indian subcontinent unless they are Syro-Christians ("Thomas Christians") from the Kerala coast.... Roasting/grilling will be more typical than stewing, shall we say, which may not be so surprising given the Jewish connection underlying all this (without the need to worry about a wooden vs metal rotisserie pole, et cet.)

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        I just know that holidays like Easter tend to be more of a meat and veg kind of meal. Though we tend to have a pasta course of manicotti, ravioli or lasagna.

                                  2. re: mucho gordo

                                    Curry is my favorite use for leftover lamb roast.

                                  3. We just purchased a whole fresh local lamb and enjoy every cut including the shoulder, leg, ribs, chops, shanks.... The braised lamb shanks Friday night were sublime. My favourite cuts are the shoulder and leg for roasting and braising (i.e. tagine, curries, pie).

                                    1. Lots of great suggestions. This thread is making me hungry! I do think the flavor of the lamb depends on the source and the cut. Some small butcher shops and most certainly a lamb farmer at a farmers market will be able to tell you about the flavor of the specific batch of lamb (or in some cases the specific lamb!). Look around and see if you can find a good local source. It will be well worth your while.

                                      I love the idea of a BBQ'd leg of lamb. It can also be done on the bone which of course cooks a bit less evenly but has an amazing flavor. I recently did a shoulder roast as well that was wonderful A bit more fat but luscious and tender the way a great pork shoulder can be. I sometimes roast lamb covered with very thinly sliced lemons and olive oil. The acid will cut whatever gaminess there might be but I am with the posters below who don't find lamb to be that gamey a meat in the first place. Venison and squab, perhaps. But not lamb very often.

                                      In any case, enjoy your Easter dinner and please report back!

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: JeremyEG

                                        Just by the by, I'm curious to know why folk don't like "gamey". For me, these tend to be the meats I enjoy most - venison, rabbit, pheasant, pigeon and so on. They have much more taste than, say, beef or pork (at least "factory produced" pork). Do folk not like meat that has much flavour?

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Well, in America, you're talking a consumer center of gravity of boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have less flavor than tofu....fish shouldn't taste like fish, and meat shouldn't taste like meat (except hamburgers and frankfurters) - and, if they do, that flavor should be covered by hot spices or smoke (hickory or mesquite, typically) from the grill. It's a variation on the medieval sensibility, with the difference being that it is normal meat, not rotten meat, that is being disguised.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            "normal meat"? lol. you've read about pink slime, right? americans eat 30+ pounds of ground beef per capita. mcdonald's sells 4.8 billion mcnuggets per year. they are made of 53% chicken, plus at least 37 other ingredients.

                                            to harters: except for hunters, or those with friends who are, i'd wager very few americans have ever tasted wild venison or any of the game animals on your list. it's against health codes for restaurants to serve wild game and most markets as well.

                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                              I meant normal in the sense of not tasting of rot. Glad I had the opportunity to clear up that one.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                the theory of spices being used to disguise the flavor of rotten meat in medieval times has long ago been debunked.


                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  I am aware of that (medieval history is my field of study). It was a tossaway casual reference on a food thread.

                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                    sorry. it remains a persistent myth, so it irks me when i see it. couldn't tell you were joking.

                                              2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                Thanks, hotoynoodle. Yep, I was aware that American health codes generally prevent wild game being sold. Such a shame. It's one of the reasons why I will always try and remember to mention game on the UK board when tourists ask what they should be eating here.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  it is one of my favorite things about eating in europe.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    Yes! We spend two months a year in Europe and love, love, love the game. We seek it out whenever we can - rabbit, pheasant, wild boar, duck, venison, goose... Thankfully where I live in Canada there are plenty of hunters so we can take advantage of all the wonderful offerings.

                                                    And lamb should taste like lamb, not pork.

                                            2. re: Harters

                                              Harters, sad to say, most Americans don't even get the chance to eat game; Our meat distribution laws prohibit sales of hunted game to stores - you can only buy ranch-raised rabbit, pigeon, venison, etc.

                                              Unless you know a hunter, we don't even know what 'gamey' tastes like here. So sad. Some restaurants have sources (tho they for the most part are not wild - perhaps some states allow this). I think this is the reason some American's could even possibly construe lamb as 'gamey' - it tastes different than beef or pork. They are applying a moniker to it that seems appropriate, but isn't.
                                              I just want to move to the EU some fall and stay all winter and eat game, game, game. Little birds and animals we can't get here!

                                              1. re: gingershelley

                                                Don't get me wrong, we have plenty of raised game as well as the wild. Deer is the game animal most farmed - although they tend to be quite free range. It has it supporters - because the animals are shot at a particular age, there's consistency in flavour and texture, whereas a wild deer might be any age (and is usually older than a farmed one). Pigeon and rabbit are almost invariably wild and, as they are regarded as pests, can be hunted throughout the year.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  I think we're working with two different definitions of "gamey" here --

                                                  I love game, too -- and there is a taste that comes with wild game.

                                                  But when people say lamb is "gamey", they're talking about the musky, funky smell and flavor of mutton....and most people don't like it. Much as I adore lamb, and eat it on a regular basis, I truly dislike the smell and taste of mutton.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Suspect you may right, sunshine. Certainly if someone unused to eating lamb/mutton first tried it and it was actually mutton, then I could understand them thinking it was "different" or "gamey", depending on their assumption of what game actually tastes like. For me, there isn't a single "gamey" flavour with game. Venison tastes like venison, rabbit like rabbit, pigeon like pigeon, etc.

                                          2. I'm sure I am in the minority, but my tastes probably run more toward a "typicalAmerican" and enjoy ground lamb patties. I don't eat it very often, don't even see in stores very often. But, it is delicious pan seared in some butter and seasoned salt.
                                            I don't know if it a "gateway" lamb, or not..or even if it matters.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: rochfood

                                              i buy ground lamb often and make "lamb balls" to much acclaim. my friends have all tried to steal my "recipe", lol. i think it is a good gateway "cut".

                                            2. Anyone here cooked with lamb ribs before. Good lord are they good.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: JeremyEG

                                                Yes! They are incredible. As I stated upthread, we recently purchased a fresh local spring lamb and had the butcher do the ribs for us. Love them.

                                                1. re: JeremyEG

                                                  Easily available (and extremely cheap) cut of meat here in the UK. Almost invariably, it's cooked in the single piece (we call it "lamb breast" - often roasted either on or off the bone. When it;s off the bone, it's usually rolled round a stuffing.

                                                2. I think the availability of game in the U.S. has less (maybe nothing) to do with health regulations than Game regulations. In the U.S. game animals are public property and in England and Europe they are private property.

                                                  I love lamb and would like to eat more but am faced with limited availability, variable quality and very high prices.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: kengk

                                                    "In the U.S. game animals are public property and in England and Europe they are private property."

                                                    And that's because the US received many many many European peasants who rankled at that idea.

                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                      "in England...... they are private property."

                                                      Not just England but also the rest of the United Kingdom. It's not so much a matter that the game is private property - much of it certainly isn't - but that the land on which they roam is private property.

                                                    2. I was doing racks until I went to the store and priced them!!!! I have shifted to butterflied stuffed rolled leg of lamb. There is something to please everybody in a stuffed leg of lamb. I like to buy New Zealand lamb when I can but a stuffed leg of lamb is pretty forgiving where ever it comes from. Some good stuffers are sauteed kale, garlic and feta cheese or lamb/pork sausage, breadcrumbs, tampenade, garlic and onion . You can do it marinated in yogurt with lots of spices like cumin, cinnamon, garlic, rosemary and stuffed with walnuts and parsley or make it with a ragout of artichokes, tomatoes, garlic and parmesan cheese.