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Aug 9, 2012 10:26 PM

How to cook lamb properly?

Lamb is something that I've always eaten at a restaurant, but have never made at home.

I tried to make a lamb curry the other day, which failed big time.

I figured if I bought lamb stew meat, that if I cooked it for an hour, like I would with chicken for
a curry, that it would be okay. It came out tough as hell.

If it says lamb stew meat, does that mean you only cook it till medium, so you don't over cook it?
I thought all stew meats were all the same?

Also, I want to make lamb kebabs, what kind of lamb is that?


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  1. I never buy anything they call stew meat, it could be leg meat which cooks fast or shoulder meat which takes hours. I make Indian/Pakistani lamb dishes all the time, but I only use the meat from something I know (leg, shoulder, necks etc).

    For curries, what I recommend, is buying bone in shoulder chops and trimming the fat. Cook the dish (on the bone) and serve it as is. Indian dishes (except in restaurants) are meant to be messy and eating off the bone is normal.

    BTW, sometimes it might take more than an hour to get the meat tender, most likely what you had as stew meat was shoulder meat. This can take up to 2 hours to get tender.

    1. Stew meat need cooking low and slow -- low temperatures for an extended amount of time. Your reward is that you end up with a silky rich mouthfeel. Depending on the cut, it could need not just two hours, but perhaps longer. Marinating in oil and red wine vinegar can help this process considerably -- toss the chunks of meat into a bowl or ziploc with the marinade (and spices!) and leave it in the fridge all day or over night. This will add lots of flavor, and shorten the cooking time.

      (all stew meat is low and slow, by the way -- tough cuts need to be cooked til tender -- way past medium)

      I use leg or shoulder for kebabs -- marinating as above, then threading onto skewers and grilling.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunshine842

        I do a lamb biryani with a 24 hour marinade using yogurt and tons of spices. It eventually bakes about an hour. I think the long marinade and cook time helps to soften any old cut of lamb. I even toss in the bits of fat & fish them out before serving--adds lots of flavor.

      2. We eat lamb at home more often than we do any other meat. And we cook in variety of styles, including our own north European traditions.

        For long cooked dishes, whether it is curry, tagine, navarin or stew, the process is pretty much the same. We use shoulder or leg meat, cutting it into medium sized chunks (say 25mm cubes). Leg will usually cook quicker than shoulder, but doesnt have as much flavour from the fat. Leg dishes might be ready in about an hour, shoulder will be nearer two - certainly longer than it might take for an equivalent chicken dish.

        For kebabs, I'd usually use leg meat because you need quick cooking without too much fat.

        1. To be slightly redundant...
          you gotta cook the stew meat much longer - essentially until its tender - whether it be two hours or half a day.
          I don't think you can compare cooking lamb to chicken.
          When I make beef/pork/lamb/goat stews (or curries) I generally buy whatevers cheap. Cheap usually means tough and tough usually means long cooking times.

          I don't do much lamb, but other than stews, I think the cut will dictate the type and length of cooking (along with age of the beast, etc).

          1. As mentioned earlier, you need to cook lamb stew low and slow to get the tender morsels you're seeking. It's better to use something with a little more fat, like shoulder, but I'll confess to using stew meat since it's easier to get. When making curry, it's particularly important to stir the pot every now and again to make sure that the onions in your base don't scorch during the long cooking process. Ideally, they will break down and form a lusciously thick sauce that drapes over your tender lamb.

            For kebabs, I use lamb cuts from the leg, usually tenderized with citrus juice and grated onion.