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Tell me about lamb, please?

Short form: I was a vegetarian for 20+ years, now I'm not. I started eating meat 5 weeks ago. I only eat meat that was pastured and humanely raised.

I have had chicken, pork, and beef. Chicken and pork are okay, with chicken tasting better than pork. Ham is the only pork so far that I have really loved. Beef is better than both of them, though; it gives me a food high. Next I want to try lamb, but I am intimidated because I don't know how it tastes and some people seem to dislike the flavor. Can anyone describe how it tastes?

Also, any tips on cooking it very easily? I find that I do not like meat that is hard to chew or that is dried out. Also, I tend to cook smallish cuts because it's just me eating it. And, I have a Jaccard.

Thanks!

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  1. The characteristic taste of lamb is mostly in the fat, so I would suggest you start with a loin. This is also the right size for one person. Cook it like you would cook a steak (medium rare for me). If you like, you can marinate it with garlic, rosemary, thyme and olive oil, but remove the aromatics before you cook the meat.

    Advanced lamb-eaters may proceed to cross-sections of the leg and then to lamb shanks and from there to shoulder cuts.

    1. Hi reptilegrrl
      Here in the UK lamb seems to be much more commonly eaten than it is in at least some parts of the US (only from what I've gathered here on Chowhound threads); it doesn't have the 'wariness' factor it appears to have for some people I've read about on here. Here, it's very much a staple food alongside chicken, pork and beef (it's a standard British roast dinner, for example) although it is getting really expensive - so I don't think you particularly need to anticipate that it won't be to your taste.

      I think I respectfully disagree with ZoeLouise about cuts to try first; I think a lamb shank would fit the bill to start off with because it's easy to deal with, (just comes as one piece), is the right size for one, and if you braise it for a couple of hours it will fall off the bone so won't be hard to chew or dry. I braise mine in a lidded casserole dish in red wine, tinned tomatoes and rosemary very gently for as long as four hours (time consuming but very easy and hassle-free). Lamb is also very good in a curry or a moroccan dish: I use neck fillet for that which goes very tender - although of course the strong flavours will mean you won't get the 'pure' lamb taste. You may think that's a good thing or you may not! Good luck with it anyway, let us know how you get on.

      3 Replies
      1. re: flashria

        Regarding the wariness factor: I had a girlfriend in high school whose father REFUSED to eat lamb of any cut. He had served overseas in WWII and said that for long stretches, all they had to eat was lamb, and he hated it from the first.

        As time went on, I found this to be true of a lot of WWII vets, and personally, I think that lingering wariness comes from childrens having been influenced by inherited tatses, even after a generation or two have passed.

        As it turns out, what most of them had been eating was in fact mutton, and as most would be aware now, mutton and lamb are worlds apart.

        Lamb chops, leg of lamb, lamb curry...all wonderful. I also love lamb ribs when I can find them.

        1. re: Fydeaux

          My wariness is only from the internet :) I remember having lamb a few times when I was a kid, but I don't remember what it tasted like at all. Also my family were beef farmers, sheep were just not a big part of our diet.

          I understand that mutton used to be a lot easier to find in the US, but it is also easier to mess up, as it needs proper aging.

          1. re: Fydeaux

            My dad never got overseas, but he still got mutton, which is why my first taste of lamb was on a field trip to Chicago when I was 15 or so. When I got home and asked Mom why we never had that wonderful stuff, she explained it.

            Barbecued mutton is pretty special too, though. Still waiting for my first mutton chop …

        2. I think lamb has a richer, slightly gamier flavor than beef. It's my favorite meat. The easiest way to start might be with chops - loin, NOT rib. I dust mine with a little garlic powder and pepper and broil five minutes per side for medium rare.

          1. I love lamb, as long as it is not overcooked.

            1. I probably eat more lamb than any other meat. It's generally a sweet, mild meat that lends itself to cooking in different styles, depending on the cut of meat. Generally, I find it more flavoursome than I find beef (except for very well matured beef).

              As the OP doesnt like chewy or dried out meat, I'd suggest starting out with a casserole or stew type dish, where the meat can be long-cooked in flavourings that the OP likes.

              I don't know what sheep farming practice is whereever the OP lives but, in my experience, sheep are almost inherently humanely raised on grasslands, roaming free.

              By the by, I've often read on Chowhound that many Americans don't like the taste of lamb, sometimes saying it is "gamey". I've never quite understood the "gamey" thing, as I also eat a lot of game and it doesnt taste like most of the game meats I eat. To me, lamb tastes like lamb, venison like venison, pheasant like pheasant, etc.

              I wouldnt advise trying hogget or mutton at first, as they both have a more pronounced "mature" flavour than young lamb. That said, they are both absolutely delicious and I'd always prefer to eat them to lamb.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Harters

                Harters, I suspect the lamb you get in the UK is not the same here. All of the New Zealand lamb that comes here is frozen and it tastes very strong or gamey. I prefer my local Quebec lamb because it is milder. Could it be that you are getting better quality lamb in the UK?

                1. re: Ruthie789

                  New Zealand lamb in the UK also generally comes frozen (although some is imported just chilled) but I don't find it at all strongly flavoured. Quite the contrary. It's very mild and that's why I don't like it. Much prefer our local hill raised sheep breeds - they pack some real taste. Even better when they're available in the more mature hogget or mutton.

                  1. re: Harters

                    I have NEVER had "gamey" NZ lamb. If I could find it, I'd buy it by the truckload! It's very very mild, approaching flavorless. Pity.

                2. re: Harters

                  If you have ever had venison that has not been hung for a sufficient period prior to cooking, that is the flavor Americans call "gamey." It is a pungent, somewhat sour or metallic flavor, not entirely dissimilar from beef liver or mutton. In lamb, these flavors come from several fatty acids, though with wild game, various factors can contribute to gaminess including lactic acid production from the chase and contamination from improper field dressing.