Preparing a beautiful lamb dinner is a delicious treat and a lovely presentation as you kick off the spring season. From comforting stews and braises to chops and roasts, lamb is a versatile meat that can dress up any meal.
As an ingredient, lamb can be a little intimidating. It isn’t a staple for most people, as it tends to be saved for special occasions like an Easter dinner. Because it’s relatively unfamiliar, lamb is a bit of a mystery. But with some guidance and tips, you can select the best-tasting lamb for any occasion.
What to Look for When Shopping for the Best Tasting Lamb
Lamb is defined as a sheep no older than one year. Its age gives the meat a tenderness and delicate sweet flavor that many enjoy.
When shopping for lamb, you not only want to know you’re getting the best quality meat possible. The meat’s history is important as well. Where it came from and how it was raised can affect its flavor, tenderness, and healthfulness.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for the best-tasting lamb.
1. Freshness of Cut
Like any meat, freshness is one of the most important qualities you should look for when purchasing your lamb.
If your cut of lamb is packaged, examine the wrapping for labels or stamped dates that will tell you when the meat was butchered. For lamb without packaging, take a close look at the color of the meat. Fresh lamb is red or rosy pink in color. The darker the tone, the older the meat, and the less fresh and tender it will be.
Another freshness indicator is meat texture. As you peruse the cuts of meat on display at the butcher counter, look for fine-grained meat with white marbling, which gives the meat its great flavor. This will be the most recently cut meat, making it the freshest option.
At Holy Grail, our Sonoma County Rack of Lamb is vacuum sealed and flash frozen which protects and preserves the meat and never compromises its quality.
2. Quality of Meat
Determine whether you’re looking for USDA Prime or USDA Choice meat, and look for labels or signs to indicate which is which.
USDA Prime is the most tender, yet typically has a higher fat content. This gives the meat lots of juicy flavor. Lamb cuts categorized as USDA Choice are still high-quality, tasty meats. They’ll just be a little less tender.
3. Origin and Environment
Lamb is either imported from international breeders or raised domestically. Colorado, California, Wyoming, Texas, and South Dakota are the leading states producing American lamb. Australia and New Zealand are the leading importers of lamb meat. Knowing where the lambs came from can give you an idea of how they were raised.
Free-range organic lambs don’t contain antibiotics or hormones that could be bad for you. Lambs raised outdoors likely received the exercise needed to grow healthy and naturally. Grass-fed lambs have a higher concentration of branched-chain fatty acids, which give their meat a grassy aroma and flavor. Lambs fed with grains have a sweeter flavor.
Understanding an animal’s origin can give you a better expectation for its meat’s quality, flavor, and texture.
Holy Grail's Sonoma County Lamb is raised in the heart of California's world-renowned wine country, our lambs roam freely among the breathtaking vineyards, feeding on the hearty grasses and other nutrient-heavy vegetation that grows naturally among the grapevines. It is the picture of a perfect symbiotic relationship: the vineyards benefit from the natural weed control and the lambs have ample room to eat, roam, and grow.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Lamb
Lamb is a fantastic meat option because it offers a variety of cuts to choose from.
You can use many of the same cooking techniques that you apply to other meats, so it’s a surprisingly easy dish to prepare. Whether you roast it in the oven or grill it to perfection, lamb is a flexible dish that can enhance any meal.
All you need for success is to avoid these common cooking mistakes:
- Not understanding the cut of meat: Muscles that work harder than others are tougher and denser. Some areas, like the shoulder, are higher in fat and rich in lamb’s gamey flavor. By removing that fat, you reduce the meat’s gaminess. Understanding the cuts of meat and their traits can help you better prepare and cook them properly.
- Opting for the convenience of boneless: While a boneless cut is easier to slice after cooking, going the “easier” route means you’ll miss out on tons of flavor. Choose bone-in cuts of meat whenever possible. Cutting them isn’t difficult when you know how.
- Cooking chilled meat: If your lamb has been in the fridge, let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes to get to room temperature. A cold center takes longer to cook than the surface areas, resulting in overcooked meat. Letting the lamb temper first will result in a juicier, more evenly cooked cut of meat.
- Overcooking the meat: The longer you cook lamb, the more moisture it loses. Avoid cooking to well-done temperatures and aim instead for a medium-rare to medium temperature of 125-140 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher than that won’t allow you to capture this meat’s ideal texture and flavor.
For even more tips for cooking lamb read our guide on How to Cook Rack of Lamb Perfectly Every Time.
We Make Ordering Lamb Easy
Holy Grail Steak Co. knows the quality of your food is important to you. We provide an impressive portfolio of superior steaks and meats that can be delivered right to your door.
Whether you’re looking for everyday meal ideas or a special entrée for the holidays, Holy Grail Steak Co. has what you need for a delicious meal.
Place your order for our delectable Sonoma County rack of lamb!