With spring in the air, now is the perfect time to try your hand at cooking lamb. The subtly sweet, tender taste of lamb is unforgettable and easier than you think to pull off. But before you start on your spring dinner planning, what should you look for in a quality cut of lamb? Lamb shares much in common with beef and the same principles you’d use to find a quality of beef apply to lamb. Keep in mind lamb is leaner than beef so you won’t see thick streaks of fat running through the meat, but the result is a tender, balanced bite without any extra fat to trim.
Selecting a good cut of lamb
Buying a good quality cut of lamb starts with understanding the source of the meat and how it was farmed. Sheep raised in the United States are usually grain-finished, meaning they switch to a diet of grain in their last month of life for a milder and fattier taste similar to American grain-fed beef. At Silver Fern Farms, we believe 100% grass-fed lamb creates better flavor, tenderness and quality — that’s better for the environment and better for you. Our sheep spend their lives roaming the lush New Zealand hillsides and eating the sweet grass naturally produced by our temperate climate, fresh air, and clean water. Since 1990, New Zealand lamb and beef farmers have reduced carbon emissions by 30%1. Last year, Silver Fern Farms permanently removed 89 tons of plastic from our supply chain2. Truly, grass-fed means something different in New Zealand.
In addition to being better for the environment, a diet of nutrient-rich grass creates natural marbling and gives a finer, more delicate texture to the meat. Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed red meat:
• Is naturally leaner, with less saturated fat and fewer calories.
• Has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a healthier omega-3 to omega 6 ratio.
• Is higher in antioxidants, vitamin A and E and conjugated linoleic acids.
We think you will taste the grass-fed difference. For a more detailed look into selecting quality lamb, check out the video below where we explain where our premium lamb cuts come from and what makes them unique. Our signature lamb medallions and steaks are available for purchase online and our other premium cuts are available across retail stores in the United States.
Sheep, lamb and mutton: what's the difference?
If you are new to cooking lamb, you might be confused by some of the terminology thrown around in recipes. Just like cows and beef, “sheep” refers to the domesticated animal while “lamb” refers to cuts of meat taken from sheep under a year old. “Mutton” indicates a mature sheep over a year old. Lamb is prized for its tenderness, versatility and sweet flavor and is what most recipes recommend.
Cooking lamb for simple, delicious meals
Cooking with lamb might seem intimidating, but if you’ve cooked beef, then you can cook lamb. Lamb cuts tend to be smaller and leaner than their beef counterparts, but the techniques are all the same. Just as with beef, to ensure tender, juicy results: season with salt and pepper, sear over high heat, and don’t overcook your lamb. An instant read thermometer makes this simple: shoot for 130°F for a perfect medium-rare with a warm pink, juicy inside and a tender, flavorful bite. This works perfectly for cuts such as lamb loin chops or our specialty lamb medallions, which come from the prized topside, silverside, and knuckle muscles of the leg and cook similar to tender steaks such as filet mignon.
For a dressed up, but casual dinner or lunch, try this lamb and mint pizza recipe. The classic combination of lamb and mint pairs beautifully with fresh feta cheese and warm, melty pizza.
100% grass-fed lamb deserves a spot on your table this spring and we believe that once you experience it, you’ll want to eat it again and again.