Lamb cuts vary in different parts of the world. Here’s a guide to some traditional South African cuts and the cooking methods most suitable for them.
Shoulder of lamb bone in or deboned and rolled
This is probably the tastiest piece of meat on a lamb. It contains the arm, blade and rib bones. You can also ask your butcher to debone and roll it for you.
A shoulder of lamb is usually prepared by slow roasting it in the oven or by pot roasting. You can also cook it in a kettle braai.
Lamb shoulder chops
Lamb shoulder chops are cut from the blade portion of the shoulder. They contain part of the blade bone and backbone.
They are cooked by braaing, braising (pot roasting), grilling or pan frying.
Lamb neck slices
This is a delicious and underrated cut of meat on the lamb. Neck slices are usually prepared by braising and are perfect for bredies, stews and lamb curries.
Lamb breast riblets or whole ribbetjie
Lamb breast riblets are cut from the breast and contain ribs with meat and fat in layers. The cuts are long and narrow and are usually prepared by braaing or braising. The whole ribbetjie can be roasted in the oven and is also a favourite on the braai.
It’s a good idea to marinate the rib for a few hours before putting it on the braai. Lemon juice, balsamic or wine vinegar, or wine in the marinade will make the meat more tender.
The whole ribbetjie can be preboiled before marinating it to shorten the braai or oven roasting time. Place it in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil, turn the stove to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes before marinating.
Thick rib or rack of lamb
Rack of lamb, sold whole or cut into rib chops, is the most prized and most expensive lamb cut. The meat on the rack is exceptionally tender and flavoursome.
A rack of lamb rib roast contains rib bones, backbone and rib-eye or loin meat. It is usually roasted in the oven or in a kettle braai.
Rack of lamb and rib chops are best cooked rare to medium-rare.
Crown roast of lamb
A crown roast of lamb is a fancy, festive way of presenting a rack of lamb.
Lamb rib crown roast is cut from half of the rib. The rib bone is trimmed two to three centimetres from the end. The ribs are curved and secured to resemble a crown when the roast rests on the backbone.
A crown roast is roasted in the oven.
Lamb rib chops
Lamb rib chops contain backbone and, depending on the thickness, a rib bone.
The meaty part of the chops consists of rib-eye muscle. The outer surface is covered by fat.
Lamb rib chops are prepared by braaing, grilling, pan frying or roasting.
Lamb loin chops
Lamb loin chops are more expensive than other chop cuts as they are regarded as the tenderest and tastiest lamb chop cut.
The meat includes the eye of the loin (separated from the tenderloin by a T-shaped bone) and the flank.
Kidney fat is on the top of the tenderloin and the outer surface is covered with lamb body fat.
Lamb loin chops are prepared by braaing, grilling or pan frying.
Lamb chump chops
These firm, tender chops are taken from the rump of the lamb at the point where the top of the leg meets the loin.
They are the equivalent of a beef rump steak left on the bone with the extra flavour provided by the bone.
They are slightly bigger than loin chops, and are plump and generally lean.
Braai them, grill them in the oven or pan fry them.
Whole leg of lamb
A leg of lamb is a perennial Sunday roast family favourite. It can be slow roasted in the oven or pot roasted on top of the stove or in a slow cooker.
It can also be deboned, marinated and cooked on the braai. Cooking it in a kettle braai is another South African favourite.
Stewing lamb usually consists of off-cuts not used for chops or roasts, but still perfectly good meat.
The smallish pieces of meat cut into pieces, slices or squares are often still on the bone with some fat.
It is usually prepared by braising or slow cooking in liquid and is particularly tasty in bredies, stews, curries and tagines.
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